By Jarrod Horak
Todd Pletcher trainees dominated the Kentucky Derby 2023 points races in March. First it was Forte in the Fountain of Youth on March 4, and Tapit Trice made his case in the Tampa Bay Derby a week later. On March 25, it was Kingsbarns and Flavien Prat wiring the field in the Louisiana Derby.
In other Derby news, Instant Coffee was in good shape on the points list prior to the LA Derby, but a midpack finish leaves him in a very bad spot. He currently sits 17th on the Derby list with five big points races to go. Any runner under 40 points is in a precarious position.
Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Results
Louisiana Derby – March 25 – Winner: Kingsbarns
This 12-horse affair seriously lacked early speed. I thought Jace’s Road would scoot to the front from an outer post, but he broke through the gate prior to the start, along with Cagliostro. Kingsbarns with jockey Flavien Prat aboard broke on top and had inside position on Jace’s Road, and the former was able to get clear by a length. The fractions were very controlled (24.71, 49.60, 1:14.69). That first interior fraction of 25.09 was the key to success. Kingsbarns was able to relax through moderate splits, and he opened up by 4 1/2 lengths in the stretch, but the race was over way before that. He coasted home by 3 1/2 lengths at 9-2 odds. Jace’s Road gamely chased throughout. He made one final bid for the lead around the final turn but could not go with the winner. Disarm sat a decent inside midpack trip and finished up nicely in a clear runner-up finish. Jace’s Road was best of the rest in 3rd. Shopper’s Revenge stalked from the inside post and just held 4th over Sun Thunder. Race favorite Instant Coffee ended up a flat 6th in a disappointing effort, and he was followed by Tapit’s Conquest, Cagliostro, Baseline Beater, Denington, Curly Jack, and Single Ruler. The final time was 1:57.33.
UAE Derby – March 25 – Winner: Derma Sotogake
Derma Sotogake was strong throughout in this 1 3/16 miles affair at Meydan. He made the lead over Dura Erede and those two dominated. Derma Sotogake let it out a notch around the far turn and poured it on in the stretch to win by more than five lengths. Dura Erede was clearly second best and Continuar was a clear 3rd. Perriere was 4th and Go Soldier Go rounded out the top five. Beaten favorite Cairo chased and weakened, and my value top choice Worcester broke slow, made a steady wide early move, and got tired in an inconclusive effort. This was a conveyer belt event. There was absolutely no passing going on. The final time was 1:55.81 and it was the fastest running of this race since Mendelssohn in 2018 (1:55.18). Derma Sotogake will run in the Kentucky Derby, and runner-up Dura Erede might make the trip to the states as well.
Jeff Ruby Steaks – March 25 – Winner: Two Phil’s
Not much drama in this all-weather Derby prep. Funtastic Again took up his usual spot on the front end and was chased by Bluebirds Over, Major Dude, and Wadsworth. Two Phil’s was always within hailing distance while racing wide, and he just cruised up to the leaders and rolled on by. He tallied by a very easy 5 1/2 lengths under Jareth Loveberry as the 5-2 second choice. Major Dude kept plugging away in a clear runner-up finish as the favorite. Funtastic Again never stopped trying and was best of the rest in 3rd. Wadsworth was in a good striking spot but could not match strides with the top three in the lane. He settled for 4th. Maker’s Candy ran on for 5th and was followed by Congruent, Baby Billy, Escapologist, Bluebirds Over, and Point Proven. The final time was 1:49.03.
Sunland Derby – March 26 – Winner: Wild On Ice
Fort Bragg scratched in favor of the Florida Derby. One in Vermillion was very fractious in the gate. He was backed out and finally decided to cooperate, and they were off and running. The pace was quick as expected with Hard to Figure and Henry Q dueling early. Wild On Ice stalked from 3rd and Low Expectations was behind him. Henry Q put away 1-2 favorite Hard to Figure and Wild On Ice and Low Expectations made their move. It came down to the latter pair and local hope Wild On Ice was moving best of all and pulled off the massive upset under Ken Tohill. Low Expectations landed the place and Henry Q was well clear of the rest in 3rd. How Did He Do That was along for 4th and One in Vermillion and Hard to Figure trailed. The final time was 1:51.39. The winner was not Triple Crown nominated at the time of this race. Late nominations closed on Monday, March 27, and they put up the $6,000 in order to make him eligible for the Triple Crown series.
