Was the 2023 Kentucky Derby a Strong Race?

By Jarrod Horak

The early pace was swift and Mage rolled home from off the pace to capture the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Five horses scratched and the Florida shipper ended up defeating 17 runners on the first Saturday in May, and the strong early pace really helped the late runners.

Ten horses have run back. Two scored and four hit the board. A few of the forwardly placed runners from the Derby have bounced back with better efforts. Let’s go through all of the Kentucky Derby entrants and see what they are up to now.

Mage: After getting plenty of pace help in the Derby, he returned two weeks later in the Preakness. He got no pace help in Baltimore and settled for the show as the beaten favorite. He got back on the worktab with a very easy five panel move in 1:07.20 at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington on June 23. He will go next in the Haskell (G1), Jim Dandy (G2), or Travers (G1).

Two Phil’s: The Derby runner-up ran the best overall race on the first Saturday in May. He was too close to fast fractions, moved to the lead too soon and lost by a length. He resurfaced in the Ohio Derby (G3) on June 24 and dominated that race by 5 3/4 lengths, and that was a fast affair. For a brief moment it looked like he might be the devision leader. Unfortunately, he exited the Ohio Derby with an ankle injury and is out for the year. His racing career is in jeopardy and we will know more after he has surgery this week.

Angel of Empire: Had a good trip from off the pace in a solid show finish at Churchill. He stalked outside in the Belmont Stakes and ended up in a dead-heat for fourth in a disappointing effort. The Arkansas Derby (G1) hero underperformed in the Triple Crown series.

Disarm: Worked out a decent inner trip from off the pace and chugged along for fourth on the first Saturday in May. That was his third start in six weeks and they decided to skip the Preakness and Belmont. He ended up running in the Matt Winn (G3) at Ellis Park on June 11, and he stalked the pace and reeled in Verifying to score by a half-length at 1/18 miles in the slop. Steve Asmussen's improving runner breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 at Churchill on June 25.

Hit Show: Was stuck in post 1 in the Derby and he was too close to strong fractions and weakened to fifth after working his way up to third after a mile. He attended the pace in the Belmont and finished in a dead-heat for fourth with Angel of Empire. He is a cut below the best.

Derma Sotogake (JPN): The UAE Derby (G2) hero was not disgraced in the Kentucky Derby. They wanted to attend the pace but he did not have a great beginning and the pace was swift. He raced evenly from post 14 and passed a few rivals to finish 6th. He has not raced since.

Tapit Trice: Had slow start in the Derby and was last of 18 after a half-mile. He raced wide and was grinding away from off the pace but was not doing enough and checked in 7th. He worked his way outside from an inner post and ended up a wide third in the Belmont Stakes. He just missed the runner-up spot by a nose in the final jewel of the Triple Crown and got back to work with a half-mile breeze on the training track at Belmont Park on June 23.

Raise Cain: Sat in midpack in the Derby and did not make any real progress. He stalked outside in the Matt Winn (G3) and was a clear fourth. The Gotham (G3) hero needs less distance and easier company.

Rocket Can: He did not run a bad race under the Twin Spires. He was within striking range from post 15 and flattened out in the lane after moving up to fifth at the one-mile mark and into the stretch. He worked at Saratoga on June 14 but has not had a published work since.

Confidence Game: The Derby was his first start since February and he stalked the pace and faded to 10th. He was originally targeting the Preakness but had a sore shoulder and did not run at Pimlico. He has not had a published workout since April 29.

Sun Thunder: He has no early speed and passed some tired runners in the Derby. He has not worked since his last start.

Mandarin Hero (JPN): The SA Derby (G1) runner-up was hung out to dry in post 17 in the Kentucky Derby. He returned to Japan.

Reincarnate: He was cooked on the pace in the Derby. He has worked five times at Santa Anita since that race including a six panel bullet on June 24. He is worth considering when he resurfaces.

Kingsbarns: He went after Verifying in the Derby and those two set the table for Mage. He was the heavy favorite in the Pegasus at Monmouth on June 17 and stalked, led, and was nailed by a troubled Salute the Stars in the late going.

King Russell: He got in from the AE list in the Derby and raced wide from the outside post. He ran in the Matt Winn and never got involved and ran last.

Verifying: They were forced to go early from post 2 in the Derby and the heated fractions did him in. He stalked, led, and could not hold off post time favorite Disarm in the Matt Winn. He breezed a half-mile in 48.20 at Churchill on June 24.

Jace’s Road: He was forwardly placed early in the Derby and came to a stop. He has not worked since April 29.

Cyclone Mischief: He was widest off all and ran last as an outsider under the Twin Spires. He has no published works since April 29.