2023 Derby Rankings – Week 10

With a lot of action over the weekend, some big performances, and new exciting faces added to the Derby picture we are expanding the Rankings this week to 20. Saturday’s Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby should be pretty formful, so it doesn’t seem too likely we’re going to get any major surprises.~ Steve Haskin

Derby Rankings: March 27, 2023 – Week 10

By Steve Haskin

1—Forte (Todd Pletcher, Violence – Queen Caroline, by Blame)

In some odd way the pressure will be on in the Florida Derby, as he towers over his 11 opponents and nothing short of a victory would be acceptable unless something unforeseen happens in the race, even breaking from the 11 post and the addition of the former Baffert horse Fort Bragg, who was scratched out of Sunday’s Sunland Derby. You never want to put the whammy on a horse, but on paper this looks like a pretty easy spot despite the size of the field and the post, especially with Fountain of Youth runner-up Rocket Can passing the race and heading to the Arkansas Derby. Yes, he could get caught wide going into the first turn, but Irad Ortiz will know where to put him and he is good enough to overcome a wide trip. Better that than running into traffic problems stuck down on the inside. What to watch out for is the speed of Cyclone Mischief, the vast improvement of the lightly raced Mage, and whether Remsen winner Dubyuhnell can bounce back off a terrible performance and breaking from post 12. But those three and Fort Bragg are not in the same class as Forte.


2—Practical Move (Tim Yakteen, Practical Joke – Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex)

Could Practical Move vs. Forte be racing’s next rivalry? No one is bred for it more than Practical Move. His sire traces to Affirmed and his dam traces to Alydar. His sire traces to Damascus and his dam traces to Dr. Fager. His sire traces to Swaps and his dam traces to Nashua. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of speed on top and stamina on the bottom, his sire won Grade 1 stakes at seven furlongs and a one-turn mile and his broodmare sire won the Belmont Stakes by seven lengths. If you’re looking for improving speed figures, his last four Beyers have been 73, 82, 88, and 100 and his late closing Brisnet figures have gone from 75 to 79 to 84 to 94 to 107. Also his 105 Brisnet speed figure in the Los Alamitos Futurity is the highest of any 3-year-old. With his new stablemates Reincarnate and National Treasure headed out of town as is Fort Bragg, he’ll be on his own in the Santa Anita Derby, which unlike the Florida Derby with Forte, should provide a pretty stiff test for him, especially if Mandarin Hero turns out to another of those deadly Japanese invaders. So far he has been the quintessential pro, handling everything thrown at him at all distances, and that should be beneficial when he gets to Churchill Downs. He turned in another strong work, going five furlongs in :59 1/5.


3—Tapit Trice (Todd Pletcher, Tapit – Danzatrice, by Dunkirk)

One of the great mysteries in racing is why no Blue Grass Stakes winner has won the Kentucky Derby since Strike the Gold in 1991. To save you the time, that was 32 years ago. The last Derby winner to even come out of the Blue Grass was Street Sense and that was when it was run on Polytrack. Even the Jeff Ruby Steaks, or whatever it was called at the time, and the Sunland Park Derby have produced more Derby winners than the Blue Grass in the past 16 years. With Tapit Trice trying to break that ignominious streak we do have a legitimate shot of having a historic edition of the race and making the Lexington bluebloods proud. There is an excellent chance we could have stablemates going into the Derby as the top headliners if Tapit Trice and Forte both win their final preps, making them the most potent one-two punch since American Pharoah and Dortmund in 2015. Add Kingsbarns now and Pletcher is totally loaded. As of now Tapit Trice’s main foes could be Gotham winner Raise Cain, National Treasure, Rebel winner Confidence Game, and he is iffy, and Verifying. For Tapit Trice it will all be about how he breaks, especially if he draws an outside post. With a good break and a clean trip I believe he can beat anyone. But he still has to prove it against far better horses than he beat in the Tampa Derby.


4—Hit Show (Brad Cox, Candy Ride – Actress, by Tapit)

He wasn’t entered in the Arkansas Derby so it’s a return to New York for the Wood Memorial where he will be the likely favorite. He demonstrated his sharpness with a six-furlong work in 1:12 3/5, so he looks ready to take on anyone. It just means another trip back up north with the hope for good weather. He is proven at 1 1/8 miles and should be even better than he was in the Withers. What I love from a speed figure standpoint is that he made a huge leap on Thoro-Graph from a 12 1/4 to 4 3/4 two races back, but instead of “bouncing” he took another big move forward with a 2 in the Withers. As we have mentioned he is a May 9 foal and has always had a wonderful disposition, so he should take another step forward in the Wood and still have plenty left in the tank to peak on the first Saturday in May. Some may claim the Wood has not had any success in recent years when it comes to the Derby, but it is still the same track and distance that produced Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Foolish Pleasure, Easy Goer, Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Monarchos, Pleasant Colony, Bold Forbes, Fusaichi Pegasus, Vino Rosso, Frosted, and Mo Donegal. It’s not the race, it’s who the trainers send there. And I believe Cox is sending two good ones this year headed by this guy.


