Kentucky Derby 2023 Betting Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Kentucky Derby 2023 Betting Guide: Everything You Need to Know
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A full field of 20 is set to contest the 149th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs. 

Forte is the 3-1 morning-line Kentucky Derby betting favorite, but from a speed figure standpoint, very little separates the top five or six contenders.

Throw in the fact that every horse In the field is untested at the Kentucky Derby’s demanding 1 1/4-mile distance, and you see why the Derby is often so puzzling for handicappers. If you don’t believe that, consider Rich Strike won last year’s Run for the Roses at 80-1.

Perhaps this year will be more formful, but the Derby often produces unpredictable results.

To help with your horse race betting, here is a comprehensive look at the first jewel of the 2023 Triple Crown, with race facts, odds, analysis and selections.

2023 Kentucky Derby Field

Position Horse JockeyTrainer Odds
1 Hit Show Manny Franco Brad Cox 30-1
2 Verifying Tyler Gaffalione Brad Cox 15-1
3 Two Phil’s Jareth Loveberry Larry Rivelli 12-1
4 Confidence Game Jimmy Graham Keith Desormeaux 20-1
5 Tapit Trice Luis Saez Todd Pletcher 5-1
6 Kingsbarns Jose Ortiz Todd Pletcher 12-1
7 Reincarnate John Velazquez Tim Yakteen 50-1
8 Mage Javier Castellano Gustavo Delgado 15-1
9Skinner Juan Hernandez John Shirreffs 20-1
10 Practical Move Ramon Vazquez Tim Yakteen 10-1
11 Disarm Joel Rosario Steve Asmussen 30-1
12 Jace’s Road Florent Geroux Brad Cox 15-1
13 Sun Thunder Brian Hernandez Kenny McPeek 50-1
14 Angel of Empire Flavien Prat Brad Cox 8-1
15 Forte Irad Ortiz Jr. Todd Pletcher 3-1
16 Raise Cain Gerardo Corrales Ben Colebrook 50-1
17 Derma Sotogake Christophe Lemaire Hidetaka Otonashi 10-1
18 Rocket Can Junior Alvarado Bill Mott 30-1
19 Lord Miles Paco Lopez Saffie Joseph Jr. 30-1
20 Continuar Ryusei Sakai Yoshito Yahagi 50-1

About the 149th Kentucky Derby

When: Saturday, May 6

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

Post time: 6:57 p.m. (ET)


Purse: $3 million

Analysis of 2023 Kentucky Derby Field

In post-position order

1. Hit Show (30-1)

Three wins in five starts. Second in Wood Memorial, beaten a nose by long shot Lord Miles.

Why he can win: Has a strong closing kick, and hails from a top barn. Will offer big betting value — this is the first race he won’t be the betting favorite.

Why he can’t: Speed figures a little light. No excuses in Wood Memorial. Poor post position draw — no horse has won the Derby from the No. 1 post since Ferdinand in 1986.

2. Verifying (15-1)

Two wins, two seconds in six starts. Fourth in Rebel Stakes, second in Blue Grass, a neck short of Tapit Trice.

Why he can win: Stalking running style plays well in Derby. The speed figure in Blue Grass puts him right in the mix.

Why he can’t: Had an ideal trip in Blue Grass, yet still couldn’t hold off Tapit Trice. Derby distance is a big question. Post 2 is not ideal.

3. Two Phil’s (12-1)

Four wins in eight starts. Won Jeff Ruby Steaks on synthetic track by 5 1/4 lengths. 

Why he can win: His Beyer speed figure in Jeff Ruby is the fastest of any horse in the field. Prior dirt efforts are solid. Has a win over Churchill Downs surface.

Why he can’t: Not as fast on dirt as on synthetic. Beaten more than two lengths with no excuses in pair of New Orleans prep races.

4. Confidence Game (20-1)

Three wins in seven starts, including the Rebel Stakes at 18-1.

Why he can win: Versatile running style, and has won races on the lead or from mid-pack. The only horse in the field with two victories at Churchill Downs. 

Why he can’t: Ten-week layoff since most recent race, not a productive Derby trend. Rebel victory was over a sloppy track. Hasn’t raced beyond 1 1/16 miles.

5. Tapit Trice (5-1)

Four consecutive wins after finishing third in debut, the stretch-running colt won Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

Why he can win: 3-for-3 this year, all visually impressive. Competitive speed figures. Looks as if he will relish Derby distance.

