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Last updated: March 20th, 2023
2023 Kentucky Derby Contenders
As horses enter the Derby trail, they get one shot to run in the Kentucky Derby in their lifetime.
Discover how horses earn the chance to run in the Kentucky Derby with information below; Information such as contender lists, race entries and point accumulation.
- 2022-23 U.S. Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard
- 2022-23 Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard
- 2022-23 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard
- 2023 Kentucky Derby contender pedigree profiles
- Quick runner facts and answers
- Full explanation on how horses earn points
- 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders
- 2022 Kentucky Derby contenders
2022-2023 Kentucky Derby Contender Point Leaders
Check out the latest standings of contenders who are hopeful to start the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the Road to the Kentucky Derby trail and non-restricted stakes earnings. Please note that current standings represent only the horses that have been nominated for the Triple Crown races.
|Points||Horse||Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings||RTKO Races Won|
|90||Forte||$1,783,730||Breeders' Futurity, Breeders' Cup Juvenile,
Fountain of Youth
|60||Practical Move||$372,000||Los Alamitos Futurity, San Felipe Stakes|
|57||Confidence Game||$610,480||Rebel Stakes|
|54||Angel of Empire||$287,000||Risen Star Stakes|
|54||Raise Cain||$204,750||Gotham Stakes|
|50||Tapit Trice||$210,000||Tampa Bay Downs|
|40||Rocket Can||$227,150||Holy Bull Stakes|
|33||Red Route One||$398,375|
|32||Instant Coffee||$385,605||Kentucky Jockey Club, Lecomte Stakes|
|26||Classic Car Wash||$100,000|
|20||Congruent||$211,585||John Battaglia Memorial Stakes|
|20||Hit Show||$137,500||Withers Stakes|
|20||Litigate||$120,000||Sam F. Davis Stakes|
|20||Geaux Rocket Ride||$80,000|
|17||Curly Jack||$348,120||Iroquois Stakes|
|16||Blazing Sevens||$411,000||Champagne Stakes|
|15||Jace's Road||$100,350||Gun Runner Stakes|
|10||Victory Formation||$152,750||Smarty Jones Stakes|
|10||Lugan Knight||$82,500||Jerome Stakes|
|7||Andiamo a Firenze||$72,000|
|6||West Coast Cowboy||$24,250|
|5||Clear the Air||$12,000|
*Horse trained by an individual suspended from the 2022 Kentucky Derby does not receive any qualification points. Cave Rock, National Treasure, Hejazi, Gandolfini, Newgate, Carmel Road, Fort Bragg (for the Los Alamitos Futurity), Arabian Lion, Reincarnate, Arabian Knight, Hard To Figure, Worchester, Gilmore & Nullarbor are trained by Bob Baffert who is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. through 2023.
**Horses that ran with medication (Lasix) do not receive any points towards qualification. Wildatlanticstorm and Giant Mischief received no points from the Springboard Mile.
2022-2023 European Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Leaders
Check out the latest standings of contenders from the Euro series who are hopeful to start the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the European Road to the Kentucky Derby trail.
|Points||Horse||RTKO Races Won|
|10||Belbek||Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère|
|10||Auguste Rodin||Vertem Futurity Trophy|
|10||The Foxes||Royal Lodge Stakes|
|10||Crypto Force||Beresford Stakes|
|8||News At Ten|
|1||Salt Lake City|
2022-2023 Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Leaders
Check out the latest standings of contenders from the Japan series who are hopeful to start the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Positions based on points earned along the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby trail.
|Points||Horse||RTKD Races Won|
|20||Derma Sotogake||Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun|
|6||Great Sand Sea|
|4||Mirror of Mind|
2023 Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profiles
Prevailing in the Run for the Roses requires a perfect blend of stamina and speed, plus an early-maturing profile sufficient to deliver a winning effort on the first Saturday in May. Learn more about the pedigree profiles of the leading contenders for the 2023 Kentucky Derby below. Use the quicklinks to jump to a specific horse:
FORTE | CURLY JACK | BLAZING SEVENS | INSTANT COFFEE | DUBYUHNELL | PRACTICAL MOVE | WILDATLANTICSTORM | JACE’S ROAD | VICTORY FORMATION | LUGAN KNIGHT | REINCARNATE | ARABIAN KNIGHT | ROCKET CAN | NEWGATE | HIT SHOW | CHASE THE CHAOS | LITIGATE | ANGEL OF EMPIRE | CONGRUENT | RAISE CAIN
One of the most accomplished horses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is Forte, voted champion two-year-old male of 2022 after winning the Hopeful (G1), Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He’s been just as sharp in 2023, opening the season with an impressive victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2).
