Kentucky Derby 2023 & Kentucky Oaks Final Field

As the days tick down towards the Kentucky Derby 2023 and the Kentucky Oaks, one of the main factors to consider is the possibility of defections among the qualified horses, enabling those further down the list to move into contention. Some years there are many defectors, this year there haven’t been any – so far. Here we look at both big races and examine the likelihood of ins and outs. Odds available on the JazzSports future book.

Kentucky Derby

G1, $3,000,000, 1m 2f dirt, 3yo, Churchill Downs, May 6

After the storm, the calm. After the intense process of earning enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby 2023, the list of 20 horses to have made it into the gate for America’s greatest race has remained largely static – something of a slow news day every day.

The final change to the leaderboard came in the wake of the mile-sixteenth G3 Lexington at Keeneland Race Course last weekend, when Disarm (40-1) scrambled into a scruffy third-place and collected the six RTKD points that thrust him into 18th place in the standings, pushing Jace’s Road (60-1) out of the gate and on to the waiting list. It was certainly not the performance of a future Derby winner, and Disarm will have to cope with a three-week turnaround, but the extra yardage at Churchill Downs Track will be a positive.

So that’s the top 20 confirmed. Now, in the period before entries are taken on May 1, all eyes are wide open for possible defections – and the bad news, for those alongside Jace’s Road on the waiting list, is that there may not be that many. In some years, horses fall by the wayside in bunches. This year, everyone who has a shot appears keen to take that shot.

Blue Grass Stakes third Blazing Sevens (30-1) is one possible candidate to swerve the race, while injury could still derail one or two others, but as things stand turf runner Major Dude (65-1) – who, contrary to last week’s bulletin, is being strongly considered for the Derby – and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Mandarin Hero (75-1) are in grave danger of missing out.

What we see now, then, is pretty much what we might get. With that in mind, it is time to begin taking a measured approach to finding the winner, based on historical precedents applied to present-day conditions. Here’s a brief refresher of the situation.

Recent form is a crucial form

Of the last 20 Derby winners, 17 finished first or second in their final prep. It’s vital to be coming into the Derby on a high, or approaching a high. With this factor in play, the following can be struck through: Blazing Sevens, Disarm, Sun Thunder (50-1), Raise Cain (40-1), Reincarnate (30-1), Continuar (40-1) and Rocket Can (40-1).

Not all preps are equal

Of the last 20 Derby winners, 16 came to Churchill Downs from a G1 prep, and 14 came from the Florida Derby, the Santa Anita Derby and the Arkansas Derby. Taking this into account, a second line may be drawn through Lord Miles (55-1), Hit Show (25-1), Confidence Game (22-1), Kingsbarns (10-1), Derma Sotogake (8-1), Two Phil’s (20-1) and Wild On Ice (80-1).

Pick six?

Those two eliminators leave six horses with ticks against their names, and – without simply stating the obvious – it is likely that the Derby winner is among them: Forte (5-2, won G1 Florida Derby), Mage (20-1, 2nd Florida Derby), Practical Move (8-1, 1st G1 Santa Anita Derby), Angel Of Empire (10-1, 1st G1 Arkansas Derby), Tapit Trice (5-1, 1st G1 Blue Grass) and Verifying (15-1, 2nd Blue Grass).

The final cruncher

It is rare for a Derby winner to be making his stakes breakthrough in the big one, and neither Verifying nor Mage have won in stakes company. This final refinement is less important than the others, as finishing runner-up in the Florida Derby is much more meritorious than winning a stakes at Tampa Bay Downs (or wherever).

Kentucky Derby 2023 Final Field

HORSE NAMEODDS TO WIN THE KENTUCKY DERBY 2023
MAJOR DUDE+6500
MANDARIN HERO+7500
MAGE+2000
SKINNER+3500
CONTINUAR+4000
WILD ON ICE+8000
DERMA SOTOGAKE+800
SUN THUNDER+5000
ANGEL OF EMPIRE+1000
KINGSBARNS+1000
REINCARNATE+3000
TAPIT TRICE+500
RAISE CAIN+4000
PRACTICAL MOVE+800
JACES ROAD+6000
CONFIDENCE GAME+2200
DISARM+4000
VERIFYING+1500
TWO PHILS+2000
ROCKET CAN+4000
HIT SHOW+2500
LORD MILES+5500
BLAZING SEVENS+3000
CYCLONE MISCHIEF+5000
FORTE+250

Kentucky Oaks

G1, $1,250,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo fillies, Churchill Downs, May 5

The situation in the sister race is similar, as the 14 fillies who have already claimed their place in the gate for the Kentucky Oaks seem to be staying put, with no hint among trainers of any likely defectors between now and entries day.

This means that the big names from last year, Wonder Wheel (12-1), Julia Shining (16-1) and Hoosier Philly (20-1), who have all failed to impress as sophomores, are in danger of not even getting a run for their supporters’ money. The reluctance to dismiss them from consideration has led to a lopsided feel about the future book, in which several fillies who probably won’t run are at much shorter odds than many fillies who almost certainly will run.

This indicates that there is little strength in depth to the Oaks after a puzzling set of preps, and it may pay to concentrate on the top three or four in the market.

In this respect, the Oaks seems an easier puzzle to solve than the Derby, because the favorite Wet Paint (2-1) has very little left to prove in regard to form, stamina, and class. The configuration of Churchill Downs, with its long stretch run, is also a positive for this late closer.

The well-fancied Punchbowl (10-1) needs five defectors, and at this stage that really doesn’t seem likely. Julia Shining, sister to 2021 Oaks winner Malathaat and a horse who should relish the mile-eighth needs three above her to withdraw, and with time running out that doesn’t seem likely either.

Of course, Wonder Wheel only needs one horse above her to come out to put her in the gate, and that’s perfectly plausible, but which Wonder Wheel are we talking about? The champion two-year-old or the flat Ashland sixth? If the real Wonder Wheel gets in and turns up, things may be different. If minds change and injuries intervene, then Julia Shining should be on everyone’s short-list.

But right now, the Oaks is in stasis, with a field of relatively mid-level horses keeping out two or three who could really make a difference. More so than the Derby, the Oaks is a case of watch and wait and then decide.

Kentucky Oaks Final Field

HORSE NAMEODDS TO WIN KENTUCKY OAKS 2023
SOUTHLAWN+550
FLYING CONNECTION+3500
DEFINING PURPOSE+3000
PUNCHBOWL+1000
GUNS N GRACES+5000
DORTH VADER+2200
SHIDABHUTI+1800
BOTANICAL+650
CONDENSATION+7500
PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS+600
WET PAINT+200
THE ALYS LOOK+3500
GAMBLING GIRL+2500
TAXED+2500
AFFIRMATIVE LADY+1000
SACRED WISH+5000
AND TELL ME NOLIES+3000
PROMISEHER AMERICA+2200
JULIA SHINING+1600
WONDER WHEEL+1200
HOOSIER PHILLY+2000

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