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How far can Fierceness carry speed?

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Fierceness cemented its position at the top Kentucky Derby 2024 Leaderboard with a clear 13 1/2 length triumph in Class 1 Florida Derby.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the dark bay stallion was essentially a paid workout and was slowed late by John Velazquez. Impressively, Fierceness strolled under the barrier in the 1 1/8-mile contest with a time of 1:48.22 and a final furlong of 12.59 seconds. He received a Brisnet speed rating of 106 for his performance.

Fierceness' final time was the fastest since 2017, when Always Dreaming, also trained by Pletcher, stopped the clock in 1:47.47, with a final furlong of 12.53 seconds. Always Dreaming carried the roses in Kentucky.

Fierceness ran similar races in his first win and in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. In both cases he braked well and picked up the pace before extending his lead down the track. His brilliance and dominant 6 1/4-length triumph in the Breeders' Cup earned him Youth Champion honors.

Wildness
(City of Light – Nonna Bella, by Stay Thirsty) was bred by Repole Stable and runs in Mike Repole's familiar blue-orange silk colors. Fierceness has earned $1,703,850 in five starts, with three wins and a third place finish. With 136 points he is at the top of the Derby leaderboard.

Father

City of Light (Quality Road – Paris Notion, by Dehere) was in the money in all 11 starts, earning $5,662,600. Under the management of Mike McCarthy, City of Light made his first start in July of his three-year-old season, finishing second in a six-eighths-mile maiden event at Los Alamitos. He completed three more starts at sprint distances, winning once and coming second twice.

City of Light shined as a 4-year-old, winning the Malibu (G1) and Triple Bend Stakes before moving up to 1 1/8 miles and winning the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). However, 1 1/4 miles was an eighth of a mile too far in the Santa Anita Gold Cup. (G1), where City of Light dropped to third place.

After a second-place finish to Whitmore in the 2018 Forego (G1), City of Light finished his campaign with two Grade 1 wins in the Breeders' Cup Mile and the Pegasus World Cup, which he won by 5 3/4 lengths over a sloppy track in 1 :47.71, about a second behind Arrogate's course record of 1:46.83.

City of Light immediately set about producing top-notch offspring in the strong 2022 class that includes Justify, Good Magic and Bolt d'Oro.

He rose up the rankings of leading sires and was initially the No. 9 first-occupancy sire and checked in as No. 5 leading second-stakes sire when Fierceness won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. City of Light is currently ranked No. 1. 4 third-year sire by earnings and No. 3 by number of winners.

City of Light is represented by two winners from 18 starters at 1 1/8 miles and over on dirt, and his son Fearless Soldier finished a close third in the 1 1/4 mile Jockey Club Derby over a sloppy Aqueduct track.

Female family

Fierceness' last three mothers have produced high-quality winners, from sprinters to middle-distance runners.

Fierceness is the third foal and first entry from the winning Nonna Bella (Stay Thirsty – Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker), bred by Repole Stable. He has a 2 year old full brother.

Nonna Bella's half-brother Outwork (Uncle Mo – Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker) made five starts, won the 2016 Wood Memorial (G1) and placed second in the Tampa Bay Derby. He finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby.

Nonna Bella's mother Nona Mia (Empire Maker – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull) started seven times and only missed the board twice. The precocious filly finished third in the 2009 Frizette (G1) and Tempted Stakes (G3), both over a mile, and was second in the Loudonville Stakes over six furlongs the following year.

Nona Mia is a half-sister to Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile – Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull), winner of the Nashua and Holy Bull, and narrowly missed in the Remsen, all Grade 2 stakes. In his last start, the handsome gray colt was fourth in the 2014 Florida Derby and retired after suffering an ankle injury.

Fierceness' third dam, Holy Bubbette (Holy Bull – Juliac, by Accipiter), won two Listed sprints and finished second in the seven-eighths-mile Chaposa Springs Handicap (G3) during her 15-race career.

Fierceness' dam's sire Stay Thirsty (Bernardini – Marozia, by Storm Bird) won Grade 1 contests from one mile to 1 1/4 miles and was second by three-quarters of a length on a sloppy track in the Belmont Stakes.

Stay Thirsty's progeny won up to 1 3/16 miles, and one finished third at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

As a broodmare sire, Stay Thirsty is represented with 45 starters. His two stakes winners are City of Light, Fierceness and listed winner miler Lights of Broadway.

Kentucky Derby contender or contender?

Horses coming out of the Florida Derby are well-represented in Triple Crown competition, and Florida's premier preparation has produced 25 Kentucky Derby winners in 71 years, including last year's runner-up Mage and 2019's Maximum Security, who won in the Derby was DQ'd.

Since 2007, three two-year-old champions have won the Kentucky Derby. Good Magic (2018) took second place and Classic Empire (2017) took fourth place.

Fierceness has a solid middle-distance pedigree, but other factors, such as conditioning and a perfect run, could help him go further.

The youth champion's weak point is that he must break cleanly and cannot withstand impacts, supports or standing behind horses. He had to steady himself in the Champagne Stakes (G1) and was bumped in the Holy Bull (G3).

In addition, he has not yet achieved two victories. His brilliance is undeniable, but in Kentucky everything has to go Fierceness' way, which rarely happens.