There is no more difficult horse race to predict than the Kentucky Derby.
The 149th edition of the Run for the Roses on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is no different, and it may be one of the hardest races to handicap in several years. The 1¼-mile Derby is Race 12 on the card, and is scheduled to go off at 6:57 p.m. ET. (NBC).
It does not appear to be a race with a lot of speed, so 20 horses might be bunched up tighter and most of the colts with the best resumes would like to stalk behind the frontrunners in the middle of a crowded pack.
The Derby is always a jockeys’ race, but it may be more so in 2023 as some of the best riders will have to wait for the right time to make their big move.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher holds most of the cards with three of the top contenders, led by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ Forte. Pletcher also saddles Blue Grass Stakes victor Tapit Trice and Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns. The three colts have won a combined 13 of their 15 career races.
There are scenarios that put all three on top when the final strides are taken Saturday, while a few more horses could spoil Pletcher’s Derby party if you are online gambling.
Tapit Trice Ready To Peak
Forte, the morning-line favorite at 3-1 in the Kentucky Derby betting odds, has done little wrong in winning the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park this year.
But Tapit Trice may just be sitting on his best race and Kingsbarns has the ability to take the lead at the top of the stretch. Forte breaks from the 15 hole, while Tapit Trice (5) and Kingsbarns (6) start side by side.
Pletcher said jockey Jose Ortiz on Kingsbarns, who is 3-for-3, will have to judge the pace to either be in front or sitting just off the lead of Derma Sotogake (17), Verifying (2), Reincarnate (7) or Jace’s Road (12). Forte and Tapit Trice aim to find a nice comfortable stalking spot.
Irad Ortiz Jr., a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award given to the year’s best jockey, is aboard Forte and is seeking his first Derby win. Tapit Trice’s jockey Luis Saez.finished first on Maximum Security in 2019, but the horse was disqualified.
We can see one scenario where the finish is Pletcher 1-2-3. That is if Kingsbarns is the real deal and pulls away in the stretch with Forte and Tapit Trice coming home second and third. If Kingsbarns does not win, the prediction is he will likely be out of the money if you are betting online.
Who Wants The Lead?
Derma Sotogake, who went gate to wire in the UAE Derby impressively, will likely sprint out of the gate from his outside post to grab the lead on the first turn.
But the son of Mind Your Biscuits is going against a lot of history. Horses wearing No. 17 are 0-for-43 in the Derby, Japan’s top finisher is Master Fencer (sixth in 2019) and the UAE Derby winner is 0-for-18 – none making the top four.
Still, being in the lead on the backstretch might not be a bad spot this year. Hall of Fame jockey John Velasquez may seize control on Reincarnate, while Verifying nearly pulled off a front-running effort in the Blue Grass and Derby winner Justify is his father.
Look for 12-1 or more in on Derma Sotogake or Verifying to put them in your potential cover picks.
Three Pletcher Spoilers
If one of the three Pletcher horses does not wear the roses, three talented horses could get the job done.
Angel of Empire, who breaks from the 14 post, was impressive in the lane to win the Risen Star Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Trainer Brad Cox’s colt is an overlay (8-1 ML) at the sportsbook and could just prove better than Forte and Tapit Trice.
Practical Move (10) won both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby in California and under-rated jockey Ramon Vazquez will have him close to the Pletcher stalkers.
“He’s showed he’s a good horse,” Vazquez told reporters. “Every race, he’s getting smarter.”
The other wild card is Mage (8), who nearly beat Forte in the Florida Derby despite a bad start. If Mage fixes his gate issues, who knows how good the son of Good Magic can be? Javier Castellano also takes the mount on Mage.
Trifecta, Superfecta Fillers
There’s almost always a longshot that finds his way into the trifecta or superfecta for the Derby.
Giacomo (2005), Mine That Bird (2009) and Rich Strike (2022) — all at least 50-1 odds — not only made the trifecta, but they won the roses. There was also Mr. Big News (third in 2020), Lookin At Lee (second in 2017), Commanding Curve and Golden Soul (second in 2014, 2013, respectively) among others.
Brad Cox’s Hit Show (1) can pick off horses late along with improving Skinner (9). Top rider Joel Rosario may also keep Disarm (11) in a good spot to go by tired horses late and closer Sun Thunder (13) adds blinkers. This handicapper likes Skinner the most, especially if his horse betting odds are 20-1 or better.
Keep an eye on Kentucky Derby News before the big race.
Bet a trifecta with Kingsbarns (6) on top of Forte (15) and Tapit Trice (5). Also play a trifecta part wheel 5-15 with 5-15 with 1,8,9, 10, 11, 13, 14. Play exactas with 8,10 and 14 over 5 and 15.
The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.