5—Reincarnate (Tim Yakteen, Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy) 

If you ask me what single moment stands out on the Derby trail this year from a visual standpoint I would have to say it was the sight of Reincarnate powering down the stretch with that great extension and fluid stride to finish third in the Rebel after having just about everything go wrong for him in the race, which was his first on a sloppy track, first outside California, and first in a new barn. You don’t have to win to show what you are, and although I was impressed with his courage and tenacity in winning the Sham Stakes after battling on the lead the whole way, I was even more impressed with him in the Rebel coming from ninth, a dozen lengths off the pace. This horse even looks tough from a physical standpoint with his powerful fame, charcoal gray coat and white splotches. His former trainer Bob Baffert, not a man of many words when texting, summed him up in only three words back on February 4: “Strong colt. Tough.”  That strength and toughness should have him in the fight down the stretch of the Kentucky Derby.  But first he has to take care of business in his second trip back to Oaklawn against some pretty good horses.


6—Derma Sotogake (Hidetaki Otonashi, Mind Your Biscuits – Neo Universe, by Sunday Silence)

We all know by now how formidable the Japanese horses have been all over the world, becoming more and more dominant, and this is a very serious horse who is more than capable of winning the Kentucky Derby after his brilliant performance in the UA Derby. Make of this what you wish, but if he crawled home another sixteenth in :07 1/5 he would have won the Dubai World Cup. We saw his versatility when he went right to the front despite being a confirmed come from behind horse with a powerful late kick. Once he was able to put it in cruise control flicking his ears around you knew he was going to be very tough to catch. But he absolutely crushed his rivals and did it mostly all on his own as he strung out the field in the stretch in his first start over a mile, while striding out beautifully in the final furlong. Yes he is by a top-class sprinter who had a good deal of stamina in his pedigree, but he really gets his stamina from his dam, whose two grandsires are Sunday Silence, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Tony Bin, winner of the Arc de Triomphe. His third dam is by the rarely seen Dike, winner of the Gotham and Wood Memorial and a close third in the Kentucky Derby behind Majestic Prince and Arts and Letters. Derma Sotogake actually bears a close resemblance to the flashy chestnut Dike, who ironically also deviated from his late-running style to set the pace in the Belmont Stakes before finishing third. Dike is by major stamina influence Herbager and Derma Sotogake is inbred top and bottom to the class and stamina influence Hail to Reason.


7—Disarm (Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner – Easy Tap, by Tapit)

I gave him the slightest edge over Kingsbarns because I thought so highly of him early on I actually had him ranked No. 12 in Week 1 as a maiden sprint winner. He has done nothing this year to alter that opinion. He just has got to find a better neighborhood in which to hang out, because every time he goes out he gets robbed. That’s twice now he’s had a race stolen right out from under him, and both times the thief took off so fast at the end there was no way he could catch them. First it was Two Eagles River, who set an easy pace and flew home, and now it was Kingsbarns, who was allowed to crawl a half in :49 3/5 and three-quarters in a sluggish 1:14 3/5 in the Louisiana Derby. Disarm, meanwhile, was busy ducking in at the break and bumping with Sun Thunder and then ducking in again, almost into the rail, soon after. He was down on the rail the whole race, and could only watch Kingsbarns open up and come home his final three-sixteenths in a sensational :18 1/5, while he might have even closed a tick faster than that. And he kept going after the wire, galloping out strongly. He has now had two races this year and no chance to win either one while closing strongly each time to get second. But he got a lot out of both of them after being sidelined for six months. With the way he’s come back at 3 and his pedigree, along with getting his much-needed 40 points, I think it’s safe to say he is now ready to peak in the Kentucky Derby, having a strong mile and a 1 3/16-mile race under him. He should be a good price in the next Future Wager, and that is the time to bet him and get a potential huge overlay.


