It has been a long road, with several twists and turns, but the destination is now in sight. In the latest of our Kentucky Derby Future Book 2023 overviews, we spotlight the top 25 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard – only 20 can run – and examine their chances of victory at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Kentucky Derby Future Book 2023
G1, $3,000,000, 1m 2f, 3yo, Churchill Downs, May 6
With only one prep remaining – Saturday’s G3 Lexington at Keeneland, worth just 20 RTKD Points to the winner, so unlikely to move the dial much – the shape of the Kentucky Derby field has become clear.
It appears a strong, deep field, with last year’s champion juvenile colt and Derby favorite Forte heading a strong team from Todd Pletcher’s barn that includes second-favorite Tapit Trice. There are four contenders trained by Brad Cox, three Japanese runners – two of which have an excellent chance – and a multitude of prep winners all with some sort of claim to America’s greatest race.
There will be defections from the top 20 – there always is – so there is still time for horses not listed below to find their way into the Derby field. After all, last year the winner Rich Strike didn’t get into the gate until 24 hours before the big race.
Forte Trainer: Todd Pletcher; RTKD points: 190; Jazz Sports Odds 2-1
Won G1 Florida Derby and G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, overcame trip difficulties in mile-eighth Florida Derby with tenacious late-closing display and hit the line strong; last year’s champion two-year-old colt is six-for-seven lifetime with four G1s and has had perfect build-up; clear class edge and expected to stay the extra furlong; worthy favorite and the one to beat.
Practical Move Trainer: Tim Yakteen; RTKD points: 160; Jazz Sports Odds 15-2
Winner G1 Santa Anita Derby and G2 San Felipe on same track, led the top of the lane and turned back a persistent challenge to win Santa Anita Derby by a nose on first try at mile-eighth; four-for-seven lifetime, a big, strong colt with the best speed figures in the field, but both pedigree and the way he only just made it home last time indicate potential stamina doubts over another furlong.
Angel Of Empire Trainer: Brad Cox; RTKD points: 154; Jazz Sports Odds 10-1
Won G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park over mile-eighth, dominant performance to score by four and a quarter lengths and almost certain to go longer; that was a big move forward from victory in G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds and he’s upgrading nicely; four-for-six lifetime, tactical profile suitable for the hectic charge of Churchill Downs, and one of the few with no stamina concerns.
Tapit Trice Trainer: Todd Pletcher; RTKD points: 150; Jazz Sports Odds 4-1
Winner G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland over mile-eighth and G3 Tampa Bay Derby over mile-sixteenth, brave in victory in Blue Grass, winning duel by a neck from classy rival; four-for-five lifetime, only defeat on debut; burly colt who should have no problems with stamina and has stomach for a fight, but is a habitually slow starter and that may bring problems in a 20-runner Derby.
Two Phil’s Trainer: Larry Rivelli; RTKD points: 123; Jazz Sports Odds 20-1
Won G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on synthetic at Turfway Park over mile-eighth, romping by five and a quarter lengths; previously third behind Angel Of Empire in Risen Star and four-for-eight lifetime, including G3 score at Churchill Downs on sloppy track; solid and consistent but lacks a dash of class.
Lord Miles Trainer: Saffie Joseph; RTKD points: 105; Jazz Sports Odds 50-1
Winner G2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct over mile-eighth, stakes breakthrough by a nose as 59-1 shocker, stalked, pounced and outgunned rivals in three-horse war; two-for-five lifetime, well beaten in two previous preps, and the Wood was not a strong contest; big outsider and tough to like.
Derma Sotogake Trainer: Hidetaka Otonashi; RTKD points: 100; Jazz Sports Odds 12-1
Won G2 UAE Derby over mile and three-sixteenths at Meydan, on the lead throughout and very impressive in drawing right off to score by five and a half lengths; four-for-eight lifetime, no stamina issues, doesn’t have to lead; Japanese horses are very strong internationally and he has a big chance, although UAE Derby winners have a terrible record at Churchill Downs.
Kingsbarns Trainer: Todd Pletcher; RTKD points: 100; Jazz Sports Odds 10-1
Won G2 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds over mile-sixteenth on stakes debut, granted easy lead and came home unchallenged by three and a half lengths in a slow time; unbeaten in three, unraced as a juvenile, scope for further improvement; won’t get the run of the race again, is still a little short on experience, and only third-choice in his own barn.
Raise Cain Trainer: Ben Colebrook; RTKD points: 64; Jazz Sports Odds 50-1
Fifth G1 Blue Grass behind Tapit Trice, beaten nearly seven lengths and never a factor; two-for-seven lifetime and previous easy victory in a chaotic G3 Gotham at Aqueduct over a mile has been widely discredited; distance wasn’t the problem in Blue Grass but he’s short on class.
Rocket Can Trainer: Bill Mott; RTKD points: 60; Jazz Sports odds 40-1
Fourth G1 Arkansas Derby behind Angel Of Empire, beaten roughly the same distance as when runner-up to Forte in strong G2 Fountain of Youth; previously won G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park and two-for-seven lifetime; doesn’t seem to be moving forward and makes little appeal.
