2023 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs Tapit Trice Kingsbarns Angel of Empire
Tapit Trice, Kingsbarns, and Angel of Empire (left to right) are three leading contenders in the 149th Kentucky Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Thoroughbred racing takes the international spotlight May 6 at Churchill Downs, as more than 150,000 people are expected to attend the 149th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve while millions more watch the race on a national television broadcast in the U.S. and through other outlets worldwide.

The $3 million, Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, held at 1 ¼ miles on dirt, is the first leg of the Triple Crown for U.S. horse racing, followed by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 and the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park on June 10. The three races are restricted to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, making winning the series a “once in a lifetime” goal for each horse and its owners.

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The Triple Crown is the marquee event of the sport in America, and since it’s the opener of the series, the Kentucky Derby is the most important, and prestigious, race.

Thirteen horses that have won the Kentucky Derby have gone on to win the Preakness and Belmont and sweep the Triple Crown, achieving the highest level of fame in horse racing: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).

Last year produced one of the most memorable Kentucky Derbies in living memory, as 80.80-1 longshot Rich Strike rallied through the stretch to defeat favorite Epicenter and post the second biggest upset in the race’s long history. This year a flurry of late scratches including champion Forte, Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move and third-place finisher SkinnerWood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino winner Lord Miles, and UAE Derby Sponsored by Atlantis the Royal third-place finisher Continuar dramatically changed the complexion of the Derby field in the last 72 hours before the race.

The 2023 Kentucky Derby will be broadcast live on NBC as part of a 7 ½-hour program and will also be livestreamed on Peacock. Post time is set for approximately 6:57 p.m. ET.

America’s Best Racing has many resources to help fans new to the Kentucky Derby learn about the race’s rich history, what to bring to the event, and how to bet on the horses. Our Triple Crown page also has profiles of all of the contenders, and please also follow ABR on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok) for updates on the race in the days ahead plus photos and videos from our team on-site at Churchill Downs. And be sure to tune into ABR’s social channels (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) Tuesday evening, May 2 at 8 p.m. ET for our livestream show “Kentucky Derby Preview LIVE! Presented by TwinSpires.com,” hosted by Dan Tordjman and Ren Carothers.

Whether you are interested in making a couple of bucks on the race or just want to know a little bit about this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2023 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet. 

The odds listed below are current as of 6:30 p.m. on May 6.

Chelsea Durand/NYRA

1. Hit Show (24-1)

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owners: Gary and Mary West

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $404,375

Earnings per start: $80,875

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Actress, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hit Show has remained under the radar somewhat this spring as the Kentucky Derby qualifying series commenced. His two Derby preps were both at Aqueduct in New York, and those races in recent years have been overshadowed by preps in other areas of the country (the last Derby winner to make his final prep in the Empire State was Funny Cide in 2003). Nevertheless, he’s worth long look as a Derby win contender who will probably carry odds of 15-1 or greater at post time. Hit Show won his 3-year-old debut in a Derby prep, taking the Feb. 11 Withers Stakes by 5 ½ lengths against a suspect field, and then nearly backed that up with a victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino, where he raced between longshot Lord Miles and Florida shipper Dreamlike and was jostled during a furious stretch duel which Lord Miles won by a nose. Both the Withers and the Wood Memorial were held at 1 1/8 miles, an eighth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼-mile distance, and this colt is bred to handle the assignment on May 6 as a son of leading sire Candy Ride and out of a dam (mother) who is a daughter of another leading sire in Tapit and who won two graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Like several other contenders in this year’s Derby, Hit Show is a grinding type who should be in contention as he makes up ground in the stretch – if the early pace is fast enough to work in his favor. Hit Show drew the “dreaded” 1 post position, but his off-the-pace running style and the more compact starting gate now employed by Churchill Downs should mitigate the damage somewhat. Look for jockey Manny Franco to settle his mount in the back half of the field and try to work out a relatively clean trip into the far turn before asking Hit Show for his best effort. Derby History: Brad Cox is seeking his second Kentucky Derby win this year, but his first with a horse that crossed the finish line in front. The Louisville native received long-delayed recognition when his colt Mandaloun, who finished second behind Medina Sprit in May 2021, was named the Kentucky Derby winner in February 2022 after Medina Spirit was disqualified due to testing positive for a banned medication. Owners Gary and Mary West have had the opposite Kentucky Derby experience: their colt Maximum Security finished first in 2019 but was disqualified and placed 17th by the Kentucky stewards for interfering with other horses as the field traveled through the far turn at Churchill Downs. Jockey Manny Franco finished second in the 2020 Derby aboard Tiz the Law.

