Betting with, and against, Forte in the Kentucky Derby

May 4th, 2023

A massive field of 20 three-year-olds, with an additional three on the also-eligible list, will travel 1 1/4 miles over the famed Churchill Downs main surface in Saturday’s 149th $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1). The historic contest attracted a fantastic field full of excellent contenders for this edition of the tilt, but the clear one to beat is Champion #15 Forte (3-1) for conditioner Todd Pletcher.

Once-beaten as a two-year-old, the Violence colt capped his superb 2022 campaign with a fine score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland, and he has looked arguably better this season. He was a dazzling winner of the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) in his first assignment of the year, and he followed that up with a fast-closing victory in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park to run his winning streak to five.

Forte is a stalker with useful tactical speed, and he figures to be ranging up into contention approaching the turn for home in the Run for the Roses with regular pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the stirrups once again. He will be formidable with a peak performance on Saturday.

For those looking to upend the favorite, the Brad Cox-trained #14 Angel of Empire (8-1) is a logical option. The talented colt flashed ability as a juvenile, but he has really evolved this season and comes off of a superb Arkansas Derby (G1) victory in advance of his debut beneath the Twin Spires.

The Pennsylvania-bred sophomore has improved with each start in 2023, and the son of Classic Empire also gives the impression of a horse that will thrive on the move to 1 1/4 miles. Flavien Prat retains the mount atop the peaking colt.

#11 Disarm (30-1) is a bit of a reach to win the race while owning just a maiden win to date for trainer Steve Asmussen, but the improving son of Gun Runner will be fully fit and appears to be sitting on a lifetime-best showing in the Derby. The Winchell homebred owns a fine closing punch and is another who I expect to prosper in his first attempt at 10 furlongs. He has given a nice account of himself on the Churchill Downs surface leading up to Saturday, and I feel that Joel Rosario taking the reins is a major bonus, as well.

Pletcher’s #5 Tapit Trice (5-1) has eclipsed the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and Blue Grass S. (G1) in succession and wouldn’t be a surprise if he takes another step forward under Luis Saez. The expensive yearling purchase has come out on top in four straight following a third-place finish at first asking, and the handsome colt has a stride that seems to be perfectly suited for classic distances, too. If the gray can avoid being too far back early on, he will be a menacing figure inside the final furlong of the storied event.

#9 Skinner (20-1) has put in a few eye-catching moves while coming up short in two straight graded attempts in succession and doesn’t need major improvement to be a major factor in the event. Trained by John Shirreffs, the son of Curlin has posted a trio of positive morning moves leading up to Saturday, and the talented colt wouldn’t be a major surprise with Juan Hernandez picking up the mount.

Forte – With

  • $10 exacta: key 15 with 5, 9, 11, 14 ($40)
  • $3 trifecta: key 15 with 5, 9, 11, 14 ($36)
  • 50-cent trifecta: 15 with 5, 9, 11, 14 with all ($36)

Forte – Against

  • 50-cent trifecta: 11, 14 with 5, 9, 11, 14, 15 with all ($72)
  • $3 exacta: box 5, 9, 11, 14 ($36)

Find expert analysis and overviews of all the contenders for the Kentucky Derby on our News & Notes page here on!