With the completion of the post-position draw for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, all of the information is available for handicappers to make the most difficult decisions of the year – picking a winner and deciding how to wager for the run for the roses.
Along with the post positions, the final jockey assignments were decided Monday, and those can be added to vital handicapping tools such as pace projectors, past performances and whatever information you decide to garner from your favorite experts in the form of videos, podcasts and written reports of all kinds.
The latest editions of HorseCenter with Brian Zipse and Matt Shifman are one of those handicapping essentials.
This final odds and analysis article will provide information to help you make those decisions for the Kentucky Derby. It is not easy to pick a winner for the 20-horse field as was evident last year when the 80-1 winner was the last addition to the field. The last four years the favorite did not get a Derby victory; instead the odds of the winner were 80-1, 12-1, 8-1 and 9-2.
The final field is listed in post-position order with the official morning-line odds, their Derby qualifying points, most recent race result, highest Beyer Speed Figure courtesy of the Daily Racing Form, sire, trainer, jockey, career record and earnings. Post time is scheduled for 6:57 p.m. EDT.
1. Hit Show (30-1, 60, 2nd Wood Memorial (G2), 93, Candy Ride, Brad Cox, Manny Franco, 5: 3-1-0, $404,375) Hit Show was a debut winner in October for Brad Cox at Keeneland and became an allowance winner at Oaklawn to end his 2-year-old campaign. He moved to the New York Derby trail where he won the Withers (G3) with a stalking trip and then just missed winning the Wood Memorial by a nose. Hit Show was a significant favorite in all five of his starts. Speed figures say that he may be a bit slower than the top horses in this field. Toss.
2. Verifying (15-1, 54, 2nd Blue Grass (G1), 99, Justify, Brad Cox, Tyler Gaffalione, 6: 2-2-0, $489,900) Verifying prefers to press the pace as he did in the Blue Grass when he had the lead in the stretch and lost the battle by a neck to Tapit Trice. In recent years pace pressers have had an advantage in the Derby. He is the second of four horses from the barn of Brad Cox that are in the Derby field. Use in vertical wagers.
3. Two Phil’s (12-1, 123, 1st Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), 101, Hard Spun, Larry Rivelli, Jareth Loveberry, 8: 4-1-1, $683,450) Two Phil’s has the highest BSF with a 101 that he earned in the 100-point Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) with a closing trip. Two Phil’s ran at six tracks with three stakes victories, including the recent win on the Derby trail. He seems to find a way to be in contention at the finish line. Key horse in vertical exotics.
4. Confidence Game (20-1, 57, 1st Rebel (G2), 94, Candy Ride, Keith Desormeaux, James Graham, 7: 3-1-2, $785,525) Confidence Game was third in the Lecomte (G3) and then won the Rebel (G2) on a sloppy track at 18-1. He went a few weeks before returning to training, was possible to run in the Lexington (G3) but then did not race. Desormeaux said he would train up to the Derby. It is not easy to prep for 10 furlongs without a recent start, but he is training smartly. Use in vertical wagers.
5. Tapit Trice (5-1, 150, 1st Blue Grass (G1), 99, Tapit, Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 5: 4-0-1, $883,650) Tapit Trice is the second horse from the Pletcher barn in the Derby field. He won his last four races, including the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and the Blue Grass (G1) with closing trips. In the 100-point Blue Grass he won by a head with a 99 BSF. Overall he has victories at four tracks at distances ranging from a mile to 1 1/8 miles. Win contender.
6. Kingsbarns (12-1, 100, 1st Louisiana Derby (G2), 100, Uncle Mo, Todd Pletcher, Jose Ortiz, 3: 3-0-0, $657,300) The third Pletcher trainee has a 3-for-3 career record. He became a 100-point race winner at Fair Grounds in the Louisiana Derby (G2) with a 100 BSF and a dominant front-end effort against a field of 12. That victory made him one of only two horses in the field to win at a distance beyond 1 1/8 miles. Tough decision, but you cannot use them all. Toss.