8—Kingsbarns (Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit)

The bad news is that he will go into the Kentucky Derby off only three career starts, the last of which he was able to steal with a lackadaisical three-quarters in 1:14 3/5, which is trotting horse time. The good news is that he gets extra credit for all the work he put in in his troubled career debut (see the very first Knocking on the Door), and by closing his final three-sixteenths in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby in :18 1/5 he put himself in a position where he was virtually impossible to catch, drawing off to a 3 1/2-length victory. Good luck finding a Preakness in which they came home faster than that. Spendthrift Farm paid $800,000 for him at the OBS 2-year-old sale. He was a big beautiful colt with a great pedigree who breezed fast and did it easily. He came out of the sale with a few minor issues so they took their time with him. Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey always likes to quote the farm’s late owner B. Wayne Hughes, who used to say he liked horses who had excuses to get beat, but still won anyway. He would have loved Kingsbarns after his first race, because most horses would have gotten beat, but he found a way to win, and that was going one mile, a tough distance to start a career. So although he’s had only three starts he could very well have the necessary experience and is as battle-tested as horses with more than three starts. Who knows, he could be the most talented of Pletcher’s three stars.


9—Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook, Violence – Lemon Belle, by Lemon Drop Kid)

He still has to make believers out of the skeptics who have never known what to make of him, and he has a tough road ahead going against Tapit Trice, National Treasure, Verifying, and possibly Confidence Game in the Blue Grass Stakes. He has finished first and second at odds of 23-1, so he has already surprised a lot of people. He also has won by margins of 5 1/4 and 7 1/2 lengths, the latter in the Gotham Stakes, so he knows how to finish his opponents off. He has also come from third, fourth, fifth, ninth, and 10th in his races, so we know he can be running anywhere on the racetrack. And his six starts have been at five different distances. So do we really know who this horse is and what to expect from him? If his Gotham performance was who he is then we should expect more fireworks from him, especially when he stretches out in distance in what looks to be a tough Arkansas Derby field. The only time he’s been 1 1/16 miles he finished a strong second to a loose on the lead Jace’s Road in the Gun Runner Stakes. Let’s remember, it’s not easy for a horse to put in a big rally from the back of the pack in a 14-horse field, be forced to check when another horse came in on him, and then not only get going again and continuing his rally, but win by 7 1/2 lengths. It might not be wise to underestimate this colt.


10—Two Phil’s (Larry Rivelli, Hard Spun – Mia Torri, by General Quarters)

If there is one thing I’ve learned on the Derby trail it is to respect horses coming off a synthetic surface, especially when they are already proven dirt horses. Two Phil’s has been a trainer’s dream, having run at six tracks and finishing in the money at five of them, four in stakes, including a powerful victory in Saturday’s Jeff Ruby Steaks in his first start over a synthetic surface and defeating a number of proven stakes horses. He has now won or placed in stakes at Turfway Park, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, and Canterbury Downs. Not only did he defeat stakes winners on synthetic or grass Funtastic Again, Congruent, and Major Dude and an undefeated synthetic horse Wadsworth, he mowed them down like he’d been running on synthetic all his life, drawing off to a 5 1/4-length victory in 1:49 flat and coming home his final three-eighths in a sensational :36 2/5 (:24 1/5 and :12 1/5). He now has now won stakes at six furlongs and 1 1/16 miles on dirt and 1 1/8 miles on synthetic, and now heads back to dirt, just as Rich Strike did last year. His breeder withdrew him from a sale as a weanling, had to buy him back when he failed to meet is reserve as a yearling, and withdrew him again from a sale as a 2-year-old, finally having to keep him and race him. We should all be so unlucky being forced to keep a horse who has already earned almost $700,000 and is heading to the Kentucky Derby.


11—Geaux Rocket Ride (Dick Mandella, Candy Ride – Beyond Grace, by Uncle Mo)

If you’re looking for a good back story, in 2021, Matt Wiseman of Equine Analysis Systems met Jim and Dana Bernhard at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale. The Bernhards had never owned a Thoroughbred and Jim wanted to buy one for Dana for her birthday, so he asked Wiseman to find him one. He and his team, as they always do, used their technology and data to measure physiology along with traditional horsemanship. One horse in particular came up with a high statistical likelihood of success, so they bought him for the Bernhards for $350,000. They had high hopes for the colt, and it was confirmed the following year when Wiseman went to see him at Keith Asmussen’s training center in Laredo, Texas where he was being broke. The colt had grown and filled out into a beautiful physical specimen and Wiseman began thinking they might have something special. Even the conservative Dick Mandella raved about him after he began training him. In October of 2022 The Bernhards bought the historic Pin Oak Stud, owned by the late Josephine Abercrombie. They now have started a full-fledged breeding and racing operation, and it all started with the first horse Jim ever bought as a birthday present for his wife. That horse, named Geaux Rocket Ride, is now one of the favorites for the Santa Anita Derby. Now that’s what I call an introduction to racing.


