In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 2023 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, including the top contenders, the odds, and some key information to keep in mind when placing your bets.
Friday May 5th, 2023
Race 11 at Churchill Downs on the dirt track at a mile and 1/8th – Kentucky Oaks – Post time at 5:51 p.m.
Currently the Kentucky Oaks is a 14 horse field, with 3 also eligibles. The weather is calling for rain, but the forecast is better than earlier in the week. Keep an eye on potential scratches, but I anticipate a full field for this race. Horses that I like in no particular order:
8 – Promiseher America – This horse is lightly raced but won her last time out at Aqueduct, while putting up her best numbers to date. Beat Gambling Girl, another horse I like, by half a length. If she stays around 30-1, I will have a Win Place Show bet on her.
3 – Gambling Girl – Gambling Girl has fantastic connections in trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Despite the connections, this horse has struggled to find the winner’s circle. Her speed numbers do appear to continue to improve. Pletcher/Ortiz alone is worth a Win bet if this horse is higher than 10-1.
7 – Wet Paint – Currently the morning line favorite at 5/2, this Godolphin owned and bred horse is trained by Brad Cox. Flavian Prat gets the mount and he has guided her to 3 wins in a row, including two straight Grade 3 wins. This is the horse to beat in my opinion.
14 – Pretty Mischievous – Another Godolphin horse that knows how to win. She has 6 starts and has hit the board every time, with 4 wins.
11 – Defining Purpose – Has a Grade 1 win in her last start. I like the potential value at 12-1 on the morning line.
15 – Taxed – Not currently in the field, but if she draws in, I expect her to be shorter than her morning line odds of 20-1. My only concern for her is that if the track conditions are not great, she has not run well on sloppy tracks in the past.
My picks for the Kentucky Oaks:
- 7-14 exacta box.
- 7-14-3 trifecta box.
- Possibly a win/place saver bet on the 8
Saturday May 6th, 2023
A few picks I like before we get to the Kentucky Derby:
Race 7: Grade 2 Turf Sprint at 5.5 Furlongs
11 – Motorious – Horse has won 3 of last 4. She has improved with Prat on board. My pick to win.
4 – Big Invasion – I like the combination of Christophe Clement and Joel Rosario in a turf sprint. His speed numbers have been good, but I do worry about the level of competition.
10 – Arrest Me Red – Horse is not in form but has the best turf sprint trainer in Wesley Ward. Combine Ward with the best jockey in Irad Ortiz, Jr. and this is a horse that you cannot ignore.
Other horses to watch:
7 Nothing Better
6 Bad Beat Brian
My picks for Race 7:
11 to win
11-4-10 trifecta box
8/4,10,6 straight exacta
Race 8: Pat Day Mile – Grade 2 on dirt
1 Kangaroo Court –Trainer Tim Yakteen ships this horse in from the west coast and Johnnie Velazquez gets the ride. 8-1 on the morning line is very generous. He has won his last 3 and has a 2nd place finish in his only other start.
12 Gun Pilot – 5/1 on the morning line but has had a tough time breaking through. He gets a jockey upgrade with Tyler Gaffalione on board for Steve Asmussen. I do not think this horse should be as short as he is, but I do still like him.
Other horses to watch:
9 – General Jim
7 – Fort Bragg
My picks for Race 8:
1-12 Exacta box
1-12-9 trifecta box
Might place a Win bet on the 1, depending on odds at post time
Race 10: Churchill Downs Stakes ran at 7 furlongs on dirt
7 Cody’s Wish – Great story. Nice win at the Breeder’s Cup in November. Coming off 4 wins in a row but has not raced since the Breeder’s Cup.
10 Endorsed – This Mike Maker trained horse has won at all different distances, including this one. 5-1 seems like a fair price. My pick to win.
Listen to the Photo Finish podcast for a more in-depth breakdown of this race.
My picks for Race 10:
10-7 exacta box, which could be one of my bigger bets of the day.
Race 12: 149th running of the Kentucky Derby from Louisville, Kentucky.
The Run for the Roses is slated for 6:57 p.m. on NBC. This race is run at a Mile and ¼ on the main dirt track.
1 – Hit Show – Finished 2nd at the Wood Memorial to get into this race. Has 3 wins in 5 starts but has not beat any of the horses in this field. Bad post draw. Pass for me.
2 -Verifying – Interesting horse at 15-1. Just got edged out by Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass Stakes. If you think Tapit Trice can win, then you cannot count out this Brad Cox horse because he ran neck and neck with Tapit Trice at Keeneland 28 days ago. Brad Cox and Tyler Gaffalione have a nice win percentage together.
3 – Two Phil’s – This Larry Rivelli horse won the JR Steaks at Turfway Park in March to get into this field, where he posted a TimeForm number of 120, which I believe is highest in the field. That number was posted on a synthetic surface so it is hard to handicap relative to this field. Two Phil’s has faced some stiff competition and has faired well. I think you have to consider using the 3 in exotic wagers.
