Kentucky Derby 2023 trail: Guide to Saturday's 4 prep races

Kentucky Derby 2023 trail: Guide to Saturday's 4 prep races
Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire

The Kentucky Derby 2023 trail brings action Saturday at four different tracks, three of which host virtual “win and you’re in” races for the first Saturday in May.

The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), San Felipe Stakes (G2) and Gotham Stakes (G3) all award Kentucky Derby points to the top five finishers on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. Fifty points has been enough to make the Derby field each year since Churchill Downs instituted the points system for the 2013 running.

Later in the day, the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes awards Kentucky Derby points on a 20-8-6-4-2 basis.

Here is a look at all four of Saturday’s prep races. Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on each of them.

4:56 p.m. – $300,000 Gotham Stakes (G3), one mile, Aqueduct, FS2

Eyeing Clover (4-1) has won both his starts for trainer Brad Cox. He debuted a winner in the final day of 2022 at Oaklawn Park, then won a six-furlong allowance race Jan. 28 at Fair Grounds.

Click here for Aqueduct entries and results.

Jockey Florent Geroux goes to New York to ride the Lookin At Lucky colt for an ownership group led by Ten Strike Racing.

Cox also enters Slip Mahoney (5-1), who has made all three of his career starts at Aqueduct. He found the winner’s circle for the first time in his last race Jan. 21 going this one-mile distance.

Carmel Road (6-1) flies east to make his first start for trainer Tim Yakteen. He was runner-up Dec. 17 in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) when running for Bob Baffert’s barn.

Lugan Knight (6-1) owns a win in Aqueduct’s series of Kentucky Derby preps, taking the Jerome Stakes on Jan. 7 for trainer Michael McCarthy.

Following the Gotham on Aqueduct’s Kentucky Derby points trail is the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) going 1 1/8 miles April 8.

Secretariat in 1973 remains the one and only Gotham Stakes runner to then take the Kentucky Derby. The last Gotham participant to hit the board in the Derby was Aptitude, who was second in both races in 2000.

Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Gotham Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Clear the Air (William Walden, Jack Gilligan), 30-1

2. Howgreatisnate (Andrew Simoff, J.D. Acosta), 10-1

3. Mr. Swagger (Juan Avila, Carlos Olivero), 10-1

4. Uncorrelated (Chad Brown, Manny Franco), 10-1

5. Carmel Road (Tim Yakteen, Eric Cancel), 6-1

6. General Banker (James Ferraro, Frankie Pennington), 30-1

7. Transect (Paulo Lobo, Joe Talamo), 15-1

8. Fort Warren (Brittany Russell, Jevian Toledo), 12-1

9. Clubhouse (Todd Pletcher, Kendrick Carmouche), 20-1

10. Lugan Knight (Michael McCarthy, Dylan Davis), 6-1

11. Slip Mahoney (Brad Cox, Trevor McCarthy), 5-1

12. Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook, Jose Lezcano), 30-1

13. Eyeing Clover (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 4-1

14. Recruiter (Cathal Lynch, Angel Cruz), 12-1

AE, 15. Radio Red (Danny Gargan, Jose Antonio Gomez), 50-1

TimeformUS pace projections show Eyeing Clover under Geroux heading a trio of runners gunning for the early lead. The early pace is projected to be rapid.

5:27 p.m. – $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2), 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, FanDuel TV

National Treasure (3-1) leads a quartet of former Baffert trainees who will race Saturday in the San Felipe Stakes for Baffert’s former assistant Yakteen. The Quality Road colt has hit the board in all three of his prior graded starts, including a third-place finish Jan. 8 in the local Sham Stakes (G3).

SF Racing heads a partnership that campaigns National Treasure, who was also third last November at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Jockey John Velazquez has the mount.

Hejazi (7-2) is another former Baffert runner now with Yakteen. He ran third in last October’s American Pharoah Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita as a maiden, then beat fellow non-winners locally Jan. 15.

Practical Move (4-1) is the only one of Yakteen’s five San Felipe entries who was not transferred from Baffert’s barn. He won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on Dec. 17 in the last start of his 2-year-old season and makes his sophomore bow here.