12—Skinner (John Shirreffs, Curlin – Winding Way, by Malibu Moon)

Now that several of the 100-point races have been run and we’ve had some solid additions to the probable Derby hopefuls list, and with two more big races this weekend,  it is time for him and others in Southern California to turn up their A game and pick up the necessary points in the Santa Anita Derby. There will be some formidable opponents standing in his way, including the brilliant non-Derby participant Cave Rock, and of course Practical Move. He should get the lively pace he needs with Geaux Rocket Ride in there as well, so if he can get the right setup and a good trip he should be able to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby with another strong closing effort. He is one horse who has really matured over the winter and developed into a professional racehorse. Now we just have to see how he handles a field of fast and classy horses. There is no urgency to win; just close well enough to pick up second and possibly even third, although the latter would make it too close for comfort.


13—Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner – Red House, by Tapit)

We all have seen what a powerful closer this horse is, and perhaps we have asked ourselves what is a son of Gun Runner doing coming from so far back when the vast majority of his offspring have shown good early speed just as he did? Well, the answer might be as simple as looking at his past performances and seeing that in seven career starts he has never sprinted. In his career debut going 1 1/16 miles on grass at Saratoga, he was running sixth in a seven-horse field through sluggish fractions of :50 4/5 and 1:16. He was closer to the pace in his next start, also on grass, at tricky Kentucky Downs, but that was over an extremely deep course and they went the three-quarters in 1:15. So when they put him on dirt for the first time there is a good chance that whatever speed he might have had was taken away from him and it’s often hard to put it back. We keep forgetting how beneficial sprints can be to put speed into a horse. With all that said, he has developed into a dangerous stretch runner, but he has to depend on the speed of others to be most effective.


14—National Treasure (Tim Yakteen, Quality Road – Treasure, by Medaglia d’Oro)

He continued his string of brilliant works with a six-furlong drill in 1:12 1/5. You never want to see a Derby campaign interrupted, especially by a physical setback, so when he missed the San Felipe with a minor foot bruise that put a big question mark over his head. Fortunately he was able to get back to the work tab and with a flourish after being turned over to Yakteen and now looks to be back on track to make the Run for the Roses following some eye-popping works. So instead of following the Santa Anita path he gets an extra week and will head to Keeneland to face Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass Stakes, and there is no reason to think he won’t come back with a strong effort. He has already picked up points in his stakes placings and he just needs to turn in one of his typical solid performances to continue on to Churchill Downs.


15—Slip Mahoney (Brad Cox, Arrogate – Got Lucky, by A.P. Indy)

In his four races, here is where he’s been at the half-mile call: 2nd by a head, 2nd by a half-length, 9th by 5 1/2 lengths, and 13th by 11 lengths. The last two were after breaking slowly. The impressive part is that he ran a big race in all of them, so in some sense it doesn’t matter where he is. Does that sound a bit like his sire Arrogate, who won the Travers in a track-record romp on the front end, the Breeders’ Cup Classic laying just off the pace, and the Dubai World Cup coming from far back in last after breaking slowly? No one is comparing him to Arrogate, but there does seem to be a similar pattern there, so perhaps in some ways he is his father’s son in that he can adjust to anything and still run his race. Looking at his pedigree, we know all about Arrogate, but his dam, by A.P. Indy, won the grade 1 Spinster Stakes and his third dam Get Lucky was a grade 3 winner bred by Ogden Phipps and is a full-sister to Travers winner and 2-year-old champion Rhythm. Get Lucky’s dam Dance Number, a daughter of Hall of Famer Numbered Account, won the grade 1 Beldame Stakes and is a half sister to multiple grade 1 winner Private Account, sire of the great Personal Ensign. Good luck trying to find a better female line than that. He is still one of my top two or three sleepers for the Kentucky Derby.


