2023 Kentucky Derby Preview

by Mark Strausberg
2023 Kentucky Derby Preview

Welcome to the most exciting two minutes in sports! That's right, we're talking about the Kentucky Derby - the one day a year when people care about horse racing almost as much as they care about the latest Kardashian drama. But this is F6P, not GMA, so excuse me if I make some betting suggestions for my 2023 Kentucky Derby Preview instead of fashion recommendations.

Because let's not forget about the real stars of the show - the horses. Just make sure you don't bet your life savings on a horse named after your ex - trust me, it's not worth it. Then again, I've never seen a horse named, "Frigid B*tch".

Whatever, we're getting off course. Before I get myself into trouble, let's look at the horses expected to run on Saturday.

Post PositionTrainerJockeyMorning Line Odds
1. Hit ShowBrad CoxManny Franco30-1
2. VerifyingBrad CoxTyler Gaffalione15-1
3. Two Phil'sLarry RivelliJareth Loveberry12-1
4. Confidence GameKeith DesormeauxJames Graham20-1
5. Tapit TriceTodd PletcherLuis Saez5-1
6. KingsbarnsTodd PletcherJose Ortiz12-1
7. ReincarnateTim YakteenJohn Velazquez50-1
8. MageGustavo DelgadoJavier Castellano15-1
9. SkinnerJohn ShirreffsJuan Hernandez20-1
10. Practical MoveTim YakteenRamon Vazquez10-1
11. DisarmSteve AsmussenJoel Rosario30-1
12. Jace's RoadBrad CoxFlorent Geroux50-1
13. Sun ThunderKen McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.50-1
14. Angel of EmpireBrad CoxFlavien Prat8-1
15. ForteTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.3-1
16. Raise CainBen ColebrookGerardo Corrales50-1
17. Derma Sotogake (JPN)Hidetaka OtonashiChristophe Lemaire10-1
18. Rocket CanBill MottJunior Alvarado30-1
19. Lord MilesSaffie Joseph, Jr.Paco Lopez30-1
20. Continuar (JPN)Yoshito YahagiRyusei Sakai50-1

So I'm sure one of the first questions you have is whom should you bet to win? Well, I'm here to answer that and a few other questions for my 2023 Kentucky Derby Preview. And a little Q&A is exactly how we'll go about this.

Update: Lord Miles has been Scratched from the Kentucky Derby and his trainer has been suspended after two sudden horse deaths.

2023 Kentucky Derby Preview

The thing about finding a winner in a 20-horse field is you need to eliminate some options. Therefore, we'll start with some of the super long shots and weave our way through until we find a horse we like.

Should I even bother?

Horses at 50-1 have won the Derby less than 5% of the time. And given that this is the 149th running, it doesn't happen too often. Winners like last year's 80-1 shot, Rich Strike, are few and far between. Might be a few years before we see a long shot like that again.

You might want to use Reincarnate, Jace's Road, and Sun Thunder for your superfectas and trifectas. I haven't decided yet, but I might do that. But any of the horses listed at 50-1 above are definitely not winning. And we can probably throw three out of four of the 30-1s into that pile as well. Disarm is a tempting longshot, but too many other horses offer more for me to put any serious dough on that.

Let's keep moving.

Is there value with a horse at 20-1?

Yes, there's "value". I really like what Confidence Game has done this season but is entering the Derby on a 10-week layoff. No horse has won a modern Derby contested in the spring (Covid really messed up a previous season or two) with more than 42 days off. With a 70-day layoff, that's just too much. Skinner is sired by Curlin. His third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby is definitely a feather in his cap if I was going to argue the case for betting him to win. But I'm not going to to do that.

Skinner is like your 6th-man award winner in basketball. He's pretty good....but not good enough. Can't pick either of them to win.

And the 15-1s?

If there's a horse whose odds are bound to drop down the board it is Mage. Mage has simply too little experience and should be closer to 30 to 1 than 15 to 1. Verifying, however, is a very interesting option. He's the son of Triple Crown Winner Justify and half-brother to champion Midnight Bisou. He's shown solid progress and has run gamely with some of the best. But that's just the problem. He's shown he can contend. But he screams Alydar to many of this race's Affirmeds.