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
Arkansas Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 1
Wood Memorial (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8
Blue Grass (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8
SA Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – April 8
Lexington (20-8-6-4-2) – April 15
Top 41 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 3-31-23)
123 Points: Two Phil’s
100 Points: Derma Sotogake (JPN)
100 Points: Kingsbarns
90 Points: Forte
60 Points: Practical Move
57 Points: Confidence Game
54 Points: Angel of Empire
54 Points: Raise Cain
50 Points: Tapit Trice
45 Points: Jace’s Road
40 Points: Dura Erede (JPN)
40 Points: Major Dude
40 Points: Rocket Can
40 Points: Disarm
34 Points: Sun Thunder
33 Points: Red Route One
32 Points: Instant Coffee
30 Points: Continuar (JPN)
30 Points: Funtastic Again
26 Points: Classic Car Wash
24 Points: General Banker
20 Points: Perriere (JPN)
20 Points: Congruent
20 Points: Hit Show
20 Points: Geaux Rocket Ride
20 Points: Slip Mahoney
20 Points: Shopper’s Revenge
20 Points: Wadsworth
19 Points: Classic Legacy
17 Points: Curly Jack
16 Points: Blazing Sevens
16 Points: Arctic Arrogance
15 Points: Reincarnate
15 Points: Skinner
15 Points: Cyclone Mischief
14 Points: Verifying
13 Points: Shadow Dragon
10 Points: Victory Formation
10 Points: Dubyuhnell
10 Points: Lugan Knight
10 Points: Mage
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2023 Contenders (3-31-23)
1 -FORTE (Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
The juvenile champ rattled off Grade 1 wins in the Hopeful, Breeders’ Futurity, and BC Juvenile last year, and picked up where he left off in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4. His three graded wins at 8.5f were eerily similar, and you have to like his positional speed and finishing kick. The Florida Derby is next and he is the 4-5 morning line favorite for that eace. His final Florida Derby move was a solid half-mile breeze in 49.76. at Palm Beach Downs on March 25.
2 – REINCARNATE (Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen
This one has a strong route foundation. He landed the place in his first two turf routes last year. He switched to dirt and stalked wide in a runner-up finish behind his stablemate Fort Bragg, and set a pressure pace and gamely prevailed by a bit less than a length in his flat mile maiden win last November. 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 that might have been his best effort yet. He caught a wet track and was shuffled back early under Johnny V. The early-pressing type found himself back in 9th place while getting mud kicked in his face. 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 is next and he is the morning line favorite for that 1 1/8 miles affair. He worked 5f in 59.80 at Santa Anita on March 26.
3 – PRACTICAL MOVE (Practical Joke – Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen
This one had back-to-back perfect trip victories in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and San Felipe (G2). He save ground chasing the pace and scooted up the rail in both of those races. He beat Carmel Road in the former and that one returned to disappoint in the Gotham Stakes. In the San Felipe, he beat debut sprint winner Geaux Rocket Ride and last-out maiden winners Skinner and Hejazi. I like his tactical speed but his pedigree hardly screams 1 1/4 miles. He drilled a best of 95 bullet in 59.20 at Santa Anita on March 26, and the SA Derby is his next target.
4 – TAPIT TRICE (Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
His stretch run in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) was impressive to say the least, but he was the fastest horse on paper by far and was expected to win that race. This closer has giant strides and gobbles up ground in a hurry. His Achilles heel is the starting gate. He always seems to break slow. It did not cost him in his maiden win or allowance victory, and he overcame it again in the TB Derby, but he gave his backers a few anxious moments in the latter race. He cannot afford to make mistakes as the competition gets tougher. He will make his final Derby prep stop in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 8, and his latest morning move was a half-mile breeze in 49.82 at Palm Beach Downs on March 24.