16—Angel of Empire (Brad Cox, Classic Empire – Armony’s Empire, by To Honor and Serve)

Saturday’s Arkansas Derby will determine if he is the real deal and that his victory in the Risen Star Stakes was just the first step in becoming one of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders. For Cox the Louisiana Derby didn’t go quite as he planned, so a lot of his hopes are now pinned to this guy. His speed figures are all over the place, depending on whether you believe in his Beyers, which say he is too slow right now, or his Brisnet and Thoro-Graph numbers, which say he is right up the with the fastest 3-year-olds. What I do find interesting about him is that in his five starts he’s been ridden by four different jockeys. Take away his one poor effort going 6 1/2 furlongs on grass at Kentucky Downs in his second career start and he has three victories and a second in four starts, all at a mile or 1 1/8 miles. I have never ranked him very high because the Risen Star did not look like a strong race visually, but I’m starting to believe that maybe we’ve only scratched the surface with him and there is still a lot of improvement there. We’ll find out on Saturday when he faces far more talented horses.


17—Rocket Can (Bill Mott, Into Mischief – Tension, by Tapit)

Bill Mott had to pick his poison and he chose a deep, wide-open Arkansas Derby for Rocket Can over crossing paths with Forte again. He had a great shot to finish second again in the Florida Derby and pick up big points, and while he likely has a better shot to win the Arkansas Derby, he also has a better shot to finish out of the money and come away with nothing facing the likes of Reincarnate, Angel of Empire, Red Route One, Two Eagles River, and several up and comers. It all depends on how much improvement he’s made since his well-beaten second-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and how he handles the move to Oaklawn. If he takes another significant step forward and gets a good trip in a big field he could be right there. This is a tougher spot overall, but you have respect Mott’s decision to go for broke and try for the win.


18—Verifying (Brad Cox, Justify – Diva Delite, by Repent)

I expect to move him higher following this weekend’s races. Following his stunning six-furlong work in 1:12 4/5 at Fair Grounds I am looking forward to seeing him go up against Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass Stakes following his unlucky trip in the Rebel Stakes. He will also be facing the runaway Gotham winner Raise Cain and possibly the Rebel winner Confidence Game, who could go straight to the Derby. So with or without Confidence Game this is shaping up as an intriguing race. I gave him a pass in the Rebel after being hampered by traffic at a crucial point in the race and still managing to finish fourth. I am more inclined to look at his 5 1/4-length allowance victory over Gun Pilot and Two Eagles River and his second-place finish in the Champagne Stakes coming off one six-furlong maiden score. With all the strong Derby contenders Cox had at one point, he could be one of the strongest by the first Saturday in May with a big effort in the Blue Grass.


19—Two Eagles River (Chris Hartman, Cloud Computing – Majestic Island, by Majestic Warrior)

The more I watch his allowance victory over Disarm the more impressed I am from a visual standpoint and by how fast he closed. I decided to put him in the rankings after seeing how fast Disarm came home once again in the Louisiana Derby. This is a horse who got a monster 104 Brisnet speed figure in his career debut going five furlongs in the slop and then ran back-to-back figures of 95. After a regression stretching out to a mile he went back up to a 96 in his last start with a 103 late pace figure. I can’t say this is a Kentucky Derby horse and I don’t know if he can carry is speed a mile and a quarter, as he does have several speed influences in his female family, but I can see him taking the Arkansas Derby field a long way, depending on how Reincarnate breaks and what his strategy will be.


20—Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans, Into Mischief – Areyoucominghere, by Bernardini)

With the exception of Forte, the Florida Derby has come up a weak race, and there is no reason to believe he won’t take them farther than he did when third in the Fountain of Youth, which was a big bounce back race after his dismal performance in the Holy Bull Stakes. You can bet if he picks up enough points Romans will run him in the Kentucky Derby. His only two victories have come in a maiden and an allowance race, but he was right there at the eighth pole in the Fountain and only gave way late when Forte pulled away from him. He could go right to the front again on Saturday if no one challenges him, but he is more than capable of sitting just off the pace, as he did in his 5 3/4-length allowance victory.



If you want to know how difficult it was to close from off the pace in the Louisiana Derby after those extremely slow fractions just watch the way INSTANT COFFEE picked off horses on the far turn like he was going to blow by everyone only to have his big move stopped abruptly once they turned for home. Remember, he had been off a long time and could very well have been a bit short coming back at 1 3/16 miles. Now I don’t know where he stands. I would keep him at the bottom of the Rankings, feeling he needed the race, but with only 32 points and a number of big races still to be run, there is a major question of whether he will make the cut. That is the drawback when you skip a race with a seemingly healthy horse and then have to lay everything on the line in one race off a layoff and stretching out that far in distance. We’ll just have to monitor how the leader board shapes up in the weeks to come.

