Kentucky Derby 2023 Report: Leaderboard Update

Churchill Downs Photo: Jarrod Horak

By Jarrod Horak

The ten juvenile points races on the road to Kentucky Derby 2023 have all been completed, and Forte is likely to be the juvenile male champ after Grade 1 victories in the Hopeful, Breeders’ Futurity, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The latter race was deep with Cave Rock landing the place and National Treasure completing the trifecta. The first points race of the new year was the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, and Victory Formation was never seriously threatened in an easy triumph at one mile. Let’s recap all of the points race action up to this point.  

Kentucky Derby 2023 Points Race Results

Grade 3 Iroquois – Sept. 17 – Winner: Curly Jack

The first Derby points race on the calendar is rarely a predictor of success on the first Saturday in May. Damon’s Mound set the tempo and Jace’s Road and Hayes Strike chased the early runner. Solid betting favorite Echo Again stalked wide from the outside post, and made a middle move before faltering. Patient runners ruled this one and Curly Jack got the jump on Honed and scored by a length. Honed rallied from last and ended up a half-length in front of clear show finisher Jace’s Road. Hayes Strike was best of the rest in 4th and Confidence Game was 5th. The final time was 1:45.62. 

Grade 1 Champagne – Oct. 1 – Winner: Blazing Sevens

This one-turn mile was run in the slop. Andiamo a Firenze set the pace from the inside post and race favorite Gulfport chased from 2nd. Verifying stalked and forged to the fore, but Blazing Sevens was traveling best of all and rallied outside to win by 3+ lengths. Verifying was the solid runner-up and Gulfport was miles best of the rest in 3rd. Andiamo a Firenze was a clear 4th and Champions Dream and Top Recruiter trailed. The final time was 1:37.07. How do we realistically rate this long sprint race in the slop? The winner is probably worth following but this was most likely not a strong event.   

Grade 1 American Pharoah – Oct. 8 – Winner: Cave Rock

Cave Rock ran them off the feet. He did not have the most alert beginning but quickly found his footing and surged to the front around the first turn. The opening quarter was 22.96 and the half was 46.82. He was a length clear at this stage and pushed ahead by 2 1/2 lengths after six panels (1:11.07). The race was over at this point and it was only a matter of how far, and the official winning margin was 5 1/4 lengths. Cave Rock’s stablemate National Treasure chased from 2nd and was 3 1/2 clear of highly regarded maiden Hejazi (Baffert). Gandolfini (also Baffert) was 4th and he was a dozen ahead of Man Child. Skinner, Macnamara, and Odonata failed to get seriously involved. The final time was 1:43.05 and this was a fast race. The winner is fast and talented, and the runner-up and show finishers have ability as well.  

Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity – Oct. 8 – Winner: Forte

The local prep for the BC Juvenile (G1) featured a 14-horse field. Bourbon Bash, Newgate, and Loggins mixed it up early through a quarter in 22.94 and a half in 46.36. Loggins put away his two pace rivals and was in front by a length after six furlongs in 1:11.63. Hopeful (G1) hero Forte was lurking in midpack, and moved up outside and came after Loggins. Those two battled through the stretch and Forte was best by a neck. Loggins ran too good to lose while 6+ clear of the show. Red Route One rallied from 12th and edged Instant Coffee and Newgate for show honors. Lost Ark (6th) and Carmel Road (13th) also competed. The final time was 1:44.74 and the top two finishers are quality horses.    

