Much as its only March, racing fans will already be looking forward to a season packed full of excitement, not least the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. This race is the one that really kicks off the high-stakes racing season. For those who don’t know, the race is for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds only and is run at a distance of 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs. It attracts so much attention because of the huge prize pool, $3 million, and the fact that it’s the first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown. The Triple Crown is a series of races for 3-year-olds that when all won by the same horse are seen as the ultimate flat racing achievement. With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at the horses who are standing out as having the best chance, even at this early stage.
The Favorite, Forte
If you’ve spent any time trying to explore sports betting in Canada then you’ll see that Forte is the favorite by quite a margin. Bodog has the bright bay colt at 4-1 odds, even at this early stage, so we’re going to take a look at the reasoning for such short odds. First of all, his trainer Todd Pletcher is no stranger to training Derby winners. Back in 2010, Pletcher lightly raced Super Saver in the lead-up to the Derby and despite third- and second-place finishes in his prep races, he went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Following this, he ran Always Dreaming, the 2017 winner in a trio of Florida races before the big win.
Forte was staggering to watch last year, winning all but the second of his five appearances (including three Grade 1 victories). He beat another fancied horse in Cave Rock in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at Keeneland by 1 1/2 lengths. He then had a long break and returned to the track just a week or so ago on March 4 at Gulfstream Park, where he ran in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a Grade 2 race run at 1 1/16 miles. He took the prize in this race too, winning by a more than comfortable 4 1/2 lengths. With an on-track record like this, it’s easy to see why Forte is ranking so highly in the betting, but there are more horses to investigate.
Each Way Value, Practical Move
Our next pick is a horse that, although shortening in odds, still provides good value as an each way bet. Practical Move has taken home $434,200 in prize money already, which from just six starts is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. He really impressed in his first start of 2023 when he bounced back off more than two months of rest to win the San Felipe Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths. The race is run at a distance of 1 1/16 miles, which is considerably shorter than the Kentucky Derby. However, it’s common for horses to only try out the length of the race on Derby day, so this shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Trainer Tim Yakteen has been in top form this year and has qualified that he’s aiming the colt at the Santa Anita Derby on April 8 as a final prep race before the big day. While he hasn’t got quite the impeccable form that Forte has, he’s competed in and won some big races and has that mean turn of foot that the Derby requires. For us, he’s not the win only bet, but a near certainty to be in the top three.
Fancied Outsider, Blazing Sevens
Everybody loves a great value bet and Blazing Sevens is currently at 50-1, so you won’t find anything with a cat’s chance much higher than that. Despite not wowing with a string of wins in his short career, Blazing Sevens has already taken home $472,7650 having won the Champagne Stakes and a maiden race at Saratoga. Admittedly, a lot of his winnings have come from placing, both in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Hopeful Stakes. It’s also worth noting that the colt has excellent breeding, with a sire who finished second in the Derby. In terms of blood, he’s absolutely got the quality to at least place.
However, his most recent outing cannot be ignored, where he came an unimpressive eighth of nine and 26 lengths behind the winner Forte in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. For now, Blazing Sevens might be worth a small each way bet and at those odds, it would only need to be small to make a nice return. However, his next appearance before the Kentucky Derby could see him totally ruled out of the betting, or suddenly experiencing wildly shortening odds.