Kentucky Derby 2023 Report: It’s Derby week!

Forte is the likely Kentucky Derby favorite (Adam Coglianese Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

Kentucky Derby 2023 post positions will be drawn on Monday, May 1. We are getting close now, and I will be back on Derby week with more reports. Forte is expected to be the morning line favorite. The 2-year-old champion has a strong resume with four Grade 1 wins. He has earned favoritism but is not a speed figure standout, and the Derby will be thrown wide open if he stubs his toe. 

In some very sad Derby news, Wild On ice suffered a fatal injury following a pre-Derby workout April 27. Skinner is now in the race and Cyclone Mischief is the first alternate. 

Rocket Can was the lone Derby hopeful to work on April 30. He logged five panels in 59.80. He wore blinkers in his Sunday move and will add them for the Derby as well.   

Top 24 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru 4-30-23)

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: Mage

46 Points: Disarm

45 Points: Reincarnate

45 Points: Jace’s Road

45 Points: Skinner

Japan Invite: Continuar (20th place)


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 (4-30-23)

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

CD Workout: 4f in 49.80 (96/149) on April 29

CD Workout: 5f in 1:02 (29/33) on April 21

He does not wow you in the morning. He just goes about his business in workmanlike fashion, and the same can be said of his races. At the end of the day, the solid stalker/closer brings a 5-race winning streak to Churchill and nothing bothers him. He figures to run another quality race under the Twin Spires. 

2 – TAPIT TRICE (Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher

CD Workout: 4f 48.20 (20/149) on April 29 

CD Workout: 4f in 48.60 (11/68) on April 21

One could make an argument that he is Pletcher’s top Derby hope. He owns a stellar Derby pedigree and continues to improve. He made an early move in the Blue Grass and that was a much more professional effort. He had some gate issues in the past and hopefully he has put that problem behind him. Nobody has looked better in the mornings at Churchill Downs and he appears to be sitting on a big effort. 

3 – ANGEL OF EMPIRE (Classic Empire – Harmony’s Angel, by To Honor and Serve) – Trainer: Brad Cox

CD Workout: 5f in 1:01.20 (21/54) on April 29

CD Workout: 6f in 1:13.40 (1/2) on April 21

CD Workout: 4f in 48.20 (21/100) on Apri 14

This one is not flashy but he sure can run. He exits back-to-back graded wins at 1 1/8 miles and Flavien Prat is a quality Derby rider. The closer needs to stay out in the middle of the track for his best chance. His morning activity has been solid. 

4 – DERMA SOTOGAKE (Mind Your Biscuits – Amour Pies, by Neo Universe) – Trainer: Hidetaka Otonashi 

CD Workout: 5f in 1:01.40 (4/7) on April 26

CD Workout: 4f in 49.60 (16/20) on April 19

The UAE Derby may have been the fastest of all the preps, and he was visually impressive in that event. Horses exiting that race are a combined 0-for-18 over the years in the Kentucky Derby, but this runner from Japan has the look of a serious player at Churchill. His early-pressing speed should serve him well. 

5 – PRACTICAL MOVE (Practical Joke – Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen

SA Workout: 5f in 59.60 (2/33) on April 28

SA Workout: 4f in 47 (2/31) on April 21

I have never been completely sold on this one but I love his tactical speed. I can see him tracking the pace and taking the lead turning for home in the Derby, but I am not sure about the mile and a quarter distance. Also, he sat perfect ground saving tactical trips in his last three graded route wins. He was really tested in the SA Derby at 1 1/8 miles last time, and I think he is in deep water in the Derby if he does not work out a dream trip. 

6 – TWO PHIL’S (Hard Spun – Mia Torri, by General Quarters) – Trainer: Larry Rivelli

HAW Workout: 5f bullet in 59 (1/30) on April 27

HAW Workout: 5f bullet in 1:00 (1/12) on April 16

HAW Workout: 4f in 49.60 (21/43) on April 9

He really seems to be thriving. His Jeff Ruby win on all-weather ground at 1 1/8 miles was strong. He is working with a purpose and his April 27 move was especially pleasing. He has plenty of experience and nothing seems to get to him. He has enough positional speed to keep the leaders in his sights, and he has the look of an under the radar Derby contender. 

7 – KINGSBARNS (Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit) – Trainer: Todd Pletcher

CD Workout: 4f in 48.40 (33/149) on April 29

CD Workout: 5f in 1:00.80 (11/20) on April 20

First the good. The early-pressing type is 3-for-3 and has plenty of upside. On the negative side, he did not race as a juvenile and got the softest trip possible in the LA Derby. He coasted along on the front end through moderate fractions and was never challenged at FG last time. He probably won’t get that kind of journey on the first Saturday in May. 

8 – SKINNER (Curlin – Winding Way, by Malibu Moon) – Trainer: John Shirreffs

SA Workout: 6f in 1:14 (3/3) on April 29

SA Workout: 6f in 1:13.40 (2/4) on April 23

This one is dangerous. He raced widest of all in a close show finish in the SA Derby, and he may have been best that day. He owns decent late pace ratings and keeps getting faster. Juan Hernandez will be his new rider at Churchill and his final Derby work was excellent. He is also bred to relish 1 1/4 miles. Lots to like at a price, but he is still eligible for an entry level allowance race. 

9 – VERIFYING (Justify – Diva Delete, by Repent) – Trainer: Brad Cox

CD Workout: 5f in 59.40 (2/54) on April 29

CD Workout: 5f in 1:01 (18/33) on April 21

He was my top choice in the Blue Grass and he got a wonderful trip that day. He chased from second and got the first run, but Tapit Trice made an early move and always looked like a winner. He fell a neck short at Keeneland and had every advantage that day. He may have peaked that day and I am not sure he will advance at 1 1/4 miles. 

10 – REINCARNATE (Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy) – Trainer: Tim Yakteen 

SA Workout: 4f bullet in 46.40 (1/30) on April 28

SA Workout: 5f in 1:01 (22/43) on April 22

SA Workout: 5f in 1:00 (12/99) on April 16

I really liked this one after his gritty Sham (G3) win and troubled show finish in the Rebel (G2). I expected more in the Arkansas Derby (G1), especially after he worked out a great tactical trip, but Angel of Empire blew him away at 1 1/8 miles in that event. That half-mile bullet on April 28 tells me they are going for the lead in the Derby. 

11 – CONFIDENCE GAME (Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini) – Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

CD Workout: 5f bullet in 59 (1/54) on April 29

CD Workout: 8f from the gate in 1:38.20 (1/1) on April 14

CD Workout: 5f in 1:00.40 (5/28) on April 8

He was steadily improving in all of his races and the Rebel (G2) was his coming out party. The big problem is the layoff. He has not raced since the Rebel on Feb. 25. That race wiped him out and now he is really behind the eight-ball. No starts beyond 1 1/16 miles either. I really want to like this one more. I trust Keith D and his April 29 work was fabulous. I think he will show something at some point in the Derby but will probably come up short when all is said and done. The Preakness has his name all over it.  

Next Nine: (12) Mage, (13) Sun Thunder, (14) Disarm, (15) Hit Show, (16) Rocket Can, (17) Jace’s Road, (18) Raise Cain, (19) Lord Miles, (20) Continuar

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