By Jarrod Horak
We have reached the end of the Kentucky Derby 2023 points race series, and Todd Pletcher still holds three aces. He has juvenile champ Forte and young upstart Kingsbarns, and Tapit Trice followed up his late running win in the Tampa Bay Derby with a smart stalking score in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8. Practical Move made it three straight points race victories in the SA Derby, and he saved ground while stalking the pace in all of those wins. Lord Miles pulled off the biggest shocker of all in the Wood Memorial, and Disarm picked up the show in the Lexington Stakes and was the final qualifier.
In late breaking Derby news, Chad Brown has decided to skip the Kentucky Derby with Blazing Sevens. He will point to the Preakness Stakes, and his defection means Jace’s Road will run in the Derby.
Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Recaps
Wood Memorial – April 8 – Winner: Lord Miles
This race was a real handicapping puzzle and it is not surprising that we saw a giant upset. Florida shipper Lord Miles stalked the pace and prevailed by a desperate nose over solid favorite Hit Show. The latter broke from post 12 and sat an outside stalking trip in a near-miss. Dreamlike, a maiden for Todd Pletcher, stalked the pace from the inside post and was 5+ clear of Arctic Arrogance and Classic Catch. My top choice Slip Mahoney had his share of early woes and did okay to split the 12-horse field considering the trip he had. The final time was 1:51.17 and I doubt we saw the Derby winner in this event.
Blue Grass – April 8 – Winner: Tapit Trice
Tapit Trice broke from the rail and he was seventh early. He moved up wide on the backside under Luis Saez, and he ended up in a nice stalking spot. Verifying was sitting in second and briefly hit the front, but he did not get a big enough jump on Tapit Trice, and you just knew the latter would prevail. He did just that and secured the victory by a neck, and Verifying finished 5+ in front of Blazing Sevens. The latter race much better for Chad Brown. He made a bit of a menacing wide move but could not hang with the top two. He held off Sun Thunder by a half-length and both secured Derby spots, along with the 1-2 finishers. Raise Cain finished fifth and he also has enough points to run in the Derby. The final time was 1:50 flat.
SA Derby – April 8 – Winner: Practical Move
Another perfect ground saving tactical trip for Practical Move. Tim Yakteen’s colt did not kick away despite his wonderful journey and just did get the bob over Japanese shipper Mandarin Hero. Skinner raced wide and rallied for the show in a solid effort. National Treasure was an even 4th and looked like a short horse. Not surprising since this was his first outing since Jan. 8. One in Vermillion, I Don’t Get It, Dazzlemesilver, and Low Expectations also ran. The final time was 1:48.69.
Lexington Stakes – April 15 – Winner: First Mission
This race was more of a Preakness prep, but one horse had his eye on the Derby, and he secured just enough points with a show finish. First Mission was my top choice and he was bet down to 2-1. He stalked the pace and gamely scored by a half-length over front runner Arabian Lion. The latter has distance limitations. Disarm was the lone runner with a chance to make the Derby field, and he chugged along for the show while outfinishing Denington. The final time was 1:43.74. First Mission is an up and comer for Brad Cox. Arabian Lion needs less ground for Baffert, and Disarm needs more ground for Asmussen.
Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Results
Iroquois (10-4-3-2-1) – Sept. 17 – Winner: Curly Jack ($23.66)
Champagne (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 1 – Winner: Blazing Sevens ($19.00)
American Pharoah (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 8 – Winner: Cave Rock ($2.80)
Breeders’ Futurity (10-4-3-2-1) – Oct. 8 – Winner: Forte ($10.86)
BC Juvenile (30-12-9-6-3) – Nov. 4 – Winner: Forte ($12.04)
Ky Jockey Club (10-4-3-2-1) – Nov. 26 – Winner: Instant Coffee ($5.08)
Remsen (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 3 – Winner: Dubyuhnell ($10.00)
Los Al Futurity (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 17 – Winner: Practical Move ($23.20)
Springboard Mile (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 17 – Winner: Wildatlanticstorm ($32.00)
Gun Runner (10-4-3-2-1) – Dec. 26 – Winner: Jace’s Road ($6.80)
Smarty Jones (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 1- Winner: Victory Formation ($3.20)
Jerome (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 7 – Winner: Lugan Knight ($9.10)
Sham (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 8 – Winner: Reincarnate ($35.00)
Lecomte (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 21 – Winner: Instant Coffee ($4.60)
Southwest (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 28 – Winner: Arabian Knight ($2.80)
Withers (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Hit Show ($4.60)
Holy Bull (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Rocket Can ($7.20)
Robert Lewis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 – Winner: Newgate ($4.00)
Sam F. Davis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 11 – Winner: Litigate ($7.60)
El Camino Real Derby (10-4-3-2-1) – Feb. 11 – Winner: Chase the Chaos ($10.40)
Risen Star (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 18 – Winner: Angel of Empire ($29.40)
Rebel (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 25 – Winner: Confidence Game ($39.00)
Fountain of Youth (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4 – Winner: Forte ($3.00)
Gotham (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4 – Winner: Raise Cain ($49.00)
San Felipe (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4 – Winner: Practical Move ($10.40)
John Battaglia Memorial (20-8-6-4-2) – March 4 – Winner: Congruent ($35.00)
Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 11 – Winner: Tapit Trice ($3.00)
UAE Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25- Winner:Derma Sotogake
Louisiana Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25 – Winner: Kingsbarns ($11.00)
Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – March 25 – Winner: Two Phil’s ($7.64)
Sunland Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 26 – Winner: Wild On Ice ($72.80)
Florida Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 1 – Winner: Forte ($2.60)
Arkansas Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 1 – Winner: Angel of Empire ($11.40)
Wood Memorial (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8 – Winner: Lord Miles ($120.50)
Blue Grass (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8 – Winner: Tapit Trice ($5.28)
SA Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8 – Winner: Practical Move ($4.00)
Lexington (20-8-6-4-2) – April 15 – Winner: First Mission ($6.38)
Top 25 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 4-25-23)
190 Points: Forte
160 Points: Practical Move
154 Points: Angel of Empire
150 Points: Tapit Trice
123 Points: Two Phil’s
105 Points: Lord Miles
100 Points: Derma Sotogake (JPN)
100 Points: Kingsbarns
64 Points: Raise Cain
60 Points: Rocket Can
60 Points: Hit Show
57 Points: Confidence Game
54 Points: Verifying
54 Points: Sun Thunder
50 Points: Wild On Ice
50 Points: Mage
46 Points: Disarm
45 Points: Reincarnate
45 Points: Jace’s Road
Japan Invite: Continuar (20th place)
45 Points: Skinner
45 Points: Cyclone Mischief
40 Points: Major Dude
40 Points: Mandarin Hero (JPN)
40 Points: King Russell
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2023 Contenders (4-25-23)
1 -FORTE (Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
The juvenile champ won three G1 races last year (Hopeful, Breeders’ Futurity, BC Juvenile), and he is still the leader of the pack after 2023 stakes victories in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1). He was super in the former and workmanlike in the latter. He had to overcome a wide draw and outside closing trip in the Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles. He is 6-for-7 overall and 4-for-4 around two turns. He is also a 4-time Grade 1 winner and is the deserving Kentucky Derby favorite. He breezed a half-mile in 50.23 at Palm Beach Downs April 14, and got in a five panel move in 1:02 flat at CD on April 21. He was energetic in his April 22 gallop in Kentucky.
2 – TAPIT TRICE (Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
It was nice to see him have a better start and run a more professional race overall in the Blue Grass (G1), and that 1 1/8 miles affair at Keeneland was his fourth straight victory. He moved up wide from the inside post to stalk the pace, and he was just better than tactical type Verifying in a neck victory. He probably has the best pedigree of all the Derby contenders and he continues to get faster. He had a solid half-mile move in 48.60 at CD on April 21.
3 – ANGEL OF EMPIRE (Classic Empire – Harmony’s Angel, by To Honor and Serve) – Trainer: Brad Cox
Has really come into his own in his last two stakes starts at 1 1/8 miles. In the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 18, he got pace help, sat back patiently while racing outside, and rallied to beat a baker’s dozen. In the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 1, he did the same thing. He sat back while racing wide, and made an eye-catching move and pulled away to score by a very easy 4 1/4 lengths. This was a visually pleasing effort under Flavien Prat, and the PA-bred colt is on top his game. He breezed a half-mile in 48.20 at CD on April 15, and went 6f in 1:13.40 six days later.
4 – DERMA SOTOGAKE (Mind Your Biscuits – Amour Pies, by Neo Universe) – Trainer: Hidetaka Otonashi
This rapidly developing Japanese runner started off slow with a trio of losses to begin his career last year. He rattled off three straight to end his juvenile campaign. He began 2023 with a solid show finish in the Saudi Derby (G3). The pace did not come back in that race and he fended off the late runners in a solid show finish. The UAE Derby (G2) was his coming out party. He got to the front, controlled the tempo, and poured it on in the lane in a visually impressive performance at 1 3/16 miles. The UAE Derby has not been a productive Kentucky Derby prep, but this colt is talented and could make some noise under the Twin Spires. He has arrived at CD and his first Derby work was a half-mile move in 49.60 on April 19.