4 – Confidence Game – He won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park to get into the field, where he went off at 18-1. He is 20-1 on the morning line for the Derby and I do not expect he will take much action.
5 – Tapit Trice – 2nd on the morning line at 5-1 behind Forte, this horse has won his last 4 races and has won 4 of 5 overall. Todd Pletcher has 3 horses in this race and all of them could certainly win. Luis Saez is your jockey and has rode him to his last 3 wins, including the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland his last time out. Tapit Trice continues to improve and will have to take another jump if he wants to win the Derby.
6 – Kingsbarns – The second of Pletcher’s three horses, Kingsbarns is unbeaten in his lightly raced career. Jose Ortiz gets the mount for the first time on this horse. A win at the Louisiana Derby at Fairgrounds in March got him into this race and he was a wire-to-wire winner in impressive fashion. 12/1 is worth a look in exotics.
7 – Reincarnate – This previously trained Bob Baffert horse was transferred to the barn of Tim Yakteen to be eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, due to Baffert’s suspension. The favorite in the Arkansas Derby finished 3rd to Angel of Empire and King Russell, both in this race. Even at 50/1, this is not a horse that I am interested in.
8 – Mage – He finished 2nd at the Florida Derby to Forte to get into this race. Forte had to come from behind to secure the win at Gulfstream Park in April. Despite giving Forte a run, I don’t think this horse has what it takes to compete in this field. Pass for me.
9 – Skinner – After breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in February, Skinner earned enough points finishing 3rd at both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby to earn a spot in the field. Despite a third place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, a speed number of 119 last time out says he can compete in this race. At 20-1, I am interested in using this horse in exotics.
10 – Practical Move – Speaking of the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby, Practical Move won both races, which is typically a good sign for horses shipping east. At 10-1 this horse is a major contender. I will definitely be using him in exotics.
11 – Disarm – This Steve Asmussen/Joel Rosario horse finished second in the Louisiana Derby to get into the field. His numbers are steadily improving, but I do not think he has what it takes to compete in this race. Pass for me.
12 – Jace’s Road – Another Brad Cox horse in the field and this one has Florent Geroux on board. 50/1 on the morning line and speed numbers nowhere near what it would take to win this race means a pass for me.
13 – Sun Thunder – Another longshot on the odds board, this horse I trained by Ken McPeek. He has done just enough to get in, but there is a reason he is 50-1. Has not shown he has what it takes to compete with the big boys. Hard pass.
14 – Angel of Empire – With wins in the Risen Star and Arkansas Derby, Angel of Empire might be Brad Cox’s best chance of winning this race. His speed numbers have improved each race out and he won the Arkansas Derby in impressive fashion with Flavian Prat riding. Prat gets the mount here and you would hope that he continues to improve. A horse to watch for sure.
15 – Forte – Your 3/1 morning line favorite is the last of the Todd Pletcher horses in this race. Pletcher obviously thinks Forte is his best chance at winning by putting Irad Ortiz, Jr. on board. This horse is the morning line favorite for a reason and his performance in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park was impressive. My only concern with Forte is that with this many horses in the race he could get lost in the pack. He is not a front runner, and recent history in the Derby favors horses on or near the lead at the halfway point in the race. We will have to see if Pletcher and Irad try and keep him a little closer to the front; however, a slower pace, like in 2022, would be ideal. At 3-1, this is a large win wager for me.
16 – Raise Cain – He won the Gotham on a muddy track at Aqueduct in March. If the weather does play a factor, then at 50-1, he’s probably worth watching. If track conditions are good, I would stay away.
17 – Derma Sotogake – This Japanese horse has yet to run in the United States. 10-1 on the morning line would suggest he is a contender, so I would not automatically throw him out of your pool.
18 – Rocket Can – Bill Mott and Junior Alvarado are the connections of this Holy Bull winner from February. He was second best to Forte at the Fountain of Youth and fourth in the Arkansas Derby to other horses in this field. Pass for me.
19 – Lord Miles – This Saffie Joseph, Jr. trained horse won the Wood Memorial to earn his spot in this race. Unfortunately, I think he gets lost in the shuffle against stiff competition. Pass.
20 – Continuar – Another Japanese horse that hasn’t raced in America. Has raced head to head with Derma Sotogake several times and has been beat each time. For that reason, I am not using the 20 horse.
Mandarin Hero – One last Japanese horse who has raced in the USA. He was second to Practical Move at the Santa Anita Derby and could be live to hit the board if he draws into the field. One to watch for sure.
My Picks for the 149th Annual Run for the Roses
Forte to win
Exacta and Trifecta Boxes: 15-14-10
I will also be using the 3, 5, and 6 horses in exotics