Meet the Contenders: 2023 Florida Derby

March 29th, 2023

Meet the horses running in the 2023 Florida Derby (G1) over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on April 1. For each horse, we're listing a pro, a con, and a rating of potential. The star rating of 1 to 5 represents opportunity to perform well in the Florida Derby.

1. Jungfrau

Jungfrau (left) wins at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photos)

Pro: Not seen to best effect in Withers (G3) after troubled opening furlong.

Con: Hasn’t yet crossed finished line first and speed figures are weak.

2. West Coast Cowboy

Pro: Outran expectations in Holy Bull (G3); remains with upside.

Con: Needs significant improvement to be within a few lengths of Forte.

3. Shaq Diesel

Pro: Has done his best running over this track, where he owns a couple of wins.

Con: Hard to make a case after readily folding as 184-1 shot in Risen Star (G2).

4. Mage

Mage wins at Gulfstream Park

Mage (Photo by Coglianese Photography / Credit to Lauren King)

Pro: Endured a tough trip in Fountain of Youth (G2); fared well despite inexperience.

Con: That relative inexperience can also be seen as a weakness in this tougher test.

5. Mr. Peeks

Pro: Hails from a 23% barn and is by a Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning sire.

Con: Still a maiden and hasn’t raced beyond six furlongs.

6. Nautical Star

Nautical Star wins at Oaklawn Park (Photo by Coady Photography)

Pro: Closing style gives hope longer distances will be up his alley.

Con: Take significant hike from Oaklawn maiden sprint to this.

7. Il Miracolo

Pro: Has turned in two bullet works of late and adds blinkers.

Con: Unplaced in every stakes attempt; hard to recommend for any piece.

8. Mr. Ripple

Pro: Second best in track-and-distance allowance; has speed to be prominent early.

Con: Tough spot in which to make stakes debut; looks a couple of cuts below.

9. Cyclone Mischief

Cyclone Mischief wins at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photos)

Pro: Much improved performance in Fountain of Youth versus Holy Bull.

Con: Concerns remain whether he wants to go this far on or near the lead.

10. Fort Bragg

Pro: Split field against California’s best three-year-olds; fits with most of these.

Con: Didn’t settle that well in San Felipe (G2) and faces new surroundings here.

11. Forte

Forte wins the Fountain of Youth Stakes 2023 (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Pro: Champion demolished rivals in Fountain of Youth; looks superior on paper.

Con: Main concern is post 11 not ideal with short run to the first turn.

12. Dubyuhnell

Dubyuhnell winning the Remsen S. (G2) at Aqueduct (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Pro: Already a winner at the distance, having taken the Remsen (G2) in November.

Con: Effort at Tampa a likely toss, but has preferred wet tracks so far.