Coady Photography

2. Verifying (14-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owners: Westerberg, Susan Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $489,900

Earnings per start: $81,650

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Pedigree: Justify – Diva Delite, by Repent

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: One of the best-bred runners in this year’s Kentucky Derby, Verifying has been highly regarded since his debut last summer, when he was favored at 3-4 odds in a sprint race at the marquee Saratoga Race Course meet and won by 1 ¾ lengths. Since then, he’s been managed patiently by Brad Cox and comes into the Derby off of an encouraging runner-up effort to Tapit Trice in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 8, where he pressed the early pace and then dueled with the victor (who rallied from a stalking spot) all through the stretch before yielding late. His effort prior to the Blue Grass qualifies as a “sneaky-good” race: he was held up in traffic for several strides entering the stretch but still finished fourth in the Rebel Stakes Feb. 25. If he can improve slightly on his speed figures from those two starts and an earlier win this year in an allowance race, Verifying can hit the board in the Kentucky Derby and possibly pull the upset. He’s got a forwardly-placed running style that rider Tyler Gaffalione will probably use immediately breaking from an inside post position. That speed should help him against a Derby field that is largely comprised of stalkers and closers and, as mentioned, he’s got a fine pedigree. Verifying is the first horse sired by 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify to start in the Kentucky Derby, and he is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire) to 2019 champion dirt female and $7.4 million earner Midnight Bisou, who excelled racing around two turns. Derby History: Brad Cox is in the hunt for his second Kentucky Derby victory as a trainer this year after Mandaloun was named the winner of the 2021 race months later due to the disqualification of first-place finisher Medina Spirit because of a medication violation. Cox also finished third in 2021 with eventual champion 3-year-old colt Essential Quality, who was moved up from fourth. Tyler Gaffalione, who led the Churchill Downs jockey standings for seven straight meets (spring 2020 through spring 2022) and has nine riding titles at the track overall, will be making his fifth start in the Derby. Co-owner Michael Tabor won the 1995 Kentucky Derby with Thunder Gulch, and Tabor and Derrick Smith co-owned 2004 runner-up Lion Heart.

Eclipse Sportswire

3. Two Phil’s (9-1)

Jockey: Jareth Loveberry

Trainer: Larry Rivelli

Owners: Patricia’s Hope, Phillip Sagan and Madaket Stables

Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $683,450

Earnings per start: $85,431

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 123

Pedigree: Hard Spun – Mia Torri, by General Quarters

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Every year, several Kentucky Derby horses bring connections to the big stage for the first time along with some unique storylines. One of those horses this year is Two Phil’s, and this hard-trying runner is also a win candidate in the race. He has hit the board in four consecutive graded stakes races going back to last October, with two wins, one second, and one third. His last start was his career-best performance, as Two Phil’s shipped to Turfway Park and won the Jeff Ruby Steaks by a widening 5 ¼ lengths March 25 on that track’s synthetic Tapeta Footings surface. Overall, his speed figures are a notch below those of the top handful of Kentucky Derby contenders. On the other hand, he already owns a stakes win on Churchill’s dirt track, that coming last fall in the Street Sense Stakes. He’s paired up very well with jockey Jareth Loveberry, who’s been aboard Two Phil’s in every start since his debut. Look for Loveberry to keep his mount in touch with the field and racing no worse than seventh or eighth through the first three-quarters of a mile before urging him into contention and trying to make a bid for the lead as the field enters the homestretch. Derby History: This is the first Derby appearance for all of Two Phil’s connections save co-owner Sol Kumin, who bought an interest in the horse in April. Kumin (who races under several partnership names, including Madaket Stables and Head of Plains Partners) co-owned both 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and 2020 winner Authentic. Jareth Loveberry and trainer Larry Rivelli were both among the statistical leaders in their professions at Arlington International Racecourse in suburban Chicago, which held its final meet in 2021.