Grade 1 BC Juvenile – Nov. 4 – Winner: Forte

Cave Rock was the strong favorite but he was too keyed up and was getting hot in the paddock and post parade. He fought off early pressure from Hurricane J through a quarter in 22.90 and a half in 47.01. Baffert’s colt got some breathing room and was 1 1/2 lengths clear after six panels (1:11.77), and maintained that advantage turning for home. Forte was always within striking distance, and he moved outside and came after Cave Rock in the stretch. Pletcher’s colt always looked like a winner and ended up scoring by a lengths and a half. Cave Rock was the clear runner-up and he was not at his absolute best in this race. National Treasure stalked the pace from the outside post and finished a solid 3rd. Blazing Sevens had a troubled beginning and rallied to finish a clear 4th. Curly Jack chased the pace and weakened to 5th, and he was followed by Verifying, Hurricane J, Congruent, Wound Up, and Lost Ark (eased, walked off). The final time was 1:43.06. Forte picked up his third Grade 1 win and locked up the 2-year-old title. Cave Rock is very good and National Treasure is probably going to win a stakes race in the near future. It is too early to know the overall strength of this edition of the Juvenile, but it seemed pleasing from a visual standpoint.     

Grade 2 Ky Jockey Club  – Nov. 26 – Winner: Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee got the job done from off the pace as the favorite. Gigante had the early advantage and Cyclone Mischief chased. The latter took over the lead but that would not last. Instant Coffee was wide throughout and was grinding away in the lane. The Brad Cox trainee scored by 1 1/4 lengths in a workmanlike effort. Curly Jack won a hotly contested battle for the place over Hayes Strike, Red Route One, and Denington. The final time was 1:45.25. Instant Coffee was best over a less than stellar group. This was not a fast race and was not strong from a visual standpoint. 

Grade 2 Remsen – Dec. 3 – Winner: Dubyuhnell 

The 2021 renewal of this race saw Mo Donegal nip Zandon in a thriller between two talented runners. This year’s Remsen was run in the slop, and the field was strung out and absolutely no closing was going on. Arctic Arrogance set the pace and Dubyahnell chased from 2nd. Those two were in their own private match race, and Dubyuhnell had outside position and prevailed by a half-length. Arctic Arrogance was 11+ clear of show finisher Tuskegee Airmen. The latter stalked inside and was 16+ clear of Quick to Accuse. Midnight Trouble, Il Miracolo, and Prove Right also ran. The final time was 1:50.88 and the wet track and race shape made this a tough one to gauge. I don’t think any horse in this event is near the quality of the top two finishers from last year.  

Grade 2 Los Al Futurity – Dec. 17 – Winner: Practical Move 

This was not the result many expected. Baffert had three of the five entrants in this race including strong favorite Arabian Lion, but Tim Yakteen trainee Practical Move stole the show. Carmel Road set the pace and Arabian Lion stalked his stablemate from the outside post. Practical Move sat in 3rd and moved inside. Arabian Lion lost his mojo prior to the final turn and was out of the running quickly. Practical Move confronted Carmel Road and edged away from that one to score by an easy 3+ lengths. Carmel Road was clearly second best and Fort Bragg was best of the rest in 3rd. Tall Boy was next and Arabian Lion surprisingly trailed. The final time was 1:41.65. 

Springboard Mile – Dec. 17 – Winner: Wildatlanticstorm

Echo Again showed speed from the inside post and American Outlaw pressed for a half-mile. Echo Again’s next challenger was Wildatlanticstorm. The latter was able to work his way over from the outside post to stalk the pace along the rail. He put away Echo Again and edged clear, and held safe to score by a length and a quarter. My top choice Giant Mischief was probably best. He lunged at the start and was last away. He made an eye-catching wide move to reach contention, and kept grinding away to finish a clear 2nd in a better than appears effort. Echo Again was well clear of the rest in 3rd. Gunflash nipped Campfire Creed for 4th, and the other four entrants were far back. The final time for this flat mile Derby prep was 1:38.24. Giant Mischief is the one horse I want out of this event, but I am not sure how far he wants to go. 

