Tipsheet: 2023 Kentucky Derby

May 6th, 2023

The 149th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs is upon us and attracted an overflow field of 23 three-year-olds for the historic 1 1/4-mile contest.

Kentucky Derby Picks

  • #14 Angel of Empire
  • #11 Disarm
  • #5 Tapit Trice
  • #9 Skinner
  • #15 Forte

Kentucky Derby Wagers

  • $40 win and place: #14 Angel of Empire ($80)
  • $10 exacta: 11, 14 with 5, 9, 11, 14, 15 ($80)
  • 50-cent trifecta: 11, 14 with 5, 9, 11, 14, 15 with all ($72)

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

Kentucky Derby Contenders

#1 HIT SHOW (30-1): One of four from the Brad Cox shedrow was a narrow second in the Wood Memorial S. (G2) in his latest endeavor. The talented son of Candy Ride was a facile winner of the Withers S. (G3) two back, and his Brisnet Speed numbers continue to improve, which is an obvious good sign. Manny Franco retains the ride.

#2 VERIFYING (15-1): This well-related sort is a half-brother to the brilliant Midnight Bisou and looks to be following in her footsteps for trainer Brad Cox. The $775,000 son of Justify comes off a fine runner-up try in the Blue Grass S. (G1) most recently, and the tactical speed that he possesses will give him the jump on the later running types turning for home on Saturday. The bay is a win threat under Tyler Gaffalione.

#3 TWO PHIL’S (12-1): The Larry Rivelli trainee is a Grade 3 winner at Churchill Downs who exits a dominant win in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on the All-Weather at Turfway Park. The Hard Spun chestnut has a lot of talent and likes the surface, so he is one to consider with regular pilot Jareth Loveberry staying in the irons.

#4 CONFIDENCE GAME (20-1): Ran his best race to date when eclipsing the Rebel S. (G2) over a sloppy, sealed strip at Oaklawn Park most recently. The dark bay son of Candy Ride from the Keith Desormeaux barn will need another big step forward to upset this cast, but he is bred for the trip and will be running on late under the guidance of James Graham. The colt is reportedly training well in advance of Saturday.

#5 TAPIT TRICE (5-1): A once-beaten son of Tapit, he put in his best performance to date at Keeneland when taking the Blue Grass S. (G1) for Todd Pletcher. The $1.3 million purchase owns a potent turn of foot, and if the visually striking colt can stay in range early, then he will be a tough beat with his best beneath Luis Saez.

#6 KINGSBARNS (12-1): A lightly raced colt that is three-for-three lifetime and was last seen easily taking the Louisiana Derby (G2). The Pletcher charge earned a healthy Brisnet Late Pace figure at Fair Grounds to indicate that he will handle the move to 10 furlongs, and he rates an obvious chance as something of a wildcard in the field.

#7 REINCARNATE (50-1): The Sham S. (G3) star has been third in his last pair of tries and could be a contender with improvement for Tim Yakteen. The son of Good Magic is more of a one-paced horse who will handle the distance, and he has been training in solid fashion leading up to his biggest assignment to date. John Velazquez riding adds to his appeal.

#8 MAGE (15-1): The Gustavo Delgado pupil went last-to-first around the final turn in the Florida Derby (G1) before being run down late when ultimately second best. The $290,000 son of Good Magic will have to overcome inexperience, as well as handling a new surface, but he is long on talent and can surely grab a piece of the pie with a move forward. Javier Castellano inherits the mount.

#9 SKINNER (20-1): The late-running son of Curlin has put in three very good efforts from three runs in 2023 and is a contender with some improvement for John Shirreffs. The Kentucky-bred son of Curlin figures to appreciate the move to 1 1/4 miles, and I feel that he will be threatening at the top of the lane. Juan Hernandez picks up the ride.

#10 PRACTICAL MOVE (10-1): This Tim Yakteen trainee has won a trio of graded stakes races dating back to the winter and could be peaking in his third try of the season. The recent Santa Anita Derby (G1) victor is four-for-four in route tilts and has fine early foot to be well placed in the early stages of the race. The son of Practical Joke continues to train well and is a prime win candidate with Ramon Vazquez in the stirrups.