Why he can’t: Off slow in a few of his starts. No early speed, so he’s somewhat dependent on an honest early pace. Lacks dramatic turn of foot, more of a grinder.

6. Kingsbarns (12-1)

Unbeaten in three career starts by a combined 13 lengths. Dominated Louisiana Derby from gate to wire.

Why he can win: He hasn’t lost yet at three different tracks. Will be forwardly placed and could set the pace in a race that isn’t loaded with early speed. 

Why he can’t: With only three career races and none as a 2-year-old, he lacks seasoning. Took advantage of the slow pace and inside speed-biased track to win Louisiana Derby.

7. Reincarnate (50-1)

Two wins, three seconds, two thirds in seven starts. Won Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Originally with trainer Bob Baffert transferred to the barn of Tim Yakteen.

Why he can win: Never worse than third, always competitive. Generally close to early pace, but capable of rallying from behind. Jockey John Velazquez has won Derby three times.

Why he can’t: No-excuse third in Arkansas Derby. Speed figures have regressed after winning Sham Stakes in January.

8. Mage (15-1)

A win, second and fourth in three starts. A close second in Florida Derby.

Why he can win: Beaten only a length by Forte in Florida Derby. Made dramatic wide rally from last to first before being passed late. 

Why he can’t: Only three lifetime starts, none as a 2-year-old, so he’s short on experience. Off slowly in the last two races. Top jockey Luis Saez, who rode in Florida Derby, jumps off to ride Tapit Trice.

9. Skinner (20-1)

One win, three thirds in six starts. Third in both Southern California preps, the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby.

Why he can win: Huge improvement and form reversal as a 3-year-old after three sub-par starts in 2022. Strong speed figures in all three races this year.

Why he can’t: Only one career victory. Late-running colt had ideal setup in Santa Anita Derby, but couldn’t close the deal. Must clean up gate issues — off a step slow in several starts.

10. Practical Move (10-1)

Four wins, one second, two thirds in seven starts. Three stakes victories in Southern California, including Santa Anita Derby.

Why he can win: Tactical running style consistently puts him in a good position. Has won three consecutive stakes. Showed tenacity in winning Santa Anita Derby.

Why he can’t win: Took advantage of perfect ground-saving trips in the last three wins. Hasn’t raced outside of Southern California. Slight stumble at the start in the last two races.

11. Disarm (30-1)

One win, two seconds, two thirds in five starts. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the winningest trainer in North American thoroughbred racing, but yet to win a Kentucky Derby.

Why he can win: Second in Louisiana Derby. Never off the board in five races. 

Why he can’t: Yet to win a stakes race. The lone victory was against maidens. Speed figures are below all top contenders. 

12. Jace’s Road (15-1)

Two wins and two thirds in six starts. One of four horses in the field from trainer Brad Cox.

Why he can win: Best races are on or near the lead, which is where he’s likely to be early on.

Why he can’t: Well-beaten in both Louisiana Derby and Southwest Stakes. 0-for-2 at Churchill Downs. Sub-par speed figures.

13. Sun Thunder (50-1)

One win, one second, and a third in six starts. Adds blinkers for the first time. 

Why he can win: Dances all the dances — competed in four Derby preps and was competitive in each. Nearly won the Risen Star Stakes, was outkicked late and finished second.  

Why he can’t: 0-for-4 in stakes company. No early speed and will have plenty to do down the stretch. More interesting on the bottom of exotic tickets than on the top.  

14. Angel of Empire (8-1)

Four wins and a second in six starts. Most accomplished of trainer Brad Cox’s quartet.

Why he can win: Rallied from ninth to win Risen Star, then trounced Arkansas Derby field in his most recent start. Ideal improvement pattern — each of his last four races was better than the last.

Why he can’t: His speed figures in the last two victories aren’t all that strong. May need some racing luck rallying from mid or back of the pack.

15. Forte (3-1)

Six wins in seven starts, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby. The lone defeat was last July.

Why he can win: Deserving morning-line favorite has an outstanding resume, including four victories in Grade I stakes. Overcame wide trips to win the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. Top connections in trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

Why he can’t: From a speed figure standpoint, he hasn’t improved from the 100 Beyer figure he earned as a 2-year-old last November. Others in Derby field have run just as fast this year. Another wide trip seems likely.

16. Raise Cain (50-1)

Two wins, one second and a third in seven starts. Won Gotham Stakes, fifth in Blue Grass.

Why he can win: His 7-length victory in the Gotham at Aqueduct was even better than it looked — he overcame tight quarters and interference early in the stretch.