Skinner (5-1), like Hejazi, ran in the American Pharoah as a maiden, finishing sixth. The John Shirreffs trainee took a one-mile maiden race Feb. 12 at Santa Anita by 3 1/4 lengths.

The San Felipe is a prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 8 at 1 1/8 miles.

Six Kentucky Derby heroes also took the San Felipe Stakes: Authentic (2020), California Chrome (2014), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), Sunday Silence (1989), Affirmed (1978) and Determine (1954). Happy Jack ran third in the 2022 San Felipe before finishing 14th in the Derby.

Here is a look at the field for the 2023 San Felipe Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Chase the Chaos (Ed Moger Jr., Armando Ayuso), 12-1

2. National Treasure (Tim Yakteen, John Velazquez), 3-1

3. Practical Move (Tim Yakteen, Ramon Vazquez), 4-1

4. Bluegrass Go Go (Doug O’Neill, Edwin Maldonado), 50-1

5. Genius Jimmy (Michael McCarthy, Kazushi Kimura), 20-1

6. Crypto Ride, SCR

7. Hejazi (Tim Yakteen, Mike Smith), 7-2

8. Geaux Rocket Ride (Richard Mandella, Flavien Prat), 5-1

9. Fort Bragg (Tim Yakteen, Juan Hernandez), 8-1

10. Skinner (John Shirreffs, Victor Espinoza), 5-1

11. Mr Fisk (Tim Yakteen, Frankie Dettori), 15-1

TimeformUS pace projections show Geaux Rocket Ride making the early lead under jockey Flavien Prat and setting a fast pace. Favorite National Treasure is expected to track the early pace.

5:43 p.m. – $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), 1 1/16 miles, Gulfstream Park, FanDuel TV

Forte (7-5), the champion 2-year-old male of 2022, aims to lock up a Kentucky Derby berth in his seasonal bow.

The Violence colt won four of his five starts as a juvenile, with three of his wins coming in Grade 1 flight. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he edged past odds-on favorite Cave Rock at the sixteenth pole and emerged a 1 1/2-length winner Nov. 4 at Keeneland.

Forte is the latest in a long line of standouts for trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will be up on the favorite.

Trainer Chad Brown brings a Grade 1 victor of his own in Blazing Sevens (7-2), winner of Aqueduct’s Champagne Stakes (G1) in October. He was bumped and bothered last out at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing fourth.

General Jim (6-1) joins the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday after a win at seven furlongs Feb. 4 in the local Swale Stakes (G3). He adds 1 1/2 furlongs worth of distance in the Fountain of Youth for trainer Shug McGaughey.

Rocket Can (8-1) has already won a race on Gulfstream’s Derby trail. He took the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) on Feb. 4 by 3/4 of a length over fellow Bill Mott trainee and Fountain of Youth entrant Shadow Dragon (12-1).

This race leads into the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1.

Five 3-year-olds have won both the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Kentucky Derby: Orb (2013) for McGaughey, Thunder Gulch (1995), Spectacular Bid (1979), Kauai King (1966) and Tim Tam (1958). 2022 Fountain of Youth victor Simplification was fourth in the Derby.

Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Fountain of Youth Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. General Jim (Shug McGaughey, Luis Saez), 6-1

2. Legacy Isle (Rohan Crichton, Emisael Jaramillo), 20-1

3. Shadow Dragon (Bill Mott, Jose Ortiz), 12-1

4. Forte (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 7-5

5. Il Miracolo (Antonio Sano, Edgar Perez), 30-1

6. Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown, Joel Rosario), 7-2

7. Mage (Gustavo Delgado, Javier Castellano), 8-1

8. Rocket Can (Bill Mott, Junior Alvarado), 8-1

9. Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans, Tyler Gaffalione), 12-1

10. Dangerous Ride (Carlos David, Miguel Vasquez), 30-1

TimeformUS pace projections show Mage taking the early lead Saturday under jockey Javier Castellano. Favorite Forte is projected to sit third early in the race.

9:25 p.m. – $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, 1 1/16 miles (all-weather), Turfway Park

Gilmore (3-1) is yet another former Baffert runner who is on the Kentucky Derby trail with a new trainer. Brendan Walsh has assumed training duties for the Twirling Candy colt.