Hit Show Trainer: Brad Cox; RTKD points: 60; Jazz Sports Odds 30-1
Runner-up G2 Wood Memorial behind Lord Miles, fighting hard but denied by a nose; three-for-five lifetime, previously easy winner of mile-eighth G3 Withers at the Big A from non-stayer; probably okay for stamina but the Wood form isn’t so hot and he’s only trainer’s third-string.
Confidence Game Trainer: Keith Desormeaux; RTKD points: 57; Jazz Sports Odds 20-1
Won G2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park over mile-sixteenth, stakes breakthrough, 18-1 upset, saw race out well on sloppy track; three-for-seven lifetime, and that was a big step forward on previous efforts; twice a winner at Churchill Downs and we may find out more in the G3 Lexington at Keeneland on Saturday.
Verifying Trainer: Brad Cox; RTKD points: 54; Jazz Sports Odds 9-1
Runner-up G1 Blue Grass behind Tapit Trice, stalked the pace and went to win race but outfought in duel and beaten a neck, third horse a long way back; two-for-six lifetime and zero-for-four in stakes, which would normally be a big negative in the Derby, but a class act and tactical speed will be an asset behind expected fast pace; probably trainer’s second-string.
Sun Thunder Trainer: Kenny McPeek; RTKD points: 54; Jazz Sports Odds 75-1
Fourth G1 Blue Grass behind Tapit Trice, keeping on late but never a factor, previously fifth G2 Louisiana Derby, runner-up G2 Risen Star, and trail of prep defeats tells the story; one-for-six lifetime and not good enough to win a Derby, but possibly type of longshot that could hit the board.
Wild On Ice Trainer: Joel Marr; RTKD points: 50; Jazz Sports Odds 75-1
Won G3 Sunland Park Derby over mile-eighth, 35-1 rank outsider of six, stakes breakthrough in uncompetitive contest; three-for-five lifetime but has never raced outside New Mexico and certain to be a big longshot.
Mage Trainer: Gustavo Delgado; RTKD points 50; Jazz Sports Odds 15-1
Runner-up G1 Florida Derby, fourth G2 Fountain of Youth on stakes debut, both times behind Forte; excellent effort in Florida Derby, a big move forward; unraced at two and one-for-three resume suggests there’s further improvement to come; no stakes win but better chance than plenty who have that tag.
Blazing Sevens Trainer: Chad Brown; RTKD points: 46; Jazz Sports Odds 40-1
Third G1 Blue Grass behind Tapit Trice, beaten six lengths after keeping on late when front two had pulled away; two-for-six lifetime and G1 winner as a juvenile – beat Verifying – but appears regressive and will need a major rebound to have any chance.
Reincarnate Trainer: Tim Yakteen; RTKD points: 45; Jazz Sports Odds 40-1
Third G1 Arkansas Derby behind Angel Of Empire, stalking the pace before weakening, third G2 Rebel behind Confidence Game; two-for-seven lifetime and never off the board, but is trainer’s second-string, has probably reached his ceiling and stamina could be an issue.
Jace’s Road Trainer: Brad Cox; RTKD points 45; Jazz Sports Odds 50-1
Third G2 Louisiana Derby behind Kingsbarns, stalked dawdling pace but faded and beaten more than six lengths; two-for-six lifetime and some defeats can be blamed on sloppy track, but zero-for-two at Churchill Downs and trainer’s fourth-string.
Continuar Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi; Invite; Jazz Sports Odds 75-1
Third G2 UAE Derby behind countryman Derma Sotogake, no chance with winner and beaten ten lengths; two-for-five lifetime and, as we’ve seen, all Japanese horses must be respected, but this one has a mountain to climb.
Skinner Trainer: John Shirreffs; RTKD points: 45; Jazz Sports Odds 35-1
Third G1 Santa Anita Derby behind Practical Move, beaten about a half-length after getting behind and then rallying gamely from mid-stretch; one-for-six lifetime and zero-for-four in stakes, but the Santa Anita Derby was a fine performance, a career-best, and he comes to the Derby on a high. Needs one defection.
Cyclone Mischief Trainer: Dale Romans; RTKD points: 45; Jazz Sports Odds 50-1
Third G1 Florida Derby and G2 Fountain of Youth, both times behind Forte, faded closing stages of Florida Derby and beaten three lengths; two-for-seven lifetime and has never won a stakes, but that Forte form is the strongest available and there are worse longshots. Needs two defections.
Major Dude Trainer: Todd Pletcher; RTKD points: 40; Jazz Sports Odds 50-1
Runner-up G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks behind Two Phil’s; turf runner who is expected to revert to the lawn now and trainer has plenty better in any case.
Mandarin Hero Trainer: Terunobu Fujita; RTKD points: 40; Jazz Sports Odds 40-1
Runner-up G1 Santa Anita Derby behind Practical Move, first start outside Japan, superb effort, rallied hard and beaten a nose, might well have won in another three strides; four-for-six lifetime, tough cookie who should move up for that experience and looks to have necessary stamina; Japanese talent well renowned and could be a major player. Needs three defections.
King Russell Trainer: Ron Moquett; RTKD points: 40; Jazz Sports Odds 125-1
Runner-up G1 Arkansas Derby behind Angel Of Empire, stakes debut, 58-1 rank outsider, rallied late from back of pack and no chance with winner; one-for-six lifetime and guaranteed to be boxcar longshot again. Needs four defections.
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