Coady Photography

4. Confidence Game (19-1)

Jockey: James Graham

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Owners: Don’t Tell My Wife Stables and Ocean Reef Racing

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $785,525

Earnings per start: $112,218

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Kentucky Derby points: 57

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Every Kentucky Derby contender this year competed in their final prep race during the timespan of March 25-April 15, save one. This Candy Ride colt made his last appearance on the track Feb. 25 in the Rebel Stakes, which he won in a 18.50-1 upset against a quality field. Since then, Confidence Game has been training steadily, first at Fair Grounds and more recently at Churchill Downs, a track where he raced on four times during his 2-year-old season with two wins. Trainer Keith Desormeaux has said he’s satisfied with Confidence Game’s development over the past several weeks despite not testing him again in one of the major Derby points preps. The colt is definitely bred to race longer than the Rebel’s 1 1/16 miles, as his sire Candy Ride set a track record in the prestigious 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic Stakes and his dam (mother) is a half-sister (same dam, different sire [father]) to Hall of Famer Zenyatta. Come early evening of May 6, the public will see if Desormeaux’s patient decision in bringing Confidence Game along without another prep race was the right one. This colt will arrive into the Derby fresh and is certainly capable of pulling the upset, or at least finishing in the top three, with his best effort. Derby History: Keith Desormeaux finished second in the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Exaggerator, who won the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. Jockey James Graham will make his third start in the Derby this year, and owner Don’t Tell My Wife Stables its second.

Coady Photography

5. Tapit Trice (9-2)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $883,650

Earnings per start: $176,730

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 150

Pedigree: Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Entering the Kentucky Derby on a four-race winning streak, Tapit Trice figures to be a popular betting choice based on several factors. He’ll get a lot of love from the general public based on his physical appearance – the colt is a gorgeous gray who sold for $1.3 million at auction as a yearling, and he’s angling to become the first gray or roan horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Giacomo in 2005 (Rocket Can, Hit Show, and Reincarnate are in this boat as well). He’s also got a stout pedigree for handling the Derby’s 1 ¼-miles and a sustained, powerful running style. In his last race, Tapit Trice fought off a stretch-long challenge to defeat Verifying by a neck in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 8. He’s a come-from-behind horse and may not recover if he has to pause and change course due to traffic during the Derby, but jockey Luis Saez kept him out of trouble in the Blue Grass while racing wide and Tapit Trice still showed enough ability and stamina to hold on and win. Forte, scratched from the race May 6, was expected to have the lowest post-time odds among the Kentucky Derby horses trained by Todd Pletcher, but this colt should now vie for favoritism and may have the highest ceiling looking ahead to future races such as the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. Derby History: Pletcher is set to add to his record 62 Kentucky Derby starters with two more in 2023 and has a solid shot to pick up his third win following Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017). Jockey Luis Saez’s best official finish in the Derby is third in 2021; he was also aboard disqualified first-place finisher Maximum Security in 2019. Co-owner Gainesway Stable has finished in the Derby top three twice while owned by the late Graham Beck and more recently his son Antony. Gainesway co-owned third-place Derby finisher Timber Country in 1995 and also co-owned 2021 runner-up Hot Rod Charlie.

Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

6. Kingsbarns (11-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $657,300

Earnings per start: $219,100

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Kingsbarns is a bit of a wild card in this year’s Kentucky Derby: he’s supremely talented yet has only made three starts, all of them wins, and did not debut on the track until Jan. 14. Justify already broke “the curse of Apollo” in 2018 when he became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without making a start at age 2 since Apollo in 1882, but the odds are still stacked against this son of champion Uncle Mo facing off against stablemate Tapit Trice and several other more experienced runners. Kingsbarns made his stakes debut in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby March 25 and pulled off a gate-to-wire victory without being seriously challenged. He was able to set a moderate pace in the Louisiana Derby and therefore had plenty of energy remaining to finish up strongly under jockey Flavien Prat, who will ride Angel of Empire in the Kentucky Derby. In both of his starts prior to the Louisiana Derby, Kingsbarns raced just off of the early pace before taking over at the top of the stretch, and it will be interesting to see if new rider Jose Ortiz and trainer Todd Pletcher decide to revert to that running style or attempt a Louisiana Derby repeat in a much tougher assignment (he drew an advantageous post position for using his speed). At any rate, look for this late bloomer to be among the front four or five contenders through the Churchill backstretch as he attempts to extend his unbeaten streak to four in the sport’s biggest race. Derby History: Pletcher is on track to have two more starters in this year’s Kentucky Derby, adding to his record total of 62. Two of those won the race: Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017. Spendthrift Farm, founded by the late B. Wayne Hughes, was a co-owner of 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, who also won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic and received the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year. Jose Ortiz finished second in the 2018 Derby on Good Magic and has also finished third once in seven prior appearances.

BENOIT photo

7. Reincarnate (14-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Catherine Donovan

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $345,650

Earnings per start: $49,379

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 45

Pedigree: Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: For most Kentucky Derbys going back to the mid-1990s, Bob Baffert has been a regular presence, winning the race six times and finishing second three times and third three times. However, the Hall of Famer was suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. after his 2021 first-place finisher Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned medication, and Baffert was prohibited from entering a horse in the Kentucky Derby (or any of Churchill’s other races on its properties) through summer 2023. Last year and this spring, the owners of several Baffert-trained horses transferred them to other trainers in order to get them eligible, and as it turns out Reincarnate will be the only “former Baffert” racehorse to start in the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Since switching to Tim Yakteen’s supervision, Reincarnate has run third twice in Derby preps, most recently just holding that spot by a head over Rocket Can in the April 1 Arkansas Derby won by Angel of Empire. He also won the Jan. 8 Sham Stakes in California but did not receive any qualifying points due to the Baffert suspension. At his best, Reincarnate can be a pace factor in the May 6 Kentucky Derby as he prefers to race on or near the early lead. Jockey John Velazquez is a good fit for him in that regard: the Hall of Fame rider won the 2020 Derby on the front end aboard Authentic and also led at every point of call on Medina Spirit in 2021. If it transpires that “Johnny V” has his mount all alone in front again this year, Reincarnate has enough proven form and stamina to remain in contention into midstretch at the very least, and that makes him a big overlay at 50-1 morning-line odds. Derby History: Yakteen assumed oversight of two of Baffert’s charges in last year’s Kentucky Derby, and both finished out of the money. Reincarnate’s large ownership group includes several entities with prior Derby success. Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Racing and Sol Kumin (who races under several names, including Madaket Stables) co-owned both 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and 2020 winner Authentic with other partners. Stonestreet Stables co-owned 2018 Derby runner-up Good Magic and 2007 third-place finisher Curlin, who won the Preakness that year and was awarded Horse of the year in both 2007 and 2008. John Velazquez is tied with seven other riders in fourth place all-time with three Kentucky Derby victories. His came with Animal Kingdom in 2011, Always Dreaming in 2017, and the aforementioned Authentic in 2020. Velazquez has also finished second twice from 24 prior starters.

Jeff Zamaiko/Coglianese Photo

8. Mage (17-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado

Owners: OGMA Investments, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing, and CMNWLTH

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $247,200

Earnings per start: $82,400

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Pedigree: Good Magic – Puca, by Big Brown

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This South Florida-based Derby contender is similar to Kingsbarns in that he’s only made three career starts and all of those have come in the first months of 2023. Mage will try to join 2018 Derby and Triple Crown winner Justify as the only horses since Apollo in 1882 to win the run for the roses without making a start at age 2, and while he’ll be a longshot when the starting gate opens, there are several things to like about this colt. He is not undefeated like Kingsbarns – in fact, he’s lost both of his Kentucky Derby preps after winning his debut back on Jan. 28. But he’s run better in each race and is improving fast, as evidenced by his start in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa April 1, where he made a visually impressive sweeping move from well back in the field to engage Cyclone Mischief for the lead in early stretch. He outfinished that foe but was in turn bested by odds-on favorite Forte in the final strides to lose by a length – which is nothing to be ashamed of, to say the least. Mage also has an underrated pedigree for stamina: he is from the first crop of 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic and his dam (mother) is by 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown and is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to long-distance turf millionaire Finnegans Wake. Inexperience will be Mage’s biggest challenge in a crowded Kentucky Derby and his peak form is probably a few starts away. He’ll need to overcome a habit of starting slowly, which compromised him in both of his Derby prep races, in order to have a chance at the upset. Derby History: Trainer Gustavo Delgado will be making his third Derby appearance. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has made 15 prior starts in the Derby and finished third in 2018.