Gun Runner – Dec. 26 – Winner: Jace’s Road

The two favorites dueled from the start. Jace’s Road secured his inside position and Determinedly pressed the issue. The former was able to get some breathing room after six furlongs, and he widened from there to win by 5 1/2 lengths while under a hand ride. Raising Cain sat a nice stalking trip and just edged Determinedly for place honors. Hayes Strike was an even 4th while no match for the top three finishers. Andthewinneris was 5th and is clearly a better mover on turf. Old Alliance and Mazing Mark trailed. The final time for 8.5f was 1:44.85. The winner finally put it all together and remains a promising prospect for Brad Cox. It is too early to give up on Determinedly. This was his first start after a sharp extended sprint maiden win, and he deserves another chance in an upcoming points race.  

Smarty Jones – Jan. 1 – Winner: Victory Formation 

Victory Formation was the strong favorite and he immediately took command from the outside post. He spurted clear early through moderate splits, and this really was a walk in the park. He was never seriously threatened and cruised across the line to score by three lengths. His stablemate Angel of Empire saved ground from off the pace and was clearly second best. Denington was up for the show over tiring longshot Western Ghent. How Did He Do That, Ten Days Later, Communication Memo, and C. J.’s Storm also ran. The final time was 1:38.14.Victory Formation has plenty of upside for Brad Cox.  


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 

Sham (10-4-3-2-1) – Jan. 8

Lecomte (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 21 

Southwest (20-8-6-4-2) – Jan. 28 

Withers (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4 

Holy Bull (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4

Robert Lewis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 4

Sam F. Davis (20-8-6-4-2) – Feb. 11

El Camino Real Derby (10-4-3-2-1) – Feb. 11 

Risen Star (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 18 

Rebel (50-20-15-10-5) – Feb. 25

Fountain of Youth (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4

Gotham (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4 

San Felipe (50-20-15-10-5) – March 4

John Battaglia Memorial (20-8-6-4-2) – March 4

Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 11 

UAE Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25

Louisiana Derby (100-40-30-20-10) – March 25 

Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – March 25

Sunland Derby (50-20-15-10-5) – March 26 

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 27 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 1-2-23)

40 Points: Forte

17 Points: Curly Jack

16 points: Blazing Sevens

13 Points: Jace’s Road

12 Points: Instant Coffee

10 Points: Dubyuhnell, Victory Formation, Practical Move, Wildatlanticstorm

07 Points: Hayes Strike

05 Points: Red Route One

04 Points: Angel of Empire, Loggins, Verifying, Denington, Honed, Arctic Arrogance, Raise Cain

03 Points: Gulfport, Tuskegee Airmen, Echo Again, Determinedly

02 Points: Andiamo a Firenze, Gunflash, Quick to Accuse, Western Ghent, Tall Boy


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2023 Contenders (1-2-23)

1 – LOGGINS (Ghostzapper – Beyond Blame, by Blame) – Trainer: Brad Cox

He was excellent in his sprint debut under the Twin Spires. He stalked outside and took over in a facile score that day. In his second start in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, he stretched out and did all of the pace dirt work from an inner post. Forte came to him and they battled down to the wire with the Pletcher trainee getting the job done by a neck. Loggins lost nothing in defeat and was well clear of the show finisher. He is expected to spend the winter in New Orleans. 

2 -FORTE (Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Here is your likely juvenile champ of 2022, and he definitely earned that distinction on the track. He only stubbed his toe once in five starts, and that below par effort was a flat 4th in the Sanford second time out. That six panel race was just too short for him. He bounced back in the Hopeful at seven panels, and he really elevated his game around two turns in the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. 

3 – CAVE ROCK (Arrogate – Georgie’s Angel, by Bellamy Road) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

Speed is his weapon and he used it very effectively in his debut, and in the Del Mar Futurity and American Pharaoh. He was washy and not quite himself in the BC Juvenile. He was pressed early by 70-1 outsider Hurricane J in the BC, and he put that one away rather easily but could not hold off Forte in the lane. Remember that runners from the Bob Baffert barn are ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby points. That was also the case for the last Derby, so look for his Derby hopefuls to move to Sean McCarthy, Tim Yakteen, or possibly other barns in the coming months. 