The question is, does Forte have the pedigree to shine racing 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby (G1)? His bloodlines give off mixed signals.
In 2018, reigning champion two-year-old male Good Magic ran a gallant race in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second behind Triple Crown winner Justify. Perhaps Good Magic’s son Curly Jack can go one better in 2023. Hailing from the first crop of foals sired by Good Magic, Curly Jack joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a stretch-running victory in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, showcasing a clear affinity for the Derby’s host track.
It’s no wonder why Blazing Sevens has enjoyed success running long on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The stretch-running Champagne Stakes winner has a strong pedigree for handling classic distances. Kentucky Derby fans likely remember Blazing Sevens’ sire, Good Magic. A son of Preakness S winner and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Good Magic ran second behind Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Blazing Sevens
If anyone was surprised to see Instant Coffee produce a fast-finishing victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, they shouldn’t have been. The talented 2-year-old has always had the pedigree to shine as an early-maturing Kentucky Derby contender. A subsequent stretch-running triumph in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds has reiterated Instant Coffee’s standing as a major player on the Derby scene.
Instant Coffee hails from the 1st crop of foals sired by Bolt d’Oro, whose excellent two-year-old campaign produced victories in the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner plus a 3rd-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Instant Coffee
Unwavering tenacity carried Dubyuhnell to a hard-fought victory in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct, stamping the chestnut colt as a contender for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1).
The Remsen proved Dubyuhnell can carry his pace-pressing speed over 1 1/8 miles, but is the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby within reach?
Practical Move joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with an upset victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos, sneaking up the inside to prevail by 3 1/4 lengths as a 10-1 longshot. He repeated the feat at shorter 4-1 odds in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, saving ground every step of the way to score by 2 1/2 lengths.
These victories have established Practical Move as a contender for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1), but does he have the pedigree to thrive racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May? That’s a good question.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Practical Move
A perfect ground-saving trip carried Wildatlanticstorm to an upset victory in the Remington Springboard Mile S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It was a sharp victory accomplished in a fast time, but does Wildatlanticstorm have the pedigree to factor in the Kentucky Derby (G1)?
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Wildatlanticstorm
Jace’s Road couldn’t have been much more impressive in the Gun Runner S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The bay colt led all the way and drew off down the homestretch to dominate by 5 1/2 lengths.
Now handicappers are faced with a difficult question—does Jace’s Road have the pedigree to thrive racing 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby (G1)?
After posting two victories sprinting as a juvenile, Victory Formation joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a pacesetting triumph in the one-mile Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park.
Pedigree handicappers weren’t surprised to see Victory Formation shine while stretching out in distance. The bay colt is bred top and bottom to thrive running long, and classic distances should be well within his wheelhouse.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Victory Formation
You have to admire the tenacity Lugan Knight displayed to win the Jerome S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The bay colt was pressed every step of the way by heavy favorite Arctic Arrogance, but dug deep down the homestretch to prevail by a half-length.
However, the Jerome took place over one mile, a distance considerably shorter than the 1 1/4-mile trip of the Kentucky Derby (G1). And from a pedigree perspective, it’s fair to question whether Lugan Knight is bred to handle the Derby’s testing distance.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Lugan Knight
Dashing to the lead and refusing to yield proved a successful strategy for Reincarnate in the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, as the hardy gray colt led all the way to prevail by a neck. The Sham marked Reincarnate’s first start on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, stamping the improving three-year-old as one to watch during the 2023 Triple Crown season.
He’s currently ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby (G1) qualification points since trainer Bob Baffert is suspended from competing in the 2023 Derby. He would need to move stables to have a chance at a Derby start, but the Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) could be viable alternative goals for Reincarnate, who is bred to shine racing classic distances during the spring of his sophomore year.
An impressive victory from Arabian Knight in the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park has launched the $2.3 million auction acquisition thoroughly into the Triple Crown picture, even if he’s currently ineligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Arabian Knight is 2-for-2 following his gate-to-wire Southwest win, in which he trounced a deep field (including Gun Runner S. winner Jace’s Road) by 5 1/2 lengths. Arabian Knight is trained by Bob Baffert, who is suspended from starting horses in the 2023 Kentucky Derby, so Arabian Knight failed to earn any of the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points up for grabs in the Southwest. But races like the Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) are obvious spring targets for the talented colt.
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Arabian Knight
Rocket Can kicked off his three-year-old season in a big way for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, rallying to a determined triumph in the Holy Bull (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
It isn’t surprising to see Rocket Can enjoying success on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail. The gray colt boasts a pedigree combining speed with stamina, often a recipe for success in the Run for the Roses itself.