#11 DISARM (30-1): The Steve Asmussen trainee has never run a bad race and could be sitting on a career-best showing on Saturday. The Gun Runner colt possesses a fine turn of foot and gives the impression of a sophomore who will thrive on the move to 1 1/4 miles. A Ron Winchell homebred, he could make some noise late at a big price with Joel Rosario in the controls.

#12 JACE’S ROAD (50-1): A stakes-winning son of Quality Road, he was last seen coming home third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) for Brad Cox. He has speed but is a question mark at the distance, and others will likely have more energy in the stretch than this youngster.

#13 SUN THUNDER (50-1): The Risen Star S. (G2) runner-up comes in off a pair of unplaced graded stakes tries as of late for Kenny McPeek. The capable late runner owns a good turn of foot, but he will need a lot of luck in order to be in the mix late against a field of this depth.

#14 ANGEL OF EMPIRE (8-1): Brad Cox's colt has shown steady improvement with each race in 2023 capped by a visually impressive romp in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last time out. The son of Classic Empire has been training well on the local course in advance of his Churchill Downs debut, and he’s at the top of my list of major contenders. Flavien Prat retains the mount.

#15 FORTE (3-1): The champion son of Violence registered his fifth win in succession when rallying late to annex the Florida Derby (G1) in his most recent showing. The Pletcher pupil has never been upended going two turns and is the deserving favorite in the field. The stalker will be moving into contention approaching the turn for home with regular pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the silks once again.

#16 RAISE CAIN (50-1): The Gotham S. (G3) romper made a belated run to be fifth in the Blue Grass S. (G1) which could serve as a nice prep for this tilt. Ben Colebrook's charge is hard to back for the top prize, but he is not without a chance to grab a minor award with a lifetime-best performance. Gerardo Corrales has the call.

#17 DERMA SOTOGAKE (10-1): The Japanese invader left a fine impression when blitzing the UAE Derby (G2) in a fast time for conditioner Hidetaka Otonashi. The son of Mind Your Biscuits has won four of five coming into this massive test, but he has acclimated well to the local surroundings and is a logical threat with a repeat of his most recent outing. World-class pilot Christophe Lemaire will be in the stirrups.

#18 ROCKET CAN (30-1): This exotics contender from the Bill Mott barn has been consistently good since stretching out to route races and could be sitting on a big one on Saturday with the addition of blinkers. The son of Into Mischief has good gate presence and the early foot to be forwardly placed in the event in a field lacking an abundance of pace. The gray colt will have Junior Alvarado in the controls.

#19 LORD MILES (30-1): Saffie Joseph's trainee upset the Wood (G2) at 59-1 odds most recently but will need to prove that the race was not a fluke in his Churchill debut. The bay son of Curlin is obviously talented, but he would be something of a surprise in the Derby under Paco Lopez.

#20 CONTINUAR (50-1): The Drefong colt will make his U.S. debut coming off of a third-place run in Dubai last time out. The Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby winner is bred to be a very good one, although he has yet to be overly impressive beneath the Twin Spires since arriving in the states. The expensive colt is something of a wildcard at a big price.

#21 CYCLONE MISCHIEF (30-1): The Florida Derby (G1) third is the first one on the also-eligible list for trainer Dale Romans. The bay son of Into Mischief has run well for the most part in Florida this season, but he will need a major step in the right direction from far outside to factor late in the Derby.

#22 MANDARIN HERO (20-1): An excellent runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) when making his stateside debut for Terunobu Fujita. This Shanghai Bobby colt from Japan is a pair of narrow defeats from being unblemished from six career tries, and he has to be given a chance coming off of his last endeavor. Kaz Kimura will be on board once again if he draws in.

#23 KING RUSSELL (50-1): The Ron Moquett charge rallied for second at 58-1 odds in the Arkansas Derby (G1) last time out. The talented son of Creative Cause has been first or second in four straight, but I can’t back the gelding against these if he gets into the main body of the field. Rafael Bejarano will pilot the one-run closer if he draws in.