Kentucky Derby Futures: ’Tis the Season for New Contenders

After a post-Breeders’ Cup respite, the prep season for the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is back in full swing, with qualifying points races held during the past two weeks at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct. Activity will stay steady through the holidays as well, as five more preps are on tap between now and New Year’s Day.

One of the most fun activities during the prep season involves laying down some cash on a futures pick for the 149th Derby, which will be run under Churchill Downs’ Twin Spires on May 6, 2023. Over the next several months, America’s Best Racing will bring you up to date with the changing odds and notable entries for potential Derby horses at Caesars Sportsbook.

We’ll revisit these odds when new sheets are released (usually after a major prep race is completed). With each passing prep race, the number of viable Derby contenders will shrink, but as of now, there are literally hundreds of horses out there that carry the dreams of owners and gamblers alike to find the Churchill Downs winner’s circle somewhere on the first Saturday in May – and some of them may not have even raced yet.

Aside from the Las Vegas books, the second of six Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools offered by Churchill Downs Inc. closed on Nov. 27. The “all other colts and geldings” option led the second pool at nearly even-money odds, while among the 38 individual horses offered, Forte led at odds of 10.62-1.

Dec. 4 Caesars Sportsbook Odds Leaders to Win the 2023 Kentucky Derby:

1. Arabian Knight (10-1)

2. Arabian Lion (15-1)

2. Forte (15-1)

4. Cave Rock (16-1)

5. Extra Anejo (18-1)

Complete Nov. 6 Odds

Notable Changes:

Dubyuhnell and Arctic Arrogance: The dueling 1-2 finishers in the Remsen Stakes Dec. 3 at Aqueduct both carry 125-1 odds on Caesars’ latest sheet, which makes them enticing plays at this point in their careers. Dubyuhnell outfinished pacesetter Arctic Arrogance by a half-length, and the pair was well clear of the rest of the field, including third-place finisher and favorite Tuskegee Airmen (150-1). They both earned solid Equibase Speed Figures (101 for Dubyuhnell, 100 for Arctic Arrogance) despite a pedestrian final time of 1:50.88 for the 1 1/8-mile race. Dubyuhnell scored his second consecutive victory on a sloppy track after winning his maiden easily in a one-mile race Oct. 2 at Aqueduct, while New York-bred Arctic Arrogance impressed in his first start outside of state-bred company, where he’d won twice in three career starts. Trainer Danny Gargan said that Dubyuhnell, from the first crop of champion Good Magic, will train in Florida but did not rule out a return to Aqueduct for a possible next start in the Feb. 4 Withers Stakes. This colt has a solid pedigree in terms of class but with an emphasis on sprinting via his millionaire dam Wild Gams – read more about him in Mike Curry’s profile. Artic Arrogance, a Frosted colt trained by Linda Rice, is also related to several accomplished sprinters on his dam’s side, including two-time Eclipse Award winner Housebuster, along with some turf runners who preferred longer distances. Look for this one to stay in New York and make his next start in the Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day.

Instant Coffee: Back on Nov. 26, Instant Coffee rallied from a stalking position to post a 1 ¼-length win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, and the Brad Cox trainee is currently getting 65-1 odds via Caesars. He raced wide in the stretch under persistent handling from Luis Saez to draw clear late as the 1.54-1 favorite, yet this colt did not dazzle under the Twin Spires and his Equibase Speed Figure came back low – a 79, which marked a 15-point drop after he earned a 94 when fourth to Forte in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Overall, the Kentucky Jockey Club field was not that formidable, but Instant Coffee races for proven connections (owner Al Gold campaigns current star and soon-to-retire Cyberknife) and he can certainly get better over the next several months. His pedigree is decent as a son of freshman sire Bolt d’Oro (currently ranked second in North America, behind Good Magic and ahead of Justify). Cox told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh that Instant Coffee would point to either the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 21 or the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 28 for his next start. Read more about him in Mike Curry’s profile.

Three to Watch:

Point Proven: In his third start, this son of Horse of the Year and excellent young sire Gun Runner put it all together Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs, powering through the stretch to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race by five lengths with a 91 Equibase Speed Figure. Point Proven was well-supported in his debut back in early August at Saratoga but showed little when defeated by 20 ½ lengths. He improved in his next start going a mile at Aqueduct in late September when he finished third. Stretching out even farther at Churchill, he showed encouraging stamina and could be a solid under-the-radar option to follow for Todd Pletcher while his stable star Forte gets most of the headlines. Point Proven is owned by the successful partnership of Mike Repole and Vincent Viola (Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable). He is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Twenty Carat, a Grade 3 winner at seven furlongs, and his female family gets really good through his second dam (maternal grandmother), who produced Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Shared Account and two route Grade 3 winners including promising 3-year-old turf filly Sparkle Blue. Shared Account in turn is the dam of 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing. Point Proven hasn’t quite lived up to his name just yet, but he’s an intriguing Derby futures option at his current 100-1 odds.

Post Time: Could this Maryland-bred resurrect some of the Mid-Atlantic magic Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex had almost 20 years ago? He earned his third victory without a defeat Dec. 3 in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Stakes at Laurel Park, rallying from well off the pace to win going away by 3 ¾ lengths on a muddy track, with jockey Eric Camacho motionless in the saddle. Prior to that, Post Time won his debut at 5 ½ furlongs by two lengths and then rolled to a 6 ¾-length score in a seven-furlong allowance, both at Laurel in October. Like Arctic Arrogance, Post Time is a son of Frosted, who finished second behind American Pharoah in the 2015 Belmont Stakes and won the Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap, aka the Met Mile, and the Whitney Stakes the next year. Post Time’s dam, Vielsalm, by route Grade 2 winner Fairbanks, won a stakes race for Maryland-breds on turf at 1 1/8 miles and nearly won a Grade 3 stakes on turf at 1 1/16 miles against open company. It will be interesting to see where and at what distance this colt makes his next start for current Laurel Park leading trainer Brittany Russell. He’s rated at 100-1 odds by Caesars.

Tapit Shoes: Also on Dec. 3, Tapit Shoes improved from a well-beaten sixth in his first start to romp in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race at Fair Grounds under Corey Lanerie. He took over midway through Fair Grounds’ long homestretch and then showed immaturity by lugging in and then wavering in the final strides, still finishing 7 ½ lengths clear of the runner-up. He earned a middling 76 Equibase Speed Figure for the effort, but as noted, it was only his second race and he’s getting 75-1 odds from Caesars. Tapit Shoes races for a partnership numbering 11 owners – certainly an indication of his potential as a Derby prospect – and he’s trained by Brad Cox, who’s now firmly established as one of the elite trainers in North America for developing Triple Crown contenders. Cox trained the abovementioned Cyberknife to wins in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes and Arkansas Derby and runner-up finishes in the Runhappy Travers Stakes and Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile earlier this year, and that top-class runner is a half-brother to Tapit Shoes, both produced by six-time stakes winner Awesome Flower.