Kentucky Derby 149: My Picks

May 6, 2023

The first Saturday of May has arrived and that means it’s Kentucky Derby Day. It should be a very exciting two minutes of action as 19 horses take to the track for the 149th Run for the Roses.


As I’ve written about in the past, the Kentucky Derby is a must-attend event. However, if you’re having your own Derby Party I’ve got some helpful tips. Wagering on the race always makes it fun. For some of you beginners, here is a helpful list of some horse racing betting basics to help get you started.

If you choose to bet some exotics wagers (Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta etc.), this is the day to do it as the prices are generally high given the fact the field is as large as you’ll see with 18 horses (following five scratches) breaking from the starting gate.

Weather has been a factor recently in six of the last 14 races on sloppy tracks. Mother Nature is playing nice this time around with sunny skies and temps well into the 70’s in the forecast.

Let’s first take a look at the full slate of horses on tap to be in the race:

Number Horse Trainer Jockey Morning Line Odds
1 Hit Show Brad Cox Manny Franco 30-1
2 Verifying Brad Cox Tyler Gaffalione 15-1
3 Two Phil’s Larry Rivelli Jareth Loveberry 12-1
4 Confidence Game Keith Desormeaux James Graham 20-1
5 Tapit Trice Todd Pletcher Luis Saez 5-1
6 Kingsbarns Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz 12-1
7 Reincarnate Tim Yakteen John Velazquez 50-1
8 Mage Gustavo Delgado Javier Castellano 15-1
11 Disarm Steve Asmussen Joel Rosario 30-1
12  Jace’s Road Brad Cox Florent Geroux 50-1
13 Sun Thunder Kenny McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 50-1
14 Angel of Empire Brad Cox Flavien Prat 8-1
16 Raise Cain Ben Colebrook Gerardo Corrales 50-1
17 Derma Sotogake Hidetaka Otonashi Christophe Lemaire 10-1
18 Rocket Can Bill Mott Junior Alvarado 30-1
21 Cyclone Mischief Dale Romans TBA 30-1
22 Mandarin Hero Terunobu Fujita Kazushi Kimura 20-1
23 King Russell Ron Moquett Rafael Bejarano 50-1
9 Skinner John Shirreffs Juan Hernandez 30-1
10 Practical Move Tim Yakteen Ramon Vazquez 10-1
15 Forte Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr. 3-1
19 Lord Miles Saffie Joseph Jr. Paco Lopez 30-1
20 Continuar Yoshito Yahagi Ryusei Sakai 50-1

Here’s a look at the horses that pop out to me in the field:


#14 Angel of Empire (8/1): This is my favorite horse in the race as he has shown the distance of the Derby won’t be a concern. The Arkansas Derby winner would benefit from a contested pace, but unlike some of my other top horses who are closer to the rail a great start out of the gate isn’t as imperative. 

#5 Tapit Trice (5/1): The Bluegrass Stakes showed me this horse has what it takes to win a big race. Like Angel Empire, this colt keeps getting better with each race. His biggest con is he sometimes struggles to get out of the gate, so he’ll need to avoid get comprised too much from the start which in a 19-horse field and that isn’t as easy as it sounds. This is my favorite Todd Pletcher horse of the three in the field.

#3 Two Phil’s (12/1): His 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Jeff Ruby Steaks is the fastest number of any horse in the field. Granted that race was on synthetic surface which is scaring many off. However, he’s also won a race on the Churchill Downs track before when he took down the Grade 3 Street Sense back in October. I’ll take my chances with him.


#15 Forte (3/1): Forte has earned the right to be the favorite and is a hard horse to ignore. I almost always automatically include the Florida Derby winner atop of my exotics. However, given the value of others and Forte’s closing nature I simply just don’t like him as much as the others I’ve put before him. He worked hard to win the Florida Derby, proving to me he isn’t invincible. 

#17 Derma Sotogake (10/1): There have been 18 Dubai-to-Derby horses to try their crack at the Kentucky Derby and to date none of them have yet to hit the tote board. This Japanese colt may be the best horse of that bunch to date though and his sharp workouts since arriving in Louisville have gotten me to take notice.

#2 Verifying (15/1): This horse gave Tapit Trice all he could handle in the Bluegrass Stakes. I would’ve like him better if he would have gotten a better post position in the draw. Still, I love the connections here with Brad Cox and Tyler Gaffalione teaming up. Gaffalione is looking to hit his own Oaks/Derby double here.

#7 Reincarnate (50/1): I moved this horse up to this tier following taking Forte out. I like him to be a front-runner in the race and more than anything I trust jockey John Velazquez, who has won the Run for the Roses three times.


#1 Hit Show (30/1)
#6 Kingsbarns (12/1)
#11 Disarm (30/1) – Bumped up following Forte scratch

#18 Rocket Can (30/1)
#22 Mandarin Hero (20/1)


#8 Mage
#13 Sun Thunder
#21 Cyclone Mischief


#4 Confidence Game
#12 Jace’s Road
#16 Raise Cain
#23 King Russell


I like doing a Tri-Wheel each year that keys a few horses on top with about half the field on the bottom in third place. I have posted this Tri-wheel on every year since I launched the website in 2003. It has hit six times in those 20 years, but it has been a few years since it last hit.

I would have had it in 2019 had Maximum Security not been wrongfully taken down due to an objection. In 2020, I had all of the horses, but just missed as I only had the winner, Authentic, to finish second and third.

During my span of posting these picks the average $1 Tri paid nearly $7,000. My two best hits came in 2003 (Funny Cide) and 2010 (Super Saver). Last year’s $1 Tri paid $14,870.70.

In addition to my Tri wheel, I’ve picked the winner eight times in 20 years and had the exacta seven times as well. Let’s see if we can add to the winnings in 2023 and get back on track!

Here are my picks:

$10 WP – #14 Angel of Empire (8/1)

$2 EX Wheel – 3, 5, 14 / 2, 3, 5, 7, 14, 17 (total $30 – you can drop to $1 EX box and only pay $15 for bet)

$1 Tri Wheel
(total $135 – you can drop it down to $0.50 Tri wheel and only pay $67.50)

3, 5, 14 with…

2, 3, 5, 7, 14, 17 with…

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 17, 18, and 22

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