It’s taken a while for Newgate to find his best stride, but the bay colt took a big step forward when rallying to a determined victory in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita.
Newgate’s last-to-first surge to win by a neck ended a four-race losing streak encompassing such high-profile contests as the Del Mar Futurity (G1), Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and Sham (G3). Newgate is currently ineligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby (G1) since trainer Bob Baffert is suspended from starting horses in the 2023 Derby, but winning the Lewis in a quick time stamps Newgate as a viable contender for races like the Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1).
When Hit Show stormed down the Aqueduct homestretch to dominate the 1 1/8-mile Withers (G3), he fulfilled the promise of a pedigree geared top and bottom toward success running long.
The victory secured Hit Show 20 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, stamping the Brad Cox trainee as an exciting contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1) itself. And while it’s impossible to predict with certainty which horses will relish racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, there’s no reason to think Hit Show lacks the breeding to shine over classic distances.
Chase the Chaos
It can be tricky to analyze horses who win Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers over synthetic racing surfaces. Success on synthetic doesn’t always translate to dominance on dirt, an important fact to remember since the Kentucky Derby (G1) takes place on dirt.
So what do we make of Chase the Chaos, who unleashed a giant homestretch rally to win the El Camino Real Derby over the synthetic Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields?
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Chase the Chaos
When Litigate rallied to a determined victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, it was confirmation the bay colt has been waiting for a chance to shine running long.
The Sam F. Davis took place over 1 1/16 miles and marked Litigate’s first start in a two-turn race. The configuration proved suitable and garnered Litigate 20 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, hardly a surprising outcome since his pedigree is geared unmistakably toward success over classic distances.
Angel of Empire
A stretch-running victory in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds propelled Angel of Empire thoroughly into the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) picture.
The bay colt is progressing in the right direction for trainer Brad Cox, who saddled Risen Star winner Mandaloun to victory via disqualification in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. But does Angel of Empire have the pedigree to succeed racing 1 1/4 miles in the Run for the Roses?
Click here to read the full pedigree profile of Angel of Empire
Congruent first emerged as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender when rallying from last to first in the John Battaglia Memorial S. over the synthetic Tapeta track at Turfway Park. But don’t assume Congruent is a synthetic specialist; to the contrary, he’s a versatile young runner capable of performing well over any surface.
In 2012, a colt named Violence won the CashCall Futurity (G1) to emerge as an early contender for the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1). An injury unfortunately led to Violence’s premature retirement, but 10 years after his last race, Violence is poised to seek Derby glory through his sons.
Violence is, of course, the son of champion two-year-old male and three-time Grade 1 winner Forte, an early favorite for the 2023 Kentucky Derby. But Violence picked up another possible Derby contender when his son Raise Cain unleashed a giant rally from behind a fast pace to dominate Aqueduct’s Gotham (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby by 7 1/2 lengths.
Quick Kentucky Derby Contender Answers
- Q: How many total horses can run in the Kentucky Derby?
- A: 20 horses can be placed inside the Churchill Downs starting gate, which means 20 horses can run in the Kentucky Derby. There are typically two Also Eligible ‘AE’ horses who can find a chance to compete, if one of the original 20 horses scratches and cannot run in the race.
- Q: How do horses get to run in the Kentucky Derby?
- A: 18 entries are initially reserved for the top Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race point earners. These prep races are per-determined and if a horse is tied in points, then a specific type of purse earnings are used to assist.
- A: 2 entries in the Kentucky Derby are ‘reserved’ for runners from the European Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby Hopeful Point Accumulation Process
One of the fascinating things about the build-up to the Kentucky Derby is watching the development of young Thoroughbreds. Still babyish as two-year-olds, the Derby hopefuls begin to grow up as three-year-olds — a process often compared to junior high kids morphing into high school athletes.
Fans can track the horses’ progress during the “Road to the Kentucky Derby,” traditionally a series of 35 races that take place from the fall of their two-year-old campaign through the spring of their three-year-old year, culminating in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Horses earn their way into the Derby by scoring points in these races (the full schedule, along with the sliding scale of points available for a top-five finish in each race, is available here).
Just as major sports teams advance through playoffs, meeting stiffer competition as they get closer to the championship event, so do Derby aspirants aim to climb through each successive prep race. They might not have to win, but they do have to perform well enough — and stay healthy — to remain on the trail.
Because the competition gets tougher as the trail unfolds, the Derby points system awards the most points for the marquee preps in late March or April. The winners of the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, UAE Derby (in Dubai), Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, and Arkansas Derby each bank 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby, clinching a spot in the field.
So hop onto the Derby trail — you might find a hot prospect!