If you don't know what means, Google it. In the meantime, I'll move on.

Are there any double-digit shots worth betting to win?

Sometimes there are. And to be honest, the remaining double-digit options are acceptable homerun shots. But I'd rather not put my hard-earned greenbacks on a horse needing a run for the ages. Trainer Todd Pletcher and Jose Ortiz are proven winners, so if I were going to take my shot with a double-digit odds horse, I'd likely grab Kingsbarns. He won the Louisiana Derby by 3.5 lengths and is peaking at the right time. But with just three lifetime starts, I'm going to invest in a horse with a more proven track record.

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Update - The Favorite, Forte, Has Been Scratched!

It's always hard to fade the favorite. They're the favorite for a reason and win about two-thirds of the time. And you fade them at your own risk. But you know what? I am going to fade him. Forte has so much going for him. Forte has won six out of his seven races, including his last race, the Grade 1 Florida Derby. But one has to wonder if he has "peaked too soon"?

Moreover, while he might currently be 3-1, he won't be by post time. The problem with parimutuel betting is it can kill any value on a favorite. I'd be shocked if he goes off at less than 3-2 and at that level, I hate the value.

That leaves us with two horses. Which one are you backing?

There is so much to like about Angel of Empire. First off, I like the name for some unknown reason and never underestimate that as a reason to pick a horse. Even the most experienced handicappers will bet on a horse because they like the name. But a more concrete reason is that Angel of Empire was trained by Brad Cox who won the Derby in 2021 with Mandaloun, a less impressive horse than Angel of Empire.

Furthermore, he will be ridden by Flavien Prat, who already has a Kentucky Derby win and has one of the most impressive records at Churchill Downs. Throw in an impressive victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and I will have Angel of Empire in a number of my tickets. But even more than Angel of Empire, I like Todd Pletcher to return to the winner's circle with Tapit Trice.

Tapit Trice. And why should we put the Benjamins on him?

Wait a sec...who said anything about Benjamins!?!?!? Bet within your means. I cannot stress that enough. If you only have enough money to between a Washington and a Lincoln, don't go betting with a Hamilton. I promise you that if your risk tolerance is just a dollar, that dollar will bring you plenty of exhilaration if that bet is a winner.

And my recommendation is Tapit Trice.

Tapit Trice checks all of the boxes. Tapit Trice was sired by Tapit, the all-time leading North American sire by progeny earnings, and whose sire, Unbridled was a Kentucky Derby winner. So he checks the bloodline box, one of the key criteria when choosing a thoroughbred.

I also want a Strong Trainer. And yeah, I think Todd Pletcher is pretty good. He is one of just three trainers to win the Derby twice in the last 15 years. Pletcher is seventh all-time in winnings and has won the Eclipse Award eight times as Trainer of the Year, including four consecutive years.

Good jockey? Si. Luis Suarez is one of the most accomplished jockeys this decade, finishing in the top three for both the number of wins and the total amount of winnings earlier this decade. Despite being a Triple Crown race winner, a Kentucky Derby win is one of the few things missing on his resume. However, he has won the Churchill Down Stakes, so he can definitely win here.

The one thing I am concerned about with Tapit Trice is the tendency to break from the gate late. However, I love how in the Blue Grass Stakes, Tapit Trice broke from the number one post position and was able to move up on the outside down the backstretch and then outfought Verifying to the wire. I think Tapit Trice, in a tight race, comes out on top again.

So what does your betting card look like for the Kentucky Derby?

I'll be betting Tapit Trice ATB, better known as Across the Board, or to win, place, and show. I will also bet him in a box exacta with both Angel of Empire and Practical Move.

My Trifecta Box will include the three aforementioned horses in the first two slots WITH Forte, Verifying, and Kingsbarns. I will definitely make a few Superfecta bets as they are always fun lottery tickets. Confidence Game and Skinner will certainly be a part of those.

And that will just about do it for my 2023 Kentucky Derby Preview. Good luck with your wagers, and until then Go Baby Go!

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