4 – NATIONAL TREASURE (Quality Road – Treasure, by Medaglia d’Oro) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

Smartly wired the field in his Del Mar Sprint bow. Cave Rock had his number in the American Pharoah, but he ran quite well in a clear runner-up effort. He was best of the rest in 3rd in the BC Juvenile. He is working steadily at Santa Anita Park and should win a stakes race in the near future. He is nominated to the Sham Stakes on Jan. 8. 

5 -ARABIAN KNIGHT (Uncle Mo – Borealis Night, by Astrology) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

He has the wow factor going for him after his breathtaking sprint bow at Keeneland on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard. In that extended sprint, he sped to the front and ran them off their feet. He was geared down under Johnny V and crossed the line almost eight lengths in front. Determinedly was second best that day, and he returned to romp in his maiden win at Churchill Downs, and followed that up with a show finish in the Gun Runner. Baffert’s exciting colt is currently training at Santa Anita Park, and he fired a six panel bullet on Dec. 30. 

6 –  VICTORY FORMATION (Tapwrit – Smart N Soft, by Smart Strike) – Trainer: Brad Cox

This Brad Cox trainee is a perfect 3-for-3. He controlled the pace in his sprint bow at Keeneland, and he battled on the pace and came again to win second time  out at Churchill Downs. He stretched out and was in complete command throughout in the Smarty Jones Stakes last time. The $340k purchase is bred to handle longer distances and his best races should be in front of him.  

7 – 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, they might want to put him on the lead in his upcoming starts. 

8 – FAUSTIN (Curlin – Hard Not to Like, by Hard Spun) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

He started his career late in 2022 on the opening day program at Santa Anita Park. He was the heavy favorite vs. seven rivals, and he was shuffled a bit early from post 3. He raced in 5th place along the inside, and his rider Ramon Vazquez was pushing on him a bit. He slowly advanced around the far turn, and he moved out and came after his stablemate Sonoran in the stretch. He had a full head of steam in the lane and kicked away to win by slightly less than three lengths. This was a professional debut at six panels, and he really seemed to be just getting warmed up at this trip. He has the look of a router and is an exciting Derby trail prospect. 

9 – GIANT MISCHIEF (Into Mischief – Vertical Oak, by Giant Oak) – Trainer: Brad Cox

This one captured his first two sprint starts from off the pace, and I made him my top choice in the Springboard Mile. In the latter race, he lunged at the start and was last early. He rallied wide to finish a clear 2nd, and I wonder what might have been with a clean getaway. I am not sure how far this one wants to go, but he definitely has ability and deserves another chance in a two turn points race.  

10 – INSTANT COFFEE (Bolt d’Oro – Follow No One, by Uncle Mo) – Trainer: Brad Cox 

He is not the flashiest performer but he gets the job done. He was game from off the pace in his seven panel bow at Saratoga. He rallied to just miss the show while no match for Forte and Loggins in the Breeders’ Futurity, and he raced wide was grinding away in the lane while best in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He is wintering at Fair Grounds and might go next in the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 21. 

11 – HEJAZI (Bernardini – G Note, by Medaglia d’Oro) – Trainer: Bob Baffert

He is the only maiden on my list. Classical Cat beat him in his dirt sprint bow, and that one is now a stakes winner after capturing the Eddie Logan on Dec. 30. He could not catch his fleet stablemate Speed Boat Beach second time out, and that one is a two-time stakes winner. He took on his talented stablemates Cave Rock and National Treasure in the American Pharoah, and he chased the pace and was best of the rest in 3rd. Cave Rock and National Treasure returned to finish 2-3 in the BC Juvenile. He is working steadily at Santa Anita and won’t be a maiden much longer. 

Next Nine: (12) Determinedly, (13) Practical Move, (14) Blazing Sevens,(15) Dubyuhnell, (16) Arctic Arrogance, (17) Tuskegee Airmen, (18) Curly Jack, (19) Angel Empire, (20) Spun Intended

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