2023 Kentucky Derby best bets

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com senior reporter) 

May 6, 2023 09:11 AM



Saturday update: Forte was scratched Saturday morning by state veterinarians due to a minor bruise in the front right foot, reducing the field to 18 runners. Dave Tuley's story.

Dave Tuley - VSiN senior reporter/handicapper

There’s no clear-cut front-runner in this field, but we expect some combination of Verifying, Confidence Games, Reincarnate, or especially Japanese import/UAE Derby winner Derma Sotogate to help set an honest pace to set it up for a stalker or closer. (Update: in the VSiN Kentucky Derby Betting Guide, I originally listed #10 Practical Move as my top play, but he was scratched on Thursday; Update No. 2: my third choice Skinner was scratched on Friday, so I've made changes below to reflect those changes). With the scratch of Practical Move, #3 Two Phil’s (12-1) becomes my top play in the Derby as he should be able to sit off the pace and get first run on the deeper closers. Two Phil's has the highest prior speed figures in the field, though that was at unheralded Turfway Park. But, don’t forget, Mine That Bird came from even less-heralded Sunland Park. The Derby is always wide-open, so we have to include some long shots in our Exacta and Trifecta boxes to try for a really big score (and I’ll also have Win bets on some of these if they go off higher than their morning-line odds – you can do that in a 20-horse field). #18 Rocket Can (30-1) is my big bomb, but he ran second to Forte in the Fountain of Youth and then lost as the Arkansas Derby favorite – a good sign as he would have had much shorter odds if he had won. His fourth-place finish isn’t as bad as it looked, and Bill Mott adds blinkers to get him more focused. I should also mention that #21 Cyclone Mischief (30-1) could be this year’s Rich Strike from the also-eligible list, and I’ll add him to my tickets if he draws into the field on Friday. Note: Cyclone Mischief did indeed draw into the field, so that made the 3,9,18 and 21 as my official Derby horses for the purposes of betting the exotics (Exactas, Trifectas, Superfectas as well as the Oaks-Derby Double from Friday), but that was reduced to 3,18,21 with the scratch of Skinner. For those betting on Saturday, I would add the favorite, #15 Forte, back into my boxes as I think the scratches benefit his chances to come from off the pace with more speed drawn into the race.

Ed Sehon - VSiN horse handicapper

For the Run for the Roses on Saturday, I like four sophomore colts in this order: #2 Verifying (15-1) to Win, #3 Two Phil’s (12-1) to Place, #14 Angel of Empire (8-1) to Show and longshot #4 Confidence Game (20-1). BOTTOM LINE: My Kentucky Derby pick up is #2 Verifying.

Duane Colucci - Rampart race and sportsbook manager

As always, Brad Cox is a trainer to watch! #14 Angel of Empire (8-1) crushed the Arkansas Derby field by 4.5 lengths, and he has no distance limitations. Breaking just inside his major threat Forte, post 14 should not be a problem; working well all systems go! Has to finish better than Mage and Forte to win. Bonus Kentucky Oaks pick #12 Dorth Vader (20-1).

John Lauro - Team Tuley contributor for VSiN

In the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, #7 Wet Paint and #11 Defining Purpose continue to train full of vigor, so that’s a strong Exacta box. In the Kentucky Derby, #5 Tapit Trice is a huge colt with a massive stride and is a strong Win bet. My Best Bet of the weekend – and maybe of the year – is an Oaks-Derby double of 7, 11 with 5, using Wet Paint and Defining Purpose paired with Tapit Trice.

Matt Youmans - VSiN senior editor and host

I bet Circa Sports' fixed odds of 24-1 on #3 Two Phil’s (currently 12-1), which posted the best Brisnet speed figure in the entire field. With a stalking running style, which is what usually wins the Derby, Two Phil's is trending in the right direction by improving in each race. He's not the best horse, but he offers some odds value, and I'll play him along with #5 Tapit Trice, the Blue Grass Stakes winner.

Wes Reynolds - VSiN host and handicapper

Brad Cox did not get to enjoy the spoils of the Kentucky Derby winner's circle in 2021 as his eventual winning horse Mandaloun was not declared the winner until the following year after Medina Spirit was officially DQ'd. #14 Angel of Empire (8-1), the Arkansas Derby winner, is athletic enough to navigate through traffic to win and allow Cox and jockey Flavien Prat, both with Derby wins by DQ, to finally be the clear Derby winner on race day.

Chris Andrews - South Point sportsbook director

I like #8 Mage. In only his third start in the Florida Derby, he broke last and had a troubled trip. Nonetheless, he made a huge move on the turn and took the lead in the stretch, but he got passed late and lost by only a length to Forte. Definitely eligible to improve.

Vinny Magliulo - Gaughan Gaming/VSiN

There are more variables in the Kentucky Derby than in any other American race, which can hurt favorites and help more pricey horses. I’m wheeling these: #5 Tapit Trice, #10 Practical Move, #14 Angel of Empire and #15 Forte. (Update: #10 Practical Move was scratched from the race on Thursday.)

Patrick Meagher - VSiN host 

The Todd Pletcher-trained Forte opened as your betting favorite at 3-1 to win the Kentucky Derby and rightfully so. The Dark bay colt led all 3-year-olds in qualifying points leading up to the derby and has more than doubled the career earnings of any horse in the field. We are going to beat Forte. Let's go with another Todd Pletcher-trained horse, Tapit Trice at 5-1. The Gray son of Tapit enters the Derby off a victory in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 8. Like many Tapit progeny, Tapit Trice has an unpredictable personality, so drawing the 5-hole inside is a little worrying. However, post 5 has produced the most Kentucky Derby champs and Tapit Trice is the best horse in the field. He'll relish the extra distance. Tapit Trice would be the first Gray horse to with the Kentucky Derby since Giacomo in 2005!

Johnny Avello - DraftKings director of race & sports operations

#14 Angel of Empire doesn’t have numbers as good as #15 Forte, but he has a similar style to file and has been getting better every race. I like the Brad Cox-Flavien Prat combo as Cox gets his horses prepared for the big races, and Prat is one of the best jockeys right now. I hope Angel of Empire holds his price. You also have to use #5 Tapit Trice and Forte. Some might say you can’t use the favorite, but he hasn't done anything wrong.

Shaun King - VSiN host

I haven’t made my final decision, but trainer Todd Pletcher has three horses in the race — #5 Tapit Trice, #6 Kingsbarns and #15 Forte. If Pletcher is winning races early in the Churchill Downs card, he usually stays hot. If that happens, I plan to bet an exacta box with Pletcher’s three horses. If Pletcher isn’t winning early, then it’s just not his day and I won’t make that bet. I will bet #14 Angel of Empire to win and place. And I’m also planning to use Angel of Empire in a trifecta wheel with other horses. I also will bet the Oaks-Derby double with the field in the Oaks and Angel of Empire in the Derby.

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