Why he can’t: The Gotham was run over a muddy track. Aside from that race, his resume is pretty thin. Was a non-threatening fifth in Blue Grass. 

17. Derma Sotogake (10-1)

The most polarizing horse in the field. Three of his four wins were in Japan, the other at Dubai in UAE Derby. This is his U.S. debut.

Why he can win: His UAE Derby victory was decisive (5 1/2 lengths) and fast — nearly four seconds faster than the 2022 winner. Versatile running style — has won from off-the-pace and gate-to-wire.

Why he can’t: It’s well-documented how poorly UAE Derby runners have fared in the Kentucky Derby — 0-for-18, none hit the board. Before UAE Derby, he was so-so third in Saudi Derby.

18. Rocket Can (30-1)

Two wins, two seconds in seven starts. Adds blinkers for the first time, perhaps hoping to show more early speed.

Why he can win: Looked good winning the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut, then finished second to Forte in Fountain of Youth.  

Why he can’t: Took a step back in his most recent effort, a fourth-place finish as a betting favorite in Arkansas Derby. Will need to run significantly faster to beat this field.

19. Lord Miles (30-1)

Two wins and a third in five starts. Punched his ticket with a 59-1 upset in Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Why he can win: Speed figures showed dramatic improvement in Wood Memorial, despite bit of a rough start. Showed some grit to edge Hit Show at the finish.

Why he can’t: Wood Memorial winner hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby since 2000. Was beaten nearly six lengths in Tampa Bay Derby and by 11 in Holy Bull. 

20. Continuar (50-1)

Earned entry into the field by winning the ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series. Two wins in five lifetime starts.

Why he can win: Japan-based horses have won several big international races the past two years. 

Why he can’t: Finished 10 lengths back of Derma Sotogake in UAE Derby. Could not keep up with country-mate during a five-furlong workout last week at Churchill Downs. May go off as the longest shot on the board.

21. Cyclone Mischief (AE)

Cyclone Mischief is the first horse on the also-eligible list and will run only if another horse in the field is scratched. That’s how Rich Strike got in last year.

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Kentucky Derby Selections

This is a wide-open race with several strong win contenders. Predicted top-four order of finish:

1. Practical Move

If you believe in speed figures, Practical Move is the fastest U.S. dirt horse in the field and ran that top figure in both his most recent races. While he did enjoy ideal ground-saving trips in both, some horses have the tactical speed to consistently carve out favorable trips. Practical Move looks like one of those. To get 10-1 or more on the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, traditionally one of the most important Kentucky Derby preps, adds to the appeal.

2. Verifying

More often than not, the Kentucky Derby is won by a horse who has the lead entering the stretch or is no worse than third. Verifying has the running style to be in one of those two positions, provided he breaks cleanly from the No. 2 post. He’s fast enough to win. The bigger question is his ability to handle the Derby distance. At his morning-line odds of 15-1 or higher, he’s worth the risk.  

3. Two Phil’s

The Jeff Ruby Steaks is not generally considered one of the more significant Kentucky Derby preps, but Rich Strike parlayed a third-place finish to a Derby victory last year. Two Phil’s dominated the 2023 Jeff Ruby Steaks on Turfway Park’s synthetic surface and has a far more impressive resume than Rich Strike did. Even if Two Phil’s is a synthetic track freak, his prior dirt races make him a solid contender at double-digit odds.

4. Derma Sotogake

The trend is not your friend for the winner of the UAE Derby, a race that has consistently produced Kentucky Derby pretenders, not contenders. Derma Sotogake is one of the more accomplished UAE runners to try the Derby and Japanese horses are winning more than their share of top international races. But Derma Sotogake has significant obstacles to overcome at a shorter price than he should.


Our selections include none of the top three morning-line betting choices. While all three are clearly capable of winning, the value isn’t there. The second betting choice Tapit Trice seems better suited to winning the longer Belmont Stakes, and the stretch-running colt may need to pass the entire field to win this ….  Favored Forte has won six of seven races, but his speed figures were faster last year. He may not be moving forward and offers limited value. … Angel of Empire is clearly improving, but has lower speed figures and will need to take another step forward to win this.

As for long shots to include on exotic tickets, Skinner finished only a half-length back of Practical Move in the Santa Anita Derby, He flattened out in the final yards of the last two races, but his speed figures are competitive. … Hit Show and Sun Thunder will be huge prices and may be worth including on the bottom of trifecta and superfecta tickets. Both figure to be passing horses late.

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