All of the Kentucky Derby prep races have been run, and the field is starting to take shape. Which horses look to be the main players in this year’s competition?
GossipsDiary.com has previewed the Grand National before and now it’s time for US most prestigious horse racing event to take place. The Derby will happen on the 6th of May 2023.
Last year’s champion two-year-old male, Forte earned his Eclipse Award on the strength of three Grade I wins, including a decisive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He might soon be adding his name to the Kentucky Derby winners list by TwinSpires.com.
Forte has been just as dominant as a three-year-old, winning by daylight in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and edging by Mage in the Grade I Florida Derby. By Violence out of a mare by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, this Pletcher trainee has speed and stamina. Winners of the Florida Derby have an excellent track record in the Kentucky Derby, counting Nyquist and Always Dreaming among the most recent victors.
It seemed for a while that Tim Yakteen would merely be known as the recipient of Bob Baffert’s would-be Derby trainees, but eventually it came to light that the most talented horse in his barn was one that he’d had all along. Practical Move came into his own in his fifth start with a decisive win in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity, and followed that up with a professional win in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes. In his most recent race, the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, he was all out to defeat a tough-as-nails competitor in the Japanese colt Mandarin Hero, proving that he has toughness as well as talent. His bloodlines show a beautiful blend of speed at short distances through his sire, Practical Joke, and stamina with grit through his damsire, Afleet Alex.
A huge gray son of Tapit and the Dunkirk mare Danzatrice, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice was pegged for Derby glory immediately after two impressive wins in his maiden and an allowance race. He came rolling late in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, but showed he could be much more forwardly placed and also fight a stretch battle in his next start, only narrowly winning over Verifying in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes. Distance may be a concern, but not in the way most think of it- sons of Tapit have dominated recent runnings of the twelve-furlong Belmont Stakes.
The third member of Todd Pletcher’s impressive Derby contingent, this son of Uncle Mo out of a Tapit mare is lightly raced but undefeated. He began his career in January, meaning that should he prove victorious in the Kentucky Derby, he would join Justify and Apollo as the only Kentucky Derby winners not to have raced at age two.
From his maiden win, Kingsbarns won a Tampa Bay Downs allowance race impressively and got loose on the lead in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, eventually winning by a widening 3 ½ lengths. He has the breeding and the race record to suggest that ten furlongs should be no issue, but he has never been challenged, and he is highly unlikely to get the sort of easy trip at Churchill Downs that he did at Fair Grounds.
Angel of Empire
Brad Cox began the season with a bevy of Triple Crown hopefuls, but as the months went on, it was clear that Angel of Empire stood above the rest. Angel of Empire is a son of Classic Empire out of a mare by To Honor and Serve, and although his career began rather inauspiciously at Horseshoe Indianapolis, he showed promise by running second to his highly regarded stablemate Victory Formation in the listed Smarty Jones Stakes. He capitalized on that promise in his next two starts, winning both the Grade II Risen Star Stakes and the Grade I Arkansas Derby.
Although the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks is not as prestigious as the other 100 point Derby preps, winner Two Phil’s stamped himself as a true contender by earning a 105 Breyer figure, the highest of the entire prep season. Two Phil’s is also the most experienced Kentucky Derby contender on this list, having had eight lifetime starts. There are a lot of questions surrounding this colt, such as the class of his competition and his ability to translate performance on a synthetic track to dirt, but this son of Hard Spun out of a General Quarters mare may prove to be a true Cinderella horse.
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