9. Skinner (SCRATCHED on May 5)

10. Practical Move (SCRATCHED on May 4)

Coady Photography

11. Disarm (25-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $327,850

Earnings per start: $65,570

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Kentucky Derby points: 46

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Easy Tap, by Tapit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Disarm qualified for a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby by finishing third in his final prep race, the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes April 15. He had earned the majority of his points one race prior, when he was the only horse to make up any substantial ground on front-running winner Kingsbarns in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby March 25, settling for second by 3 ½ lengths. After winning one of two starts last summer, this Gun Runner colt was sidelined until Feb. 19 of this year, and he’s returned to compete against top-level opponents in three starts without coming close to winning, finishing second in an allowance race and then second in the Louisiana Derby and third in the Lexington. He does have a good pedigree for handling the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼ miles, as his half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire) Tap Daddy won twice at 1 1/16 miles in the U.S. and then shipped to Venezuela and was honored as champion stayer (long-distance horse). It’s unlikely that he can improve enough to score an upset win in this year’s Kentucky Derby, but Disarm is a colt worth following in the months ahead for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who is known for developing his racehorses on each one’s own individual timeline. Derby History: Asmussen, the all-time winningest trainer in North America and also the all-time leader in wins at Churchill Downs, has yet to win the Kentucky Derby. He has finished second three times (including Epicenter last year for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds) and third twice with 24 prior starters. Jockey Joel Rosario rode Epicenter last year; the veteran rider won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb.

Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

12. Jace’s Road (31-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owners: West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $238,050

Earnings per start: $39,675

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 45

Pedigree: Quality Road – Out Post, by Silver Deputy

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt joined three other Brad Cox trainees as prospective Kentucky Derby starters April 23 when the connections of Blazing Sevens decided to bypass the first leg of the Triple Crown and point to the Preakness Stakes May 20. Jace’s Road earned most of his Derby qualifying points with a win last December in the Gun Runner Stakes and a third-place finish behind Kingsbarns in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, his most recent start. In the Louisiana Derby, Jace’s Road sat a length or so off of pacesetter Kingsbarns through the backstretch and started to tire on the far turn, getting passed by runner-up Disarm in the final stages. On a positive note, he did not quit in the race and finished two lengths ahead of the fourth-place horse. This Quality Road colt prefers to be forwardly placed, and it would not be surprising to see jockey Florent Geroux attempt a trip with him similar to Mandaloun’s run in the 2021 Derby, where jockey and horse stayed in touch with front-running Medina Spirit all the way around and finished second behind that foe (moved up to the winner’s spot months later). One note of caution: Jace’s Road’s two career-worst races, by far, came on sloppy tracks, so downgrade his upset chances if there’s rain on Derby day.  Derby History: As mentioned, Cox and Florent Geroux teamed up to win the 2021 Kentucky Derby with considerable delayed gratification, as Mandaloun was not officially declared the winner until nine months later in February 2022, when first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified. Geroux also finished third in the 2016 Derby aboard Gun Runner in the first of six career starts prior to this year. Co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds, managed by Terry Finley, co-owned 2017 Derby winner Always Dreaming and was sole owner of 2014 runner-up Commanding Curve. And through West Point, several participants of America’s Best Racing’s A Stake in Stardom initiative own a minority interest in Jace’s Road: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, FOX Sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak, and FOX Sports talk show host Joy Taylor.