I debated long and hard what to do with CONFIDENCE GAME, who I admit deserves to be ranked off his record. But I honestly don’t know what’s going on with him mentally that forced Keith Desormeaux to skip both the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbys and even contemplate going straight to the Kentucky Derby off a 10-week layoff. If the reason is mental that doesn’t bode well for the Derby anyway. So the final option is running in the Blue Grass Stakes, which is going to be a tough race. But if he runs he definitely will return to the Rankings, and if he doesn’t I just can’t see him being a factor off such a long layoff and the reason for it.

The unknown factor for the Florida Derby will be California invader FORT BRAGG, who was scratched from the Sunland Derby by new trainer Tim Yakteen and re-routed to Gulfstream to take on Forte. The son of Tapit was third in the Los Alamitos Futurity and most recently finished fifth in the San Felipe.

The isn’t much to say about Sunday’s Sunland Derby won by 35-1 shot WILD ON ICE, who was beaten more than 20 lengths in both the Riley Allison Derby and Mine The Bird Derby. But this time he tracked the two big favorites, HARD TO FIGURE and HENRY Q and went on to outduel LOW EXPECTATIONS while they both tired.

Here is this week’s trivia quiz. What do these 3-year-old stakes horses have in common? Fountain of Youth winner Forte, Rebel winner Confidence Game, Risen Star winner Angel of Empire, Gotham winner Raise Cain, Gotham runner-up Slip Mahoney, and Mine That Bird Derby winner Henry Q? Answer: All sold at the world’s most exclusive yearling sale, Keeneland September, for under $200,000. Angel of Empire sold for $70,000 and Confidence Game fo $25,000. Even the Kentucky Derby favorite Forte sold for only $110,000. It’s fine if people want to spend millions for yearlings in Book 1 and 2 of the sale, but you can find a top horse way down in the late books if you know what you’re looking at and have a bit of luck. So far this year the Derby trail has been dominated by Keeneland’s Bargain Basement Babies.

ARCTIC ARROGANCE continues to build up his stamina for the Wood Memorial, working six furlongs in a quick 1:13 1/5. This is a tough, hard-trying horse with a strong foundation who has been in his share of battles and you can bet he will make his presence felt in the Wood as he always does. Watch for him to possibly make the Rankings next week, depending what happens on Saturday.

Earlier I mentioned MAGE as a horse who should show big improvement in the Florida Derby after being competitive and giving way grudgingly against Forte in the Fountain of Youth. He was right there going eyeball to eyeball with him turning for home. He had a strange work this week, breezing six furlongs in 1:16 2/5. If that is what trainer Gustavo Delgado was looking for perhaps he is trying to take some of his speed away from him. This is a horse who won his debut going seven furlongs in 1:22 2/5.

The consistent and hard-knocking CLASSIC CAR WASH, second in the Tampa Bay Derby and third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes after impressive victories in a maiden and allowance race, breezed a half in :49 4/5 for trainer Mark Casse. This is another horse who is improving at the right time.

With one serious Japanese horse already to consider, we might want to throw in a couple more possibilities. We have already mentioned MANDARIN HERO who runs in the Santa Anita Derby, and now we have MITONO O, who captured the 1 1/8-mile Fukuryu Stakes, the final race on Japan’s road to the Kentucky Derby.  The son of Japanese-bred Logotype was able to score a wire-to-wire 2 1/2-length victory over the right-handed track at Nakayama. Runner-up MOKKU MOKKU closed fast and late from far back and way out in the middle of the track to cut the winner’s margin down from five to six lengths while never threatening.


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252 Responses to “2023 Derby Rankings – Week 10”

  1. Discopartner says:

    I was disappointed to see Gulfstream had to adjust the race time for the FL Dby, they added about .9 second, all to the final fraction, which may have just been an expedient. The final was around 13.02, but I figured that Forte ran a half second faster than that, 12.5 (I don’t use 1/5’s), which is respectable, but not the unreal fraction it was for a day, less than 12. GP had the same problem last year! What’s wrong with 1/ST? The name? They never used to have these problems.

  2. Bill Dawson says:

    Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database continues to list Dosage Profiles, Dosage Indexes and Center of Distribution (CD)
    on the horses that they profile. Some would say this is an outdated science, but if that ‘s the case, why does the database continue to list profiles? I for one, believe the profile, on any given horse, may suggest an indication of speed and stamina.
    Nyquist had a high Dosage Index of 6.00, which is relatively high for a Kentucky Derby winner. Yesterday, we saw Angel of Empire win the Arkansas Derby, showing exceptional speed in the late going. He has a Dosage Index of 9.00, which leads me to believe he just might use that late speed to be a major contender in the KD.