7. Reincarnate (50-1, 45, 3rd Arkansas Derby (G1), 95, Good Magic, Tim Yakteen, John Velazquez, 7: 2-3-2, $345,650) Reincarnate made two starts on the Derby trail since moving to the Yakteen barn from Bob Baffert. Reincarnate had a troubled trip in the Rebel (G2) and finished a noteworthy third. He headed to the Arkansas Derby as the buzz horse, but he did not improve the results when he pressed the pace in second but faded to third after a perfect trip. Toss.
8. Mage (15-1, 50, 2nd Florida Derby (G1), 94, Good Magic, Gustavo Delgado, Javier Castellano, 3: 1-1-0, $247,200) Mage is lightly raced with only three starts. He won his first start at Gulfstream in January on the front end. He came back in the Fountain of Youth (G2) where he faced Forte for the first time and had a troubled trip that forced him to stalk the speed to finish fourth. In the Florida Derby he got off to a slow start, rallied wide from last, got the lead in the stretch but could not hold off a courageous move by Forte. Another poor start will put his Derby chances in peril, especially as a horse who is lacking in experience. Toss.
9. Skinner (20-1, 45, 3rd Santa Anita Derby (G1), 99, Curlin, John Shirreffs, Juan Hernandez, 6: 1-0-3, $216,300) Skinner has the look of a horse who could take another step forward in the Derby. The John Shirreffs runner has a pair of thirds in the San Felipe (G2) and then was part of the blanket finish in the Santa Anita Derby. Use in vertical wagers.
10. Practical Move (10-1, 160, 1st Santa Anita Derby (G1), 100, Practical Joke, Tim Yakteen, Ramon Vasquez, 7: 4-1-2, $884,200) Practical Move emerged as the leading Derby contender from California. It is an interesting twist that this horse was trained by Tim Yakteen throughout his career as opposed to the horses who were transferred to his barn so that they would be eligible to try to get in the run for the roses. Practical Move won his last three starts, beginning with the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) as a maiden. This year he added the San Felipe (G2) and the 100-point Santa Anita Derby. All his wins were with stalking trips. Win contender.
11. Disarm (30-1, 46, 3rd Lexington (G3), 90, Gun Runner, Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 4: 1-2-1, $290,350) After running second in the Louisiana Derby, Steve Asmussen sent Disarm to the Lexington in need of at least a third-place finish to get into the Kentucky Derby field. That is exactly what happened when he ran third but was not a threat to win or even run second. Since then Asmussen noted that Disarm was cutting back in distance a furlong, which was not ideal for a horse who he thinks will thrive at the Derby distance. He recently turned in the fastest five-furlong workout at Churchill, which is uncharacteristic for an Asmussen breeze. Key horse in vertical exotics.
12. Jace’s Road (15-1, 45, 3rd Louisiana Derby (G2), 90, Quality Road, Brad Cox, Florent Geroux, 6: 2-0-2, $238,050) Jace’s Road is the fourth Brad Cox runner. He has not won a race since December at Oaklawn when he raced on the lead to take the Gun Runner, which was a 10-point Derby qualifier. He may add to the early Derby pace. Toss.
13. Sun Thunder (30-1, 54, 4th Blue Grass (G1), 89, Into Mischief, Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr., 6: 1-1-0, $247,500) Sun Thunder made four starts on the Derby trail after getting his maiden win at Oaklawn on New Year’s Eve. He still has only one victory but picked up enough points to get in the run for the roses. Sun Thunder is another horse who prefers to run from off the pace as a closer. Blinkers go on. Toss.
14. Angel of Empire (8-1, 154, 1st Arkansas Derby (G1), 94, Classic Empire, Brad Cox, Flavien Prat, 6: 4-1-0, $1,069,375) Angel of Empire is another winner of a 100-point Derby prep in the Arkansas Derby along with the Risen Star (G2) and prefers to run from off the pace with a closing trip. Trainer Brad Cox was awarded the 2021 Derby victory by disqualification. Use in vertical wagers.