Coady Photography

13. Sun Thunder (31-1)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owners: R. T Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $247,500

Earnings per start: $41,250

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby points: 54

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Greenfield d’Oro, by Medaglia d’Oro

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Sun Thunder earned his way into Derby 149 with four consecutive finishes in qualifying races that were good enough to earn him points. The best of those came on Feb. 18, when he fought his way to a short lead in midstretch of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford but could not finish the job and settled for second behind Angel of Empire. Since then, this Into Mischief colt has finished fifth then fourth in major points races and was no threat to the winners in each of them. His overall speed figures are around 15 points lower than what will be required to win the Kentucky Derby based on historical precedent. As a deep closer, he may also be compromised by a projected modest pace in this year’s Derby. If that is not the case and the early leaders blaze through the first three-quarters of a mile or so, Sun Thunder could grind his way past some tiring horses in the stretch, but even that scenario would leave him out of the top four or five finishers unless he improves on his prior form significantly. Trainer Ken McPeek will put blinkers on Sun Thunder for the Kentucky Derby which will ideally help him remain focused as he makes his way from near the back of the field. Derby History: Louisville-based jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. will make his fourth Derby start this year, and Lexington-based McPeek his ninth. McPeek finished second in his first Derby appearance with Tejano Run in 1995.

Eclipse Sportswire

14. Angel of Empire (7-2)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Albaugh Family Stables

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $1,069,375

Earnings per start: $178,229

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Kentucky Derby points: 154

Pedigree: Classic Empire – Armony’s Angel, by To Honor and Serve

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: One of four Kentucky Derby contenders trained by Brad Cox, Angel of Empire should receive a lot of support from bettors based on his encouraging pattern of improvement. He started off his 3-year-old season with a solid runner-up effort in a Derby prep at Oaklawn Park, and then won two consecutive prep races with visually impressive off-the-pace rallies: the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford and the Arkansas Derby. In the April 1 Arkansas Derby, Angel of Empire powered through the stretch to win by 4 ¼ lengths over a tough field and appeared to have plenty left in reserve at the end. Earlier this year, Cox speculated that this colt would relish racing 1 ¼ miles in the Kentucky Derby, and his pedigree is solid in terms of stamina. Like all closers in the crowded Kentucky Derby, Angel of Empire will need a solid pace to run into and some racing luck to help him navigate through the field, but if he gets a clear path in the stretch look for him to be making up ground fast under Flavien Prat and putting his trainer’s confidence to the test in a bid for a career-defining victory. Derby History: Flavien Prat and Brad Cox are united as Kentucky Derby winners with an asterisk, a designation both hope to escape this year. Prat got his Derby win in 2019 when first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified due to interference and his mount Country House was elevated from second to first. Cox did not even get to visit the winner’s circle with his 2021 Derby winner Mandaloun. That horse, runner-up to Medina Spirit in the actual race, was named the official winner in spring 2022 when Medina Spirit was disqualified by Kentucky racing stewards due to a drug positive. Cox has had four other prior Derby starters with one third-place finish, and Prat has also finished second aboard Hot Rod Charlie in 2021 and third twice in recent years, including last spring aboard Zandon. Iowa-based Albaugh Family Stables sends its fourth horse to the Kentucky Derby this year.

15. Forte (SCRATCHED on May 6)

Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

16. Raise Cain (31-1)

Jockey: Gerardo Corrales

Trainer: Ben Colebrook

Owners: Andrew and Rania Warren

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $296,328

Earnings per start: $42,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 64

Pedigree: Violence – Lemon Belle, by Lemon Drop Kid

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This longshot Kentucky Derby contender who, like scratched morning-line favorite Forte, is a son of Violence, earned the bulk of his qualifying points with an impressive 7 ½-length win in the Gotham Stakes March 4, and he followed that up with a fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 8. He’s been quite consistent throughout his career with only one start worse than fifth, and that came in his debut last September. Having said that, the Gotham was held at a one-mile distance and around one turn, and the tempo was affected when a contender tossed his jockey at the start and then raced near the lead all the way into the stretch, causing the other front-runners to go faster than they otherwise would have. Raise Cain swept past the leaders in the Gotham but did not make much of an impression at all in the Blue Grass, finishing 6 ¾ lengths behind Tapit Trice and Verifying. His speed figures are around 10-15 points lower than the top Kentucky Derby contenders, and as such he’ll need a career-best performance to hit the board in the 1 ¼-mile classic on May 6. Derby History: This is the first Kentucky Derby for owners Andrew and Rania Warren, trainer Ben Colebrook, and jockey Gerardo Corrales.

