Horses on the bubble for the 2023 Kentucky Derby

April 24th, 2023

Kentucky Derby 149 Also Eligible and Bubble Horses

Following the April 23 withdrawal of Blazing Sevens from Kentucky Derby (G1) participation, there remains a handful of horses on the outside looking in at trying to make the field of 20, including several prominent Southern California representatives. Here's a brief look at the current also-eligible list with less than a week to go before the draw.


Slow and/or troubled starts in both the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) perhaps cost him better placings (and thus more qualifying points), but there's no question he's currently among the best of the Southern California contingent. A son of Curlin, he should continue to thrive over longer distances.

Another plus is his Derby-winning connections. Trainer John Shirreffs saddled longshot Giacomo in 2005, while jockey Victor Espinoza has won the roses three times, most recently with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Cyclone Mischief

Although he erased the memories of a poor stakes debut in the Holy Bull (G3) when placing in both the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), he was well handled by Forte in both while losing ground in the final furlong.

The latter suggests 1 1/4 miles might be a stretch for this son of Into Mischief, but locally-born trainer Dale Romans is unlikely to pass up a chance to be involved in a race that's especially meaningful to him.

Major Dude

A distant second to Two Phil's as the favorite in the Jeff Ruby (G3) at Turfway Park, he was undoubtedly well backed by bettors hoping his turf form would transfer to Tapeta. It did, to an extent, but that doesn't mean his Derby prospects were enhanced.

Although he won on debut over the dirt, there were reasons connections spent the fall and winter campaigning him on the grass. A more likely prospect for, and a contender in, the American Turf (G2) on Derby weekend.

Mandarin Hero

Given the impressive nature of his narrow Santa Anita Derby loss in his first U.S. appearance, it's a shame this Japanese raider is buried so deep on the bubble list. A four-time winner with two photo-finish losses, he would be a welcome addition to the Derby lineup and would seemingly stand a stronger chance than well more than half the current field.

There's an argument to be made that you shouldn't glean too much from one race, but off that one example there's no question he has the speed and the likely prowess over 10 furlongs to be a contender.

King Russell

A surprise runner-up at 58-1 in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his first start outside the maiden ranks. Needed five starts to graduate, and then only doing so by a narrow margin on Feb. 25. 

It's not unheard of for a first-level allowance eligible horse to win the Derby, but the Oaklawn fixture was not necessarily one of the strongest of final preps, save the winning Angel of Empire. King Russell presumably needs softer company.