In his last start, Gilmore was runner-up over Golden Gate’s synthetic surface in the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 11. Jockey Joseph Ramos will get a leg up on the SF Racing-owned runner.

Bromley (5-1) won over Turfway’s all-weather surface in December, then was fifth over Fair Grounds’ dirt Jan. 21 in the Lecomte Stakes (G3). He returns to Northern Kentucky for trainer Paulo Lobo.

Scoobie Quando (6-1) debuted in January by winning the Turfway Prevue Stakes, then was second Feb. 11 in a local allowance race. Ben Colebrook is the trainer.

American Speed (6-1) prepped for this spot with a runner-up finish Jan. 21 in the local Leonatus Stakes for Cox.

Three weeks after the Battaglia, Turfway will host the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on March 25 at 1 1/8 miles.

Rich Strike, who finished fourth in the 2022 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, became the first runner from that event to win the Kentucky Derby. The only other Derby board hitter from this event is Perfect Drift, who was second in the 2002 Battaglia and third at Churchill Downs.

Here is a look at the field for the 2023 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Good Heart (Brendan Walsh, Jane Elliott), 20-1

2. Aristocracy (Brad Cox, Fernando De La Cruz), 8-1

3. Gilmore (Brendan Walsh, Joseph Ramos), 3-1

4. Scoobie Quando (Ben Colebrook, Luan Machado), 6-1

5. Accident (Tommy Short, Orlando Mojica), 30-1

6. American Speed (Brad Cox, Chris Landeros), 6-1

7. Eyes On the King (Mark Casse, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 15-1

8. Miranda Rights (Mark Casse, Rafael Hernandez), 8-1

9. Freezing Point (Joe Lejzerowicz, Gerard Melancon), 12-1

10. Bromley (Paulo Lobo, Gerardo Corrales), 5-1

11. Moon Landing (Kevin Attard, Walter Rodriguez), 12-1

12. Congruent (Antonio Sano, Sonny Leon), 10-1

AE, 13. Ironsides (Vicki Oliver, Declan Cannon), 20-1

AE, 14. Clear the Air (William Walden, Jack Gilligan), 8-1

TimeformUS pace projections show Gilmore taking a slight early lead under Ramos and setting a fast early pace.

Kentucky Derby trail links

Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis go head to head handicapping the Fountain of Youth, with both writers taking a stand against favorite Forte.

Reinier Macatangay wonders if flashy local runner Mage can challenge Forte in the Fountain of Youth. Macatangay also looks at the San Felipe and offers a value pick in a wide-open renewal of the Gotham.

Matt Shifman offers Gotham Stakes odds and analysis, picking a West Coast shipper to come east and win in New York. As for the San Felipe, Shifman lands on one of Tim Yakteen’s crew of entries.

Ed DeRosa renews his fair odds exercise, pegging Forte at 9-5 in the Fountain of Youth. DeRosa also offers Gotham Stakes fair odds and San Felipe Stakes fair odds.

Trainer Todd Pletcher says Forte is “training better now than he has at any stage of his career. Hear more from Pletcher on the Ron Flatter Racing Pod.

Tom Pedulla talks about how Gustavo Delgado Jr. went over budget when buying Mage at auction and how the colt has Gustavo Delgado Sr. thinking of the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Dale Romans says he has “a lot more stamina” around his barn these days since losing more than 100 pounds. Romans hopes for a bounce-back effort effort Saturday from his Fountain of Youth starter Cyclone Mischief.

Ron Flatter examines historic winning running styles for all four of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby preps. Flatter also notes the big field sizes that bettors can enjoy playing these races.

With champion Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Forte making his 3-year-old debut likely at a short price in the Fountain of Youth and uncertainty surrounding participation and weather in the Gotham, Mike Shutty’s Super Screener is most focused on a price play in the San Felipe.

Kentucky Derby trail runners Forte, Fort Warren, Mage and National Treasure are among J. Keeler Johnson’s watch list horses in action this weekend.

This week on HorseCenter hosts Brian Zipse and Shifman handicap a field of 10 Kentucky Derby hopefuls, including last year’s juvenile champion Forte, in the Fountain of Youth.

Two horses who were considered top prospects for Kentucky Derby 2023 were taken off the trail this week when their owners did not transfer them from Bob Baffert to eligible trainers before a Tuesday deadline set this year by Churchill Downs.