Eclipse Sportswire

17. Derma Sotogake (8-1)

Jockey: Christophe Lemaire

Trainer: Hidetaka Otonashi

Owner: Hiroyuki Asanuma

Career record: 8 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $1,162,164

Earnings per start: $145,271

Top Equibase Speed Figure: N/A

Kentucky Derby points: 100

Pedigree: Mind Your Biscuits – Amour Poesie, by Neo Universe

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: One of the most interesting debates for this year’s Kentucky Derby centers around the win chances of this Japan-bred and -based horse who comes into the race off of an impressive score in the UAE Derby Sponsored by Atlantis the Royal March 25. That race was held at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, and Derma Sotogake soundly defeated an international field that included three U.S.-based runners. He did so by moving to the lead immediately after breaking from the starting gate under jockey Christophe Lemaire and then controlling the pace throughout before opening up in the stretch to win with ease. His final time in the UAE Derby is competitive with the best times in major Kentucky Derby preps run in the U.S. this spring. Prior to the UAE Derby, Derma Sotogake won three out of seven starts in his native Japan, and showed versatility in doing so: he’s not a “need-the-lead” type, in other words. This year’s Kentucky Derby field is comprised mainly of horses that prefer to stalk the pace or race from even farther back, so it may be in the best interest of Lemaire and trainer Hidetaka Otonashi to replicate the UAE Derby strategy and attempt to win the Kentucky Derby on the front end. Having said that, Derma Sotogake drew the rail post position in the UAE Derby, and Lemaire got him out of the gate without incident and then let him use his cruising speed to secure the lead. Now, horse and rider have drawn a post to the outside of 16 horses, and it will be interesting to see how forceful Lemaire is with his reins coming out of the gate and where he places Derma Sotogake during the first run through the stretch. Derma Sotogake’s connections have a history trifecta working against them: no UAE Derby winner has hit the board in the Kentucky Derby to date, nor has any Japan-based horse – and to top that off, no horse breaking from post position 17 has ever won the Derby (the only post between 1 and 20 without a win). This colt, a son of excellent U.S. sprinter-miler Mind Your Biscuits, represents Japan’s best chance at achieving Derby glory yet. Derby History: While Derma Sotogake’s owner and trainer will both be making their first Kentucky Derby appearance, international jockey Lemaire returns for the second year in a row after piloting Japan’s Crown Pride to a 13th-place finish in 2022.

Eclipse Sportswire

18. Rocket Can (28-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Frank Fletcher Racing Operations

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $383,413

Earnings per start: $54,773

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 60

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Tension, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Bettors in search of a longshot alternative to the favorites in Kentucky Derby 149 should spend some time examining Rocket Can’s résumé. The son of leading sire Into Mischief surfaced on the Triple Crown trail with a win in the Holy Bull Stakes Feb. 4 that earned a modest speed figure, and then boosted that number when running second to champion Forte in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and then fourth behind Angel of Empire in the Arkansas Derby. In the Arkansas Derby, Rocket Can was checked at the top of the stretch when encountering some traffic, but he recovered and was running well at the finish to finish only about a half-length behind the runner-up. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has said in past couple of weeks that he believes Rocket Can still has untapped potential and that he will be racing with blinkers added in the Kentucky Derby to hopefully help improve his focus. The colt has a good pedigree for stamina as Into Mischief has sired a Kentucky Derby winner (Authentic, 2020) and his dam (mother) is multiple graded stakes winner Tough Tiz’s Sis, by two-time Horse of the Year Tiznow. Derby History: Bill Mott earned his first victory in the Kentucky Derby via disqualification in 2019 when his colt Country House, who finished second in the race to Maximum Security, was elevated to first minutes later by Churchill Downs stewards after they placed Maximum Security 17th due to interference. Mott-trained Tacitus was also moved up to third in 2019. Junior Alvarado, Mott’s first call jockey, will make his fourth Kentucky Derby start.

