Stronghold looking for a Derby small package

Apr 28, 2024 at 01:34 pm by Danny Brewer

photo by Benoit

  Remember when you were a kid watching professional wrestling and there was always the big, athletic guy that had that move that ended the match. Then you went and tried it on your brother or a friend. Well, there was one move that was tried and true if you could pull it off. The small package was a ticket to victorious glory. Not sure who originated it, maybe Gypsy Joe, the Steamboat, Bearcat Brown, or someone else. Regardless, it was such a Stronghold, it could not be overcome.

  As we look towards the historic 150th Kentucky Derby, interestingly enough, a big, strapping and athletic colt named Stronghold will be walking into the starting gates on May 4. Does he have the small package in his arsenal?

  A son of Ghostazapper, this Southern California-based runner has been very impressive of late and comes to Louisville with a two race winning streak. Having never finished worse than second in six career starts, this Phil D’Amato trained runner broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last October when he soundly defeated a field that features two others (Resilience, Track Phantom) running in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

  “He has steadily improved both mentally and physically which is a sign of a talented horse”, says D’Amato. “He’s got a great pedigree and I trained his mom (Spectator). She was a very nice horse and we have seen something special in him since he first came to our barn.”

  The last two ventures into the squared circle have been graded stakes wins for Stronghold. On February 18, he stalked the early pace before assuming command in the grade 3 Sunland Park Derby. His last start was a battle royale in the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6. Displaying another facet of his wrestling repertoire, Stronghold ran mid-pack until the top of the stretch.  He came off the top rope and split through horses to take a short lead. Battling the Bob Baffert-trained Imagination to the wire, Stronghold showed plenty of fight as he won by a nose.

  As the world’s most famous race now beckons this talented athlete, recent works and appearance says he is ready to do battle again. Even though this is the first Kentucky Derby starter for D’Amato, things have not changed a lot for this talented trainer.

  “We are just taking things a day at a timed like we always do”, says D’Amato. “He’s a great horse to train because he generally does what you want him to do. It’s every trainer’s dream to have a horse in the Kentucky Derby and we are very excited to have a runner like Stronghold in the gates.”


  Stronghold will break from post 18 with regular rider Antonio Fresu in the irons and is listed at 20-1 on the morning line. The Kentucky Derby will be race 12 on the May 4 card with an expected post time of 5:57.   


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