15. Forte (3-1, 190, 1st Florida Derby (G1), 100, Violence, Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr., 7: 6-0-0, $2,409,830) Forte heads to the Kentucky Derby with the most qualifying points, the most wins and the highest career earnings. He is one of only four horses who ran a triple-digit BSF in his career. Forte’s Derby trail victories came after stalking or closing trips. He won a 100-point prep race, which was true of the horse to cross the finish line first in eight of the last 10 runnings of the run for the roses. Trainer Todd Pletcher will be trying to win the Derby for the third time, and jockey Irad Ortiz looks for his first. Win contender.
16. Raise Cain (50-1, 64, 5th Blue Grass (G1), 90, Violence, Ben Colebrook, Gerardo Corrales, 7: 2-1-1, $296,328) Raise Cain was a deep closer in his last two starts, which produced a win in the Gotham (G3) at odds of 23-1 when he romped to a more than seven-length advantage. As is often the case, long-shot winners rarely reproduce their unexpected results and Raise Cain was fifth in the Blue Grass. Toss.
17. Derma Sotogake (10-1, 100, 1st UAE Derby (G2), NA, Mind Your Biscuits, Otonashi Hidetaka, Christophe Lemaire, 8: 4-0-2, $1,162,164) Derma Sotogake qualified for the Derby with a front-running victory in the 100-point UAE Derby by more than five lengths. Horses from Japan have been winning big races all over the world in the last few years, including the Breeders’ Cup, and this son of Mind Your Biscuits might be the best chance that Japan has had on the first Saturday in May Use in vertical wagers.
18. Rocket Can (15-1, 60, 4th Arkansas Derby (G1), 91, Into Mischief, Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado, 7: 2-2-0, $383,413) Rocket Can made his 2023 debut on the Kentucky Derby trail and responded with a victory in the Holy Bull (G3) in February. Subsequent starts produced a second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) behind Forte and then a fourth in Arkansas Derby as the favorite. The Oaklawn race was a step backward in speed figures and finish position while other 3-year-olds were advancing. Blinkers go on. Toss.
19. Lord Miles (30-1, 105, 1st Wood Memorial (G2), 93, Curlin, Saffie Joseph Jr., Paco Lopez, 5: 2-0-1, $451,100) Lord Miles’ form went bad in the Holy Bull and the Tampa Bay Derby after a promising a third in the Mucho Macho Man. Still, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. was willing to take a chance in the Wood Memorial, which produced an upset victory at odds of 59-1 and a career best BSF of 93. Lord Miles is unlikely to find another late winning run like he used at Aqueduct. Toss.
20. Continuar (50-1, Japan, 3rd UAE Derby (G1), NA, Drefong, Yeshito Yahagi, Ryusei Sakai, 5: 2-1-1, $337,889) Continuar earned a spot in the Derby field as the leader from the road to the Kentucky Derby standings in Japan. He had a strong juvenile campaign in Japan but this year was beaten by 10 lengths when third behind Derma Sotogake in the UAE Derby. Toss
21 AE. Cyclone Mischief (30-1, 45, 3rd Florida Derby (G1), 91, Into Mischief – Dale Romans, Joel Rosario, 7: 2-0-3 - $246,350)
22 AE. Mandarin Hero (20-1, 40, 2nd Santa Anita Derby (G1), 100, Shanghai Bobby, Terunobu Fujita, Kazushi Kimura, 6: 4-2-0 - $386,854)
23 AE. King Russell (50-1, 40, 2nd Arkansas Derby (G1), 87, Creative Cause, Ron Moquett, Rafael Bejarano, 6: 1-3-0 - $322,350)
Summary: In the above analysis there are four categories of horses: win contenders, key horses in vertical exotics, others to use in the vertical wagers and those to toss.
I do not bet to win in the Derby because it is just too hard to pick one horse to win from the 20-horse field. The preferred vertical wager is the 50-cent Derby trifecta where you can spread in all three positions of the wager and mix long shots with some shorter prices. Three horses from the win contenders will be used on top and with five horses marked to use in the vertical wagers with the two key horses in the verticals. Those two key trifecta horses are expected to be long shots.
The key trifecta horses will be used in the second and third positions with the three win-contenders and with the five other horses. That will produce two 50-cent trifecta tickets with the patterns of 3x8x2 and 3x2x8 that cost $21 each. Using long shots in the key position will help to produce a large payout.