    • Mary says:

      Bill, if one is looking for stamina, Angel of Empire has it on the tail of his pedigree. I certainly love his broodmare sire, To Honor and Serve. Further back in his pedigree you will find the Buckpasser/Princequillo combination of stamina. Angel of Empire should be able to carry his speed for a long distance.

  3. Roberta Greevey says:

    Randy Moss was right. I used a stopwatch four times on the telecast replay. The final time ranged from 1:49.35 to 1:49.44. Moss timed it at 1:49.39, so my average is in line with his time. This means that Forte’s final eighth was okay, but not exceptional. I wonder if Equibase will make corrections.

    • Discopartner says:

      You mean they went with Moss hand timing it? There are ways of doing this using video frame counters, you can’t just hand time it by watching a video with a watch, sorry. And equibase took it as gospel. I wonder what started it because they had all the times up for the race, but didn’t have them for the early races. Why would he raise the issue in the first place? Someone should investigate the investigation.

    • Roberta Greevey says:

      Equibase has adjusted the final time (only) to 1:49.37. See the story on TDN.

  4. Lynda King says:

    Sincere apologies, just realized I gave Cyclone Mischief a new name.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Steve…have you ever seen a year where every Derby prep is won by closers? Is there any speed going in the 2023 Kentucky Derby? IF….Geaux Rocket Ride wins next Sat—and he might—-could Richard Mandella and son Gary be coming to Louisville with the controlling speed?..

  6. John Goggin says:

    I’ve read some interesting comments made by horseracing analysts and journalists regarding Forte today saying that Forte has not taken a step forward while others such as Mage, Practical Move, Two Phils and Kingsbarns has taken that step up. I even admitted in a comment prior to the Florida Derby that perhaps Forte had reached his ceiling.
    Now it comes out that Beyer has downgraded his figure for Forte from 98 to 95.
    I just don’t see it that way anymore. I believe that Forte is a winning machine. It could be Ortiz, Jr. or the horse or a combination of both but this team knows how to win.
    It reminds me the heavyweight championship years of Ali, Frazier and Foreman. All had charisma and excitement. Then after they left Larry Holmes came on the scene. To some he lacked the charisma and excitement of the other three but Holmes won and won and won. He was a winning machine.
    Or for movie buffs I remember “The Verdict” (1982) whereas Ed Concannon played by James Mason opposite Paul Newman and head of a large, powerful law firm would ask his young proteges how a trial went and each time the protege would answer “I did my best” James Mason would then ask “But did you win?”. And what an actor Mason was.
    Even Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders would often say “Just win baby.”.
    Forte wins. He is a winning machine.

    • Davids says:

      John, using your boxing analogy, perhaps Larry Holmes is about to meet Mike Tyson in the Kentucky Derby. Forte lost a bit of gloss in the Florida Derby in some people’s eyes. Time will tell.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Question is, have they moved Angel of Empire’s Beyer up? Personally, both horses are real contenders for the win at Churchill Downs, no matter what the Beyers say.

      We’ll have time to get Steve’s take on ALL the figures well before the horses go to the post.

      • Jeff says:

        What the BSF are screaming, with Forte at 95 and the Angel’s at 94, is the winner will be a surprise package-late developer!

    • Matthew W says:

      Forte has run twice this year, and he has taken a step forward into the winners circle both times!..

    • Mary says:

      Right now, my favorites are Kingsbarns and Angel of Empire. Both of their pedigrees are replete with stamina on the tail.

  7. Matthew W says:

    94 Beyer for Angel of Empire means….if he wins the Derby Beyer will CHANGE the numbers of the Risen Star and Arkensas Derby….I recall Jumron…..72 Beyer at Portland Meadows goes to Bay Meadows 108 Beyer, horse had run several times in the northwest….horse was good, no way did he jump up 36 points in 5 weeks….I recall I’ll Have Another ran 1:40 4/5 and received a 94 Beyer, then won three gr1s…..

    • Roberta Greevey says:

      Matthew, I just saw this from Mike Welsch at DRF: “According to representatives of the Beyer Speed Figures, the Beyer Figure for Florida Derby winner Forte has been lowered to 95 based on a corrected final time of 1:49.39 as calculated by Randy Moss. No official change in the final time has been reported yet by Equibase.” What the ****?

      Ha ha! I’ll wait for the Brisnet figures, and the Thoro-Graph numbers reported by Steve.

      • Jeff says:

        Florida derby appeared visually to be a slow race with pace collapsing, and not highest of quality of horses running.

