Jason Beem's Thursday Column for May 4, 2023

May 4th, 2023

A good Thursday to you all! Happy Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) week. The Brisnet past performances have been scanned. The replays have been watched. The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care! You’ve heard all week from some of the best handicapping minds in the game about who they like and why. We had TwinSpires’ own Darin Zoccali on the show this week to get his thoughts on all of the entrants for the big race. 

So now it’s time to hear from a not-so-great handicapper. I almost never give out picks be they public or private, but I feel like for the Kentucky Derby it’s always fun to have your official pick in print. My only problem with this approach is that I’m typing this on Wednesday night without a real clear view of what the actual prices of the horses will be. So I’m going to try to give my opinions based on how I think some of the betting might go. 

I certainly think Forte is the most likely winner. Way to go out on a limb there, Jason! My dad called me a chalk hound at age eight and I suppose that’s always stuck with me. Normally I try and fight it, but all this week I keep thinking Forte is just the best horse. But in betting, of course, we’re trying to gauge the horse's chances vs. the price we’re being offered. If I think Forte is the best horse and wins the race at least 33% of the time, he's fair value at 2-1, and I have to like the chance of getting 3-1 or 4-1 on him. 

So can I really make Forte my top pick? I mean, what’s the purpose of writing an entire column on picking the favorite? Many great racing scribes have done it, but I just can’t look myself in the mirror and pick chalk in this race. Which is kind of dumb given I do think he has a solid chance to win. But if he loses, boy does that maybe open things up!  

Last year I picked Simplification, and when I heard Travis Stone give him a good call in midstretch, I got very excited. He was just in behind and finished a solid fourth at 35-1. I normally pick mid-price horses in this race that don’t do much running. My only two top picks over the years in the Derby were California Chrome and American Pharoah. 

Maybe I should pick Forte, but I’ll put him third. Below are my official Top 4 selections for the race, put in print solely for you to mock or for me to crow about if they happen to come in. I think Angel of Empire might be a little forgotten and possibly float up just a touch from his 8-1 odds, and I think he’s just a super talented runner. So let’s go with him on top. 

For second, let’s go with a wild and crazy longshot in Sun Thunder. He didn’t close much in the Louisiana Derby (G2) or the Blue Grass (G1), but those races didn't exactly unfold in super closer-friendly fashion. I think he could be running late and he should be a huge price. 

Jason’s Kentucky Derby picks

  1. Angel of Empire
  2. Sun Thunder
  3. Forte
  4. Verifying

Jason's Kentucky Oaks picks

  1. Affirmative Lady
  2. Pretty Mischievous
  3. Wet Paint
  4. Promiseher America

Good luck everyone!