5 – PRACTICAL MOVE (Practical Joke – Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen
I was hoping to see him overcome some adversity in the SA Derby after back-to-back perfect trip victories in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and San Felipe (G2), but he sat another dream inside trip on April 8. I am concerned that despite a beautiful journey in the SA Derby and getting clear in the lane, he only managed to hold on by a head. He is not getting better as distances increase. He worked a half-mile in 47 flat at SA on April 21.
6 – KINGSBARNS (Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
This one did not race as a juvenile and that is the main chink in his armor. He shipped to Fair Grounds and controlled the pace in an easy victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles on March 25. Flavien Prat gave him a great ride at FG. There was just no early pace that day and this colt was more than happy when they handed him an easy lead. He just cantered around there without a straw in his path. The early-pressing type is 3-for-3 and his best races are in front of him, but Prat abandons for Angel of Empire and the Ky Derby is a big ask for such a lightly raced runner.
7 – TWO PHIL’S (Hard Spun – Mia Torri, by General Quarters) – Trainer: Larry Rivelli
This one just goes out there and tries hard every time. After a productive juvenile campaign, he started 2023 with a solid runner-up finish in the Lecomte (G3), and completed the trifecta in the Risen Star (G2). He moved to all-weather ground in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at 1 1/8 miles March 25, and he closed wide and won that race stylishly. His last two moves were at Hawthorne. His first work after the Jeff Ruby was an easy half-mile in 49.60, and he picked up the pace with a 5f bullet in 1:00 flat on April 16.
8 – VERIFYING (Justify – Diva Delete, by Repent) – Trainer: Brad Cox
He was a sharp pressing winner in a flat mile optional claimer Jan. 14, and the 2-3 finishers were next-out winners. In the Rebel (G2), he was too close to lively fractions and was stuck in traffic along the inside. The Blue Grass was his final Derby prep, and he sat a nice stalking trip and finished a neck behind Tapit Trice, and he was 5+ clear of show finisher Blazing Sevens. His tactical speed should serve him well at CD, but I am not sure he wants to go 1 1/4 miles. He breezed 5f in 1:01 flat at CD on April 21.
9 – REINCARNATE (Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen
I had this one ranked higher earlier this year. He was pressured throughout and beat next-out stakes winner Newgate by a neck in the Sham (G3) in January. He shipped to Oaklawn for the Rebel (G2) and he caught a wet track and was shuffled back early under Johnny V. He worked his way through traffic, got bumped around in the stretch, and finished best of all in a clear show finish. The Arkansas Derby was his final Derby prep, and he chased the pace from 2nd and had no answer for Angel of Empire, and it is especially concerning that he lost the place to longshot maiden winner King Russell. He has worked twice at SA since his final Derby prep. He went 5f in 1:00 flat on April 16, and traveled 5f in 1:01 on April 22.
10 – CONFIDENCE GAME (Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini) – Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Seemed to be getting good at the right time after his Rebel (G2) victory on a wet track. In that graded points race at Oaklawn, he sat in a perfect outside midpack spot behind lively fractions. He got the jump on the late runners and upset the field by a length. The Rebel took a lot out of him and it took him quite a while to get back on the worktab, and the Kentucky Derby will be his first start since Feb. 25. He breezed an easy half-mile in 50 flat at Fair Grounds on March 18, and got a bit more serious with a 5f move in 1:01.60 a week later. He shipped to CD for his last two works. He went 5f in 1:00.40 on April 8 and breezed a mile from the gate in 1:38.20 on April 14.
11 – JACE’S ROAD (Quality Road – Out Post, by Silver Deputy) – Trainer: Brad Cox
He started four times in 2022. After romping in his dirt sprint bow at Ellis Park, he stretched out, chased wide, and was a clear 3rd in the Iroquois Stakes. He appeared to hate the wet conditions in the Street Sense Stakes, and bounced back with a strong front running victory in the Gun Runner. He clearly has ability, and based on the way he ran in the Gun Runner, I figured they would want to put him on or near the lead in his upcoming starts. The LA Derby was his final Derby prep, and he chased slow fractions from an outer post and was best of the rest in third. He worked 6f in 1:13.40 at Churchill on April 21.
Next Nine: (12) Mage, (13) Hit Show, (14) Rocket Can, (15) Sun Thunder, (16) Disarm, (17) Raise Cain, (18) Continuar, (19) Lord Miles, (20) Wild On Ice