Expert Predictions on Who Will Win the Kentucky Derby

The 2023 Kentucky Derby is set to get underway on Saturday, May 6th at Churchill Downs. This is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds, and it’s held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a 1 1/4-mile race that is known in the United States as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” as well as the “Run for the Roses”.

It is the first leg of the Triple Crown, which is followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. The Kentucky Derby has been run every year since 1875, making this the 149th running. The attendance at the event ranks first in North America and surpasses that of all the other stakes races, including the Breeders’ Cup.

Because of its popularity, the Kentucky Derby draws millions of fans and bettors around the world. I’m going to take a look at the wagering side of it and go through and give my predictions for this year’s race. I will give my Win, Place and Show picks for the horses to finish in 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  I will also give my exotic bets.

Note – I have picked three of the past 11 Kentucky Derby Winners with American Pharaoh (5/2) in 2015, Orb (7/2) in 2013, and I’ll Have Another (12/1) in 2012 with my ‘Win’ selections.  

In 2017, I had Always Dreaming picked to finish 2nd and he won, so we cashed our place wager.  I also noted that I may regret not picking him to win.

In 2018, I hit the Exacta AND the Trifecta with Justify, Good Magic and Audible finishing in 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  I had a 6-7-11 Exacta Box and a 5-6-7-11 Trifecta Box.  A $2 Exacta Box cost $12 and paid $69.60, and a $2 Trifecta Box cost $24 and paid back $282.80.

2023 Kentucky Derby Betting: Win, Place, Show and Exotic Picks

Win: #14 Angel of Empire (9/2)

Trainer Brad Cox is winning everywhere he goes and he has a gem here in Angel of Empire in the Kentucky Derby.  Albaugh Family Stables has three horses in this field, but this horse gives them their best chance at a score.

Angel of Empire won the G1 Arkansas Derby by going from 6th to first at the top of the stretch and pulling away by four lengths.  He showed he had plenty more to give, so I have no doubt he can get the distance.  He has improved with each race, including first first triple-digit speed rating in the Arkansas Derby.

Jockey Flavien Prat owns a stellar 1-1-2 record in five Kentucky Derby starts, including a win on Country House at 65/1 in 2019.  Prat chose to ride Angel of Empire over Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarnes, who is unbeaten.  That says everything you need to know about his confidence in this horse.

The bloodlines are there too as Classic Empire finished fourth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and 2nd by a head in the Preakness Stakes.  He is by Pioneer of the Nile, a runner-up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.

Place: #17 Derma Sotogake (7/1)

Japan is taking over horse racing, and Derma Sotogake is the best of the bunch.  Yes, Kentucky Derby starters from Japan are 0-for-18 and have rarely even been close, but times are changing.  Derma Sotogake won the UAE Derby by 5 1/2 lengths in dominant fashion.

He posted the fastest Beyer speed figure of all horses in this field in that UAE Derby victory.  He has the most experience of any contender with eight previous starts.  Trends are meant to be broken, and I like a couple Japanese horses in this one as you’ll see with my 4th place pick.

Show: #8 Mage (17/1)

Mage won wire-to-wire in his debut at Gulfstream Park in late January.  He finished 4th in the G2 Fountain of Youth but broke terribly out of the gate. He also broke last of 12 runners in the Florida Derby but still managed to take the lead in the final turn before getting passed by Kentucky Derby favorite, Forte.

This horse showed what he is capable of passing every horse in the Florida Derby, but that move cost him a little stamina, and he eventually lost only by a length to Forte.  If he breaks well in the Kentucky Derby, he is going to be a major player here Saturday.

His sire is Good Magic, who rallied to finish second to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.  Good Magic is the chestnut son of Curlin and out of a mare by 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up, Hard Spun.

4th: #22 Mandarin Hero (21/1)

Two horses I was high on in Practical Move and Skinner were both scratched out of the Kentucky Derby.  Practical Move won the G1 Santa Anita Derby, barely edging out Mandarin Hero (2nd) and Skinner (3rd).

Practical Move had the perfect trip and that allowed him to win.  Skinner had a terrible trip going 3 wide around both turns and still nearly won, which is why I was going to be high on Skinner had he not scratched.  So it only makes send to like Mandarin Hero, who gained ground ever so gradually as the post arrived.  If the race was another furlong like the Kentucky Derby is, he probably would have won.

Rest of the contenders in order:

  1. #5 Tapit Trice (9/2)
  2. #10 Kingsbarns (10/1)
  3. #2 Verifying (16/1)
  4. #4 Confidence Game (17/1)
  5. #3 Two Phil’s (8/1)
  6. #1 Hit Show (26/1)
  7. #7 Reincarnate (13/1)

My Final 2023 Kentucky Derby Bets

Win Bets: $50 each on 14, 17 (Costs $100)

Exacta Pick: $10 Exacta Box 8, 14, 17, 22 (Costs $120)

Trifecta Pick: $2 Trifecta Box 8, 14, 17, 22 (Costs $48)

Superfecta Pick: $1 Superfecta Box 8, 14, 17, 22 (Costs $24)

Note: Boxing these horses means they can finish in any order on the exacta, trifecta and superfecta bets.  As long as any combination of these four horses comes in 1st and 2nd for the exacta, 1st, 2nd and 3rd for the trifecta and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th for the superfecta your wager will be a winner.

The wording for these exotic wagers at the betting window are as follows:

If you are new to the Kentucky Derby, then you might want to check out my betting guide for beginners.  This year’s complete odds are listed below.

Odds to Win the 2023 Kentucky Derby

Horse Odds
1. Hit Show 26/1
2. Verifying 16/1
3. Two Phil’s 8/1
4. Confidence Game 17/1
5. Tapit Trice 9/2
6. Kingsbarns 10/1
7. Reincarnate 13/1
8. Mage 17/1
11. Disarm 24/1
12. Jace’s Road 32/1
13. Sun Thunder 30/1
14. Angel of Empire 9/2
16. Raise Cain 30/1
17. Derma Sotogake 7/1
18. Rocket Can 27/1
21. Cyclone Mischief 31/1
22. Mandarin Hero 21/1
23. King Russell 32/1

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