2023 Florida Derby & Arkansas Derby Recap

He’s the one to beat. Forte reinforced his position as Kentucky Derby favorite when overcoming a wide draw and tough opposition to win the 2023 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, last year’s champion juvenile colt showing grit to go with his brilliance as he ground out victory close home. One of his main rivals on the first Saturday in May will be Angel Of Empire, whose stamina will not be in question after he dominated the G1 Arkansas Derby, drawing off for an easy score in the main event at Oaklawn Park.

2023 Florida Derby

Forte shows his strength

G1, $1,000,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo, Gulfstream Park

Now the question surrounding the Kentucky Derby is – can anything beat Forte? Last year’s champion two-year-old colt continued his unstoppable march towards Churchill Downs with a gutsy, gritty victory in the 2023 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, getting out of trouble to put away Mage and Cyclone Mischief and take the 100 RTKD points available to the winner.

It looked – and certainly was – more complicated than just another 1-5 shot taking the dollars. Forte had to work, he had to fight, and he looked beat in mid-stretch, but he did what the best horses do and found a way to win. In the end, he won easing up by a length, but that wasn’t the whole story.

Before the race, all the gabble was about how Forte would struggle after being drawn wide in the 11-hole, but Irad Ortiz moved him in easily and settled him near the rear as Fort Bragg went off fast on the lead. Forte moved up around the turn but was easily passed by the charging second-choice Mage, who soon joined Cyclone Mischief as the pair lit out for home at the top of the stretch.

Forte came five wide into the lane, soon came under pressure, and seemed a little lost, but he responded gamely to Ortiz’s whip and began to run down the leaders, grabbing the tiring Mage in the last six strides to win fair and square. Mage had two lengths in hand of Cyclone Mischief.

“I got a good feeling going to the quarter-pole,” said Ortiz, winning his sixth race of the day. “He grabbed the bit and he was ready to roll. He’s a champion, he deserves all the credit.”

This was Forte’s fourth G1 success and his sixth win from seven starts, and his share of the purse sent his earnings beyond $2 million. He had already qualified for the Kentucky Derby and if he makes it safe and sound to the first Saturday in May will be the big-race favorite. He is currently 9-4 on the JazzSports

future book.

“He continues to amaze us, he gets better and better,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his seventh 2023 Florida Derby, a record. “He came by me at the eighth pole and looked beaten. The most impressive thing was the last 100 yards. This gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”

The runner-up Mage was having just his third start and should move up a little more for the experience. He now has 50 RTKD points and looks assured of a place in the gate at Churchill Downs, for which the points threshold may be a little higher than usual this year owing to Japanese invitee Continuar taking up a slot, and the possible participation of the British-trained invitee Brave Emperor.

Mage is 15-1 for the Derby on the Jazz Sports future book, while third-placed Cyclone Mischief – whose 45 RTKD points should be sufficient – is a 50-1 shot.

Florida Derby Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Forte$2.60$2.20$2.10
2. Mage$3.40$2.60
3. Cyclone Mischief$3.20

Winning Time: 1m 48.51s

Florida Derby Race Video

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For 100 pts Forte wins the 2023 Florida Derby #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports

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Arkansas Derby

Empire in conquering mood

G1, $1,250,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo, Oaklawn Park

Stamina will be a stumbling block for several on Kentucky Derby day, but not for Angel Of Empire, who turned in a dominant display to win the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, clearing away to account for King Russell and Reincarnate and stamp himself a serious candidate for America’s greatest race.

Given the way he finished off his race, the ten furlongs at Churchill Downs will be meat and drink to Angel Of Empire, who didn’t need the 100 RTKD points on offer to the winner here having already been assured of a spot in the gate with his victory in the G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds in February.

“That was a big run, I was very impressed with him,” said trainer Brad Cox, winning back-to-back Arkansas Derbys following the exploits of Cyberknife last year. “We always saw him as a mile-and-a-quarter horse and I think he’ll do better with more distance.”

The 9-2 fourth-choice was ridden chilly by Flavien Prat as Two Eagles River laid down the numbers on the front end, but moved up smoothly around the turn and went to the lead at the top of the stretch. From that point, it was simply a question of how far, and the answer was an impressive four and a quarter lengths, Angel Of Empire in total control as boxcar longshot King Russell rallied hard to steal second by a half-length from second-choice Reincarnate. The favored Rocket Can filled the fourth spot, lacking a change of gear.

“I was always traveling well,” said Prat, who also combined with Cox to win the Fantasy Stakes with Kentucky Oaks favorite Wet Paint. “I gave him a squeeze as we turned for home and he responded very well.”

Angel Of Empire is now a four-for-six lifetime and racing’s newest millionaire, and the son of Classic Empire is installed as 6-1 third-choice for the Kentucky Derby on the Jazz Sports future book.

The runner-up King Russell may struggle to qualify for Churchill Downs with his haul of 40 RTKD points, but third and fourth Reincarnate (45) and Rocket Can (60) have probably done enough to join the party; Reincarnate is 25-1 with Jazz Sports and Rocket Can is twice that price.

Arkansas Derby Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Angel Of Empire$11.40$5.80$4.40
2. King Russell$34.40$12.20
3. Reincarnate$3.60

Winning Time: 1m 49.68s

Arkansas Derby Race Video

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Angel of Empire wins the 2023 Arkansas Derby #Horseracingtips #Horseracing #Horsesoftiktok #Horses #Horse #FYP #Sports

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