Kentucky Derby 2023: These 3 prospects are under the radar

Kentucky Derby 2023: These 3 prospects are under the radar
Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire

Horses who constantly turn in good efforts and lose are typically bad bets, but at times they fly under the radar enough to offer reasonable odds.

There are two 3-year-olds with losing streaks on the Kentucky Derby 2023 trail who are interesting betting-wise: Newgate and Red Route One. Either is good enough to pop a mild surprise. 

In addition, one bonus name is the underrated Two Phil’s, who captured a graded stakes on the slop last fall but lost his other two graded tries.

Newgate carries a four-race losing streak into the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) on Saturday at Santa Anita, and he might deserve another chance from win bettors.

For one, consider the recent improvement in Newgate’s form. Last fall, Newgate faded in races such as the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. In those races, he ended fourth by 10 1/2 lengths and fifth by 7 1/4 lengths after stalking the pace closely in both cases.

Newgate’s last two starts showed a different colt. Late in November he finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to Havnameltdown in the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar. Last weekend Havnameltdown won the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita and backed up the quality of the Bob Hope in the process. And last month Newgate ran second by a neck to a surprise pacesetter in Reincarnate in the Sham Stakes (G3).  

Even though Newgate has been running well and hails from the Baffert barn, the public has not been talking about this hard-trying runner. Expect the live wagering to favor one of Baffert's other three runners in the Robert B. Lewis on Saturday. The public tends to favor winners. 

Red Route One carries a four-race losing streak after finishing second by 5 1/4 lengths to the highly touted Arabian Knight on Saturday in the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. Prior to that race Red Route finished a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November after finding plenty of traffic in the stretch run, and he was third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) against some of the best 2-year-olds.    

In that time period last fall, Red Route One also finished a flat fifth by 13 3/4 lengths in the Street Sense Stakes (G3) over the slop at Churchill Downs. But in the Southwest at Oaklawn last weekend Red Route One clearly handled the slop and lost by only 5 1/2 lengths because of the winner Arabian Knight’s talent. Maybe he just needed to get used to it. 

It feels like Red Route One is moving upward, but his hype train does not feel very large. Closers typically offer more value in races as well.

As for why Two Phil’s makes this discussion, think of him as a bonus pick in this list of under-the-radar selections on the Derby trail.

Two Phil’s finished second to Instant Coffee in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds by 2 1/2 lengths after briefly taking the lead in the stretch. Even though Two Phil’s had a head start on moving in on Confidence Game and Echo Again, Instant Coffee overpowered Two Phil’s in mid-stretch and pulled clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths. To give credit to Two Phil’s, at least he finished 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Confidence Game, a promising 3-year-old who still might develop into a good one.

In October, Two Phil’s also competed in the Breeders’ Futurity. Unfortunately, he went wide on the first turn and lost significant ground. He eventually put himself in striking position before the far turn, but the poor first turn took the punch out of his rally, and he faded to a tired seventh in the stretch.

The first five horses to cross the wire in the Breeders' Futurity were Forte, Loggins, Red Route One, Instant Coffee and Newgate. Also note the 10th-place finisher Frosted Departure, who ran great in the Southwest last weekend when he threatened Arabian Knight around the far turn before grudgingly fading to third. Two Phil’s ended up seventh in the Breeders' Futurity, but he had trouble and ran against A company.

Later in October, Two Phil’s won the Street Sense over the slop. Note some of the familiar names below him in that race, including Red Route One in fifth, Frosted Departure in seventh and Jace’s Road in eighth.

Two Phil’s falls under the radar and could sneak into the Kentucky Derby with a few more efforts similar to his runner-up finish in the Lecomte.

Look for Newgate to run well this weekend at Santa Anita and for Red Route One and Two Phil’s to pick up checks at a minimum down the road, if not win a trail race or two.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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