      • Matthew W says:

        Your top Derby horses looked like a good list….Hopper runs 1:37 3/5, Angel 1:49 3/5 so he got an extra furlong in :12…….track at Oaklawn not that fast yesterday 1:49 3/5 a TERRIFIC time, I’m worried about a possible bounce, if he repeats that effort in Louisville I think he’ll be a major player!

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          Bounces ain’t what they used to be. With these lightly raced colts, it’s difficult to bounce off of a big effort. Besides, I don’t think AoE’s figures will be much higher than his Risen Star performance.

  8. Roberta Greevey says:

    I know that it’s very difficult to adequately rank the horses that haven’t had their final prep with those that have. But I will anyway. My Derby Half-Dozen:

    1) Practical Move, 2) Forte, 3) Angel of Empire, 4) Tapit Trice, 5) Hit Show, 6) Two Phil’s

    Mage, Kingsbarns, and Geaux Rocket Ride don’t make it because I don’t think that any of them are at the level of Justify as colts that didn’t race at 2.

    • Davids says:

      Roberta, the Derby has finally come alive. Forte and Angel of Empire look solid and if Practical Move and Tapit Trice perform well next Saturday, not sure who is in the Wood Memorial at this stage, we’ll have 5 colts, I’m adding Mage, with every chance of winning. The Japanese colts are too difficult to judge, they could be world beaters or totally overrated, who knows? The fun begins, the dreaded post positions.

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        You’re on target, Davids. I’ve got PM on top because he has the tactical speed that typically wins the derby. Staying out of trouble is a good philosophy in life and in racing.

        • Davids says:

          We’re on the same wavelength, Roberta. The only concern I have with Practical Move is the 10f but the Santa Anita Derby always give you the answer on that score. In the Kentucky Derby, you like colts that can adapt quickly and avoid the inevitable logjams that occur in a 20 horse field.

  9. Ms Blacktype says:

    Angel of Empire got a 94 Beyer, which probably puts both King Russell and one of my favorite horses this year, Reincarnate, in the high 80s.

    While I was impressed with both Forte and Angel of Empire, Forte looked more of a beast, at least to me. That said, Angel of Empire really surprised me by burying some good horses in his field. Other than my top two (Forte and Practical Move) yesterday’s races made a big change in my Derby 20. Steve’s rankings should be verrry, verrrry interesting, as Arte Johnson would say.

    • Davids says:

      Yes, Ms Blacktype, Angel of Empire keeps improving with leaps and bounds just the type that wins a Kentucky Derby.

  10. Terri Z says:

    To Steve Haskin:
    Did Forte’s antics in the show ring and on the track remind you of his second cousin: Zenyatta? I fell more in love with Forte due to his lovable prancing, dancing, and show boating much like his cousin. And he even has her great closing kick. Irad said that is his usual behavior and then he gets down to business.
    To those unfamiliar with Zenyatta: Zenyatta, Forte, and Blame are related through Kris S.Zenyatta’s dam Vertigineux’s sire is Kris S. Forte’s dam is from Blame. Blame’s sire, Arch, was fathered by Chris S. Forte and Zenyatta are second cousins.

    • Lynda King says:

      Yes, his antics do remind me of Zenyatta!

      • Terri Z says:

        Thanks Lynda, I thought he reminded me of his cousin, Zenyatta.
        Lynda King, I thought Forte was amazing in how he won the race. I love everything about him.
        And the biggest irony is that his dam was bred by a Claiborne stallion, Blame, who is a first cousin to Zenyatta. And this is the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown. And Penny Chenery started the Secretariat Vox Populi and chose Zenyatta to be the first recipient.
        There are not coincidences, the Horse Racing Gods and Ms. Chenery are very busy up in heaven. This year will be special.

    • Lynda King says:

      Terri, have you watched the overhead view of the stretch?
      Mage blew by Forte and then Ortiz boldly sent him 5 wide.
      Forte won a race that supposedly impossible for him to win.

  11. Roberta Greevey says:

    What an amazing day on the Derby trail! When Forte entered the walking ring he looked so sharp and ready for a fight. But by the time we got to the rail to get a good position for the post-parade and warmups, he looked liked a different horse. To Nelson Maan, Terri Z, and anyone else who was there, did you see the same thing? I told my friends that I didn’t like how Forte looked, and that Mage looked great. So they bet on Mage to WPS.

    When Mage started his impressive rally before the turn, and then passed Forte, I thought he was a winner. Though it looked hