Ahead of each year’s renewal of the Kentucky Derby, a few 3-year-old thoroughbreds seem to separate themselves from the rest of their crop. That’s no different this year, as there’s a defined group of 2023 Kentucky Derby favorites on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Consider this a “cheat sheet” of sorts as handicappers begin their preparations to bet on Kentucky Derby odds. Here’s what you need to know about the runners set to take large portions of the betting money in the Run for the Roses.
Top favorites for the 2023 Kentucky Derby
Current odds for the Kentucky Derby are provided by FanDuel Racing. Click on the odds available to place your bet. All odds are subject to change.
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Opening favorite Forte scratched from 2023 Kentucky Derby
Forte won last year’s Eclipse Award as America’s top 2-year-old male, and for good reason. He won three Grade 1 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (which many consider to be the year’s biggest race in the division). He was the favorite at the start of the Triple Crown, but will no longer be racing in the Derby after a Saturday morning scratch..
When he returned earlier this year, he did so with aplomb. He romped in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and overcame a wide post position to take the Grade 1 Florida Derby.
Forte is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who’s won the Kentucky Derby twice. He’ll be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., who has won four Eclipse Awards as America’s top jockey.
Pletcher also trains Tapit Trice
Tapit Trice has also won a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races. He rallied to capture the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby before winning the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland last month.
Tapit Trice will look to buck a 31-year trend. The Blue Grass has a reputation as one of the most important Kentucky Derby preps. However, no Blue Grass winner has won the Derby since 1991. Strike the Gold pulled off the double that year.
Jockey Luis Saez has ridden Tapit Trice in all three of his starts this season. He was most famously aboard Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. That runner crossed the wire first but was disqualified after a 22-minute inquiry due to causing interference around the race’s second turn.
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Angel of Empire new favorite for the event
Trainer Brad Cox is a Louisville native, and he may or may not have won the Kentucky Derby once before. He trained Mandaloun, who initially ran second in 2021 before Medina Spirit tested positive for an overage of a substance. That result is still being fought over in the courts.
This time around, Cox is preparing to send four Kentucky Derby starters to the gate. The most well-fancied at the horse betting window will be Angel of Empire. He won both the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Angel of Empire is now the favorite after Forte was scratched on Saturday morning.
Angel of Empire will be ridden by Flavien Prat, whose 2019 mount, Country House, became the Derby winner after Maximum Security was disqualified. He chose Angel of Empire over Kingsbarns, who won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
Can Derma Sotogake win for Japan?
Horses bred and campaigned in Japan have won some of the world’s biggest races. Japanese runners Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine won Breeders’ Cup races in 2021, and Ushba Tesoro captured this year’s Dubai World Cup.
Derma Sotogake will attempt to become the first Japanese-bred horse to bring home the roses later this week. He qualified for the Kentucky Derby with an easy, wire-to-wire score in the Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan. That win came on the Dubai World Cup program and saw Japanese 3-year-olds sweep the top four positions.
Derma Sotogake isn’t the only Japanese horse in the field. Mandarin Hero is an alternate that will jump into the race after Lord Miles was scratched. Continuar was going to race after qualifying through the Kentucky Derby’s Japan races, but was also scratched on Thursday.