Looking back to last week, Macatangay writes how the pace and the trip helped Confidence Game upset the Rebel Stakes (G2).

Cairo, sent off as a 1-3 favorite in Ireland and 1-9 in the U.S., set himself up for a trip to the UAE Derby (G2) by pulling away to a two-length victory Friday night at Dundalk, Ireland, in the Patton Stakes, the fifth of seven races on the Europe road to Kentucky Derby 2023.

Prospective Kentucky Derby field

The top 18 points earners nominated for the Kentucky Derby will earn a spot in the starting gates for the Grade 1, $3 million race May 6. One spot is reserved for the top points earners on the European and Japanese Derby trails. Here is a look at who would make up the current field.

1. Confidence Game, 57

2. Angel of Empire, 54

3. Forte, 40

4. Red Route One, 33

5. Instant Coffee, 32

6. Sun Thunder, 24

7. Two Phil’s, 23

8. Rocket Can, 20

9. Hit Show, 20

10. Litigate, 20

11. Curly Jack, 17

12. Blazing Sevens, 16

13. Arctic Arrogance, 16

14. Reincarnate, 15

15. Jace’s Road, 15

16. Verifying, 14

17. Victory Formation, 10

18. Dubyuhnell, 10

Europe. Cairo

Japan. Perrière

Kentucky Oaks trail

There are three prep races Saturday on the road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Races for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park pay Oaks points on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale and a race at Turfway Park awards points at a rate of 20-8-6-4-2.

2:20 p.m. – $200,000 Busher Stakes, one mile, Aqueduct

Ziaerati (9-5) runs for Kentucky Oaks points in her second career start after winning her debut locally Jan. 15. Trainer Robert Falcone Jr. has tabbed jockey Trevor McCarthy to ride the Into Mischief filly. Chad Brown trains Asset Purchase (2-1), a Jan. 29 Aqueduct debut winner who also makes her second career start in the Busher. Capella (5-2) brings a 2-for-2 record into this race for trainer Brad Cox, having won a Turfway Park allowance race Feb. 3.

4:37 p.m. – $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2), one mile, Gulfstream Park

Red Carpet Ready (2-1) is off to a 3-for-3 start in her career for trainer Rusty Arnold and made the grade Feb. 4 by winning the local Forward Gal Stakes (G3). Jockey Luis Saez will get a leg up on the Oscar Performance filly. Brown trains Undervalued Asset (3-1), second-place finisher by 2 1/4 lengths in the Forward Gal. Leave No Trace (5-1) won the Spinaway Stakes (G1) last September at Saratoga, then was second two starts later in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4 at Keeneland for trainer Philip Serpe.

Related: Head to Head: Davona Dale is prep for Kentucky Oaks

8:25 p.m. – $150,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes, one mile (all-weather track), Turfway Park

Botanical (8-5) has won her last two starts, both at Turfway, with the last effort coming in an allowance race Jan. 12. Cox and jockey Chris Landeros team up with the Medaglia d’Oro filly. Michael Trombetta trains Bulsara (3-1), fifth-place finisher Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park in the Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3). Fun and Feisty (7-2), winner of Churchill Downs’ Pocahontas Stakes (G3) in September, was third last out there in the Rags to Riches Stakes on Oct. 30.

Related: Ky. Oaks prep: Fun and Feisty tries Tapeta in Cincinnati Trophy

Prospective Kentucky Oaks field

The top 14 points earners nominated for the Kentucky Oaks will earn a spot in the starting gates for the $1.25 million race May 5. Here is a look at who would make up the current field.

1. Wet Paint, 70

2. Pretty Mischievous, 63

3. Mimi Kakushi, 50

4. Wonder Wheel, 48

5. Hoosier Philly, 25

6. The Alys Look, 24

7. Gambling Girl, 21

8. Red Carpet Ready, 20

9. Dreaming of Snow, 20

10. Condensation, 20

11. Miracle, 20

12. Occult, 20

13. Grand Love, 18

14. Chop Chop, 17

Related: Zipse: Wet Paint impresses on a wet track on Kentucky Oaks trail | Cox keeps options open for Honeybee winner Wet Paint

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