The stage is set, and the positions are drawn.
Florida horse racing fans and bettors await the 149th Kentucky Derby Saturday from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with their eye on several Sunshine State angles. Post time is approximately 6:57 p.m.
Florida sports betting is still tied up in the legal system. But horse betting is allowed in a pari-mutuel format. Floridians looking to bet on the Kentucky Derby can do so through the FanDuel Racing app, one of the most popular racebooks in the Sunshine State.
Forte, the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, drew the 15 post in a 20-horse field on Monday. He was installed as the lukewarm 3-1 morning-line favorite in this 1 1–4-mile showcase, destined to provide excellent betting value with so many entries.
Mage, who nearly upset Forte in the Florida Derby, drew the 8 post and 15-1 odds. He tries to become the first horse to win from that spot since Mine that Bird in 2009. This has been one of the top post positions, delivering eight Derby triumphs.
That is second only to the No. 5 slot (10 victories), drawn by another Florida standout, Tapit Trice.
Todd Pletcher is heavily represented at the Kentucky Derby
While three Florida-based horses are solid contenders, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher gains an early Derby spotlight. Pletcher is the leading money-winner at Gulfstream Park.
Pletcher not only trains Forte and Tapit Trice, but he guides Kingsbarns, one of the early speed burners, at 12-1. Kingsbarns breaks from the 6 post.
Pletcher has two Kentucky Derby triumphs with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017. Always Dreaming also won the Florida Derby.
Saffie Joseph Jr, the leading wins trainer at Gulfstream Park, shook up the world when his 59-1 shot Lord Miles won the Wood Memorial in New York. Joseph, and Lord Miles, return,
Here’s a profile of the Florida entries and an overview of the 1 1–4-mile showcase, a novel distance for all the participants.
A look at the Pletcher Trio & Mage
The rock star in Florida. He beat 2-5 favorite Cave Rock in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland at 5-1 last November. That’s the last time bettors saw a price that good. His next two races came at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
Forte toyed with the field to win the Fountain of Youth at 1-2 betting odds. He was then anywhere from 1-5 to 1-9 in the Florida Derby, which he struggled to win. Parked way outside in the 11 post, he had to circle the field and just get up against a determined Mage.
He’s not quite on the far outside here.
What a horse.
Bettors have seen a definitive burst from him in every race. He demolished an allowance field at Gulfstream Park and then came from nowhere to demolish the Tampa Bay Derby field down the lane.
In the Blue Grass, he obtained a good stalking position early and finally ran down Verifying to triumph. He also survived a claim of foul.
The good news for him is the 5 post, which has delivered the most Derby winners with 10, and the stalking-closing running style in a race that may experience a speed duel.
Will break from the 6 post and likely show early speed.
Unlike the Louisiana Derby, he’s likely to get company on the front end. He’s 3-for-3 and improving each time out. He won’t be able to take a breather in the middle segments of the race, so his connections hope he will simply improve enough to get the distance.
Very nice price for a horse who had the top 3-year-old in the country beaten with 50 yards to go in the Florida Derby. He got passed by Forte but showed the wisdom of bettors who made him the second choice.
Had been shut off coming for home in the Fountain of Youth and thus must have a better positioning. He has a nice post and may be used a little early to obtain a good stalking spot.
A detailed look at the whole field
Here’s a brief comment on every horse in the Kentucky Derby field. Odds won’t be official until post time, per pari-mutuel regulations.
1. Hit Show (30-1)
Nipped at the wire by 59-1 shot Lord Miles in the Wood Memorial. The last rail horse to win was Ferdinand in 1986.
2. Verifying (15-1)
Dangerous early speed. Will probably force the pace but will have plenty of company in a race loaded with speed.
Kingsbarns, Reincarnate, Derma Sotogake and possibly Confidence Game, could pepper him. Toss Jace’s Road and Derma Sotogake into that mix too.
The outcome depends on whether he’s caught in a duel.
3. Two Phil’s (12-1)
Won the Jeff Ruby Steaks as a stalker. Will try the same strategy, most likely.
4. Confidence Game (20-1)
He could flash speed. He hasn’t run since winning the Rebel Stakes in February. May need a race.
5. Tapit Trice (5-1)
All systems go. Could not ask for a better post position or pace scenario.
6. Kingsbarns (12-1)
You’ll know at the half-mile mark if he’s embroiled in a speed duel or running loose and relaxed. If he’s relaxed, he’s a threat.
7. Reincarnate (50-1)
Generous price for a good horse. One of the speed burners. He would be dangerous if he gets the lead by himself.
8. Mage (15-1)
Good post, should get fair stalking trip.
9. Skinner (20-1)
California entry who does his best running late. Could pick up the pieces if the race falls apart up front.
10. Practical Move (10-1)
Won the Santa Anita Derby but was getting leg weary. Must stretch out, but coming off an excellent win in the Golden State.
11. Disarm (30-1)
Great odds for a horse that might be coming late. Could surprise.
12. Jace’s Road (15-1)
Another speed burner to keep the pace honest.
13. Sun Thunder (50-1)
Stalks to finish in the money at his major races. Not impossible underneath.
14. Angel of Empire (8-1)
Great wins in the Risen Star and Arkansas Derby’s, tracking the speed. Pace sets up for him again. Major threat.
15. Forte (3-1)
The top horse in the race. Can see him in a thrilling duel to the wire with a host of horses.
16. Raise Cain (16-1)
Surprise winner at the Gotham in New York, rallying over a muddy-sealed track. With sunny skies on Saturday, he must show another gear.
17. Derma Sotogake (10-1)
Winner of the UAE Derby in Dubai. Fastest time there in the last five years. UAE winners have not been faring well here, but he may be the exception. Breaks from 17 post, which has never won.
18. Rocket Can (30-1)
Won the Holy Bull at Gulfstream but has since been beaten by top contenders in this race. He looks to have leveled off.
19. Lord Miles (30-1)
Lawdy, Lawdy, can Saffie do it again?
20. Continuar (50-1)
Third to Derma Sotogake in the UAE Derby. Asking a lot.
It looks like a contentious pace with all the speed horses mentioned.
This race sets up for the likes of Forte, Angel of Empire and Tapit Trice.
Kingsbarns is a logical play on the improvement line and horses like Two Phil’s and Disarm could have much to say if there’s a speed duel.
Good luck with the Derby. It’s a wonderful showcase.