5 – KINGSBARNS (Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher
This one did not race as a juvenile. He captured his career debut at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 14, and won a route at Tampa Bay second time out Feb. 12. 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 waters obvious get deeper on the first Saturday in May. The early-pressing type is 3-for-3 and his best races are in front of him, but the Ky Derby is a big ask for such a lightly raced runner.
6 – SKINNER (Curlin – Winding Way, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: John Shirreffs
He landed the show as a maiden in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last year. His Feb. 12 maiden return was excellent. He sat back while racing wide, and kicked away to win by a strong 3 1/4 lengths. That was a fast flat mile event and he found his best stride late. He returned to the stakes ranks in the San Felipe, and was the only closer making up any ground in a respectable show finish. He worked six panels in 1:14 flat on March 26 and remains on target for the SA Derby.
7 – GEAUX ROCKET RIDE (Candy Ride – Beyond Grace, by Uncle Mo) – Trainer: Richard Mandella
He was straight and strong when dusting next-out winner Sonoran in his sprint bow Jan. 29. Mandella threw him to the wolves in the San Felipe (G2) second time out, and he chased Hejazi early and never stopped trying in a runner-up finish behind Practical Move. He was surprisingly the favorite in the San Felipe considering his lack of experience, and he should have gotten plenty out of that heat. The unraced 2-year-old worked 6f in 1:13 flat on March 26, and his next start will come in the SA Derby. He might get brave if able to shake loose early in his final Derby prep.
8 – CONFIDENCE GAME (Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini) – Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
This one might be getting good at the right time, but it is also possible that he sat the right trip on a wet track in the Feb. 25 Rebel (G2). 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. He lost his other two stakes starts in the Iroquois (5th) and Lecomte (3rd). He has started seven times and the early-pressing type proved he could pass horses last time. We will learn much more about him in his final Derby prep at 1 1/8 miles. The Rebel took a lot out of him and it took him quite a while to get back on the worktab. 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.
9 – VERIFYING (Justify – Diva Delete, by Repent) – Trainer: Brad Cox
Last year, he won his debut, completed the exacta in the Champagne (G1), and had an uncomfortable start when finishing 6th of 10 in the BC Juvenile (G1). He looked great in his first start at Oaklawn Park this year. 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 will be his final Derby prep, and he worked five panels in 59.40 at Keeneland on March 31.
10 – NATIONAL TREASURE (Quality Road – Treasure, by Medaglia d’Oro) – Trainer: Tom Yakteen
He was sharp in his sprint bow, and it has been nothing but graded route stakes since. He was clearly second best in the American Pharoah (G1), and ended 2022 with a solid show finish in the BC Juvenile (G1). He had an uncomfortable trip when checking in 3rd in the Sham (G3) in his first and only 2023 start in January. He had a sore foot and scratched out of the San Felipe (G2) on March 4. He got back on the worktab with a 6f bullet on March 14, and worked 5f in 1:00 flat five days later. His latest work was a 6f bullet on March 26, and we should see him in the SA Derby or Blue Grass Stakes on April 8.
11 – BLAZING SEVENS (Good Magic – Trophy Girl, by Warrior’s Reward) – Trainer: Chad Brown
This one had a nice 2-year-old foundation last year. He captured his sprint bow at Saratoga last summer, and checked in 3rd in the Hopeful (G1) at that same venue second time out. He rallied outside and beat Verifying in the slop in the Champagne (G1), and ended up a clear 4th after a troubled beginning in the BC Juvenile (G1). He had not missed a beat on the Payson Park worktab prior to the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 4 but he never picked up his feet in that event. Chad Brown says he did not handle the footing at the Gulf, and he is kicking himself for not returning to NY for the Gotham (G3). He breezed a solid half-mile in 49.20 at Payson Park on March 18, and had another four panel breeze in 49.80 a week later. He is expected to ship to New York for the Wood Memorial on April 8.
Next Nine: (12) Derma Sotogake, (13) Angel of Empire, (14) Hit Show (15) Two Phil’s, (16) Red Route One, (17) Rocket Can, (18) Jace’s Road, (19) Disarm, (20) Instant Coffee