19. Lord Miles (SCRATCHED on May 4)

20. Continuar (SCRATCHED on May 4)

Lauren King/Coglianese Photo

21. Cyclone Mischief (27-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owners: Albaugh Family Stables and Castleton Lyons

Career record: 7 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $246,350

Earnings per start: $35,193

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 45

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Areyoucominghere, by Bernardini

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: All systems are set to switch to “go” for Cyclone Mischief to run in the Kentucky Derby after he drew into the race on May 4. He competed on the South Florida circuit of Kentucky Derby preps, and finished third in two of them to earn his points. In the second of those, Cyclone Mischief fought hard with Mage through midstretch in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa before yielding to finish two lengths behind that foe, while champion Forte rallied past both of them to win the race. Based on speed figures, finishing 10th or better in the Kentucky Derby should be considered a success for this runner. The Into Mischief colt appears to be best suited to races at 1 1/16 miles or shorter, although he does have some stamina influences in his dam’s (mother’s) pedigree and a flurry of late Kentucky Derby scratches made the field considerably less imposing. Derby History: Louisville native Dale Romans, who ranks second all-time in wins at Churchill Downs, has finished third twice from 11 prior Kentucky Derby starters. Initially, Irad Ortiz Jr. was slated to ride morning-line favorite Forte a champion and winner of six of his seven career races, but the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa winner was scratched May 6. A fourth-place finish in 2019 aboard Improbable is his best result from six Kentucky Derby starters.

Eclipse Sportswire

22. Mandarin Hero (20-1)

Jockey: Kazushi Kimura

Trainer: Terunobu Fujita

Owner: Hiroaki Arai

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $386,854

Earnings per start: $64,476

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Shanghai Bobby – Namura Nadeshiko, by Fuji Kiseki

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Japanese runner gained entry into the Derby on May 4, and despite the far outside post position he profiles as an intriguing longshot in the run for the roses. After winning four of his five career starts in his home country, Mandarin Hero was shipped to California to contest the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby April 8, where he was respected at the betting windows and sent off at 8.10-1 odds. He validated that support by nearly winning the race, rallying gamely through the stretch under Kazushi Kimura and engaging both favored Practical Move and another highly regarded horse, Skinner, in a thrilling duel. Mandarin Hero finished a nose behind Practical Move and a half-length in front of Skinner, and earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure that is among the top numbers earned by any 2023 Kentucky Derby contender. Was his effort in the Santa Anita Derby an aberration? As mentioned, he started his career 4-for-5 in Japan, but did so racing on the country’s second-tier circuit while horses such as Derma Sotogake and Continuar faced better horses at more prestigious racetracks. That being said, Mandarin Hero obviously loves to compete, and he could be a racehorse that belongs at a level higher than originally thought. Derby History: This is the first Kentucky Derby appearance for Mandarin Hero’s owner and trainer. Kazushi Kimura, who relocated from Canada to the California circuit last year and has had success in his new surroundings, will also make his Kentucky Derby debut should Mandarin Hero draw in.

Coady Photography

23. King Russell (31-1)

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Trainer: Ron Moquett

Owners: Brereton Jones and Naber Racing

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $322,350

Earnings per start: $53,725

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Creative Cause – Believe You Will, by Proud Citizen

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: King Russell, who sat last on the Derby also-eligible list when post positions were announced May 1, drew into the race on the evening of May 4. The Creative Cause colt outran his 58.80-1 odds as well in his lone Derby prep race, the April 1 Arkansas Derby, where he rallied through the middle of the stretch to finish second behind Angel of Empire. Prior to that eye opener, King Russell hit the board in three consecutive races, with one win and two runner-up finishes. That indicates that this colt is on the upswing as his 3-year-old season progresses, and he boosted his Equibase Speed Figure 11 points to a competitive 99 in the Arkansas Derby. Still, he is a deep closer who will need a fast pace to set up his stretch run, and there are several other horses in this year’s Derby with similar running styles who are more accomplished in terms of winning record and speed figures. Derby History: This will be trainer Ron Moquett’s third Derby appearance, and the 13th for jockey Rafael Bejarano, who is noted for his patience and ability to finish well on horses.

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