Stronghold Brings Connections To First Kentucky Derby After Dam Died In Birth

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
Kentucky Derby Odds

We’re inching closer and closer to the Kentucky Derby, with the Run For The Roses set for Saturday, May 4. While morning-line favorites garner much attention, longshots are also worth considering. Speaking of defying the (Kentucky Derby) odds, Stronghold did just that to reach the first Saturday in May.

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stronghold’s path to the derby

Small California breeders Rick and Sharon Waller are behind the journey of homebred three-year-old Stronghold. These connections are not that of the corporate tycoons now dominating the sport.

Their success story inspires those who have nurtured horses for years. The Wallers have helped give rise to the standout colt from the stable of California-based trainer Philip D’Amato, en route to becoming their second graded stakes winner.

Their first triumph was Spectator, Stronghold’s dam. She was victorious at two years old at the Sorrento Stakes (G2). She followed that up by placing G1 for the Del Mar Debutante and the Santa Anita Oaks. In 2020, she was shipped off to Ghostzapper, the sire of esteemed horses like Goodnight Olive and Mystic Guide.

However, she sadly died while giving birth to her first foal, Stronghold.

This is the first Kentucky Derby for the Wallers, D’Amato, and jockey Antonio Fresu. A bunch of longshots with a dream.

Exploring Stronghold’s Kentucky Derby odds

The multiple-graded stakes winner has done nothing but excite during his short but successful career. Stronghold has yet to finish worse than a second in six starts, compiling three wins and three second-place ribbons.

One of those victories came in the Santa Anita Derby. Historically, this race is a telling sign of which horses do best at the Kentucky Derby.

Another trend in his favor: he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs, familiarizing him with the track.

Based on these factors, some novice horse-racing bettors would expect Stronghold’s Kentucky Derby odds to settle near the front of the betting board. But his 20-1 price tag from post No. 18 in the morning line odds suggest he’s a tick below the top contenders.

Take Fierceness, the Florida Derby winner and favorite among morning-line odds. He compiled a Beyer Speed Figure (BSF) rating of 110 — one of the all-time highest marks among Kentucky Derby contenders. He’s also tallied over 100 BSF in two races, typically a benchmark for performing well in the Run for the Roses.

For reference, Stronghold owns a below-average career-best BSF of 89.

Why is speed such a significant factor in the Kentucky Derby? The race doesn’t feature the crazy pace it once did, and standard traffic in a 20-horse field gives bettors another reason to stay away from “closers.” This historical context helps explain longshot winners from over a decade ago, like 2005 victor Giacomo, whose BSF was well below the historical minimums for Derby winners.

Conversely, these adverse conditions could create some variance, suggesting the race’s unpredictability could help 20-1 Stronghold cash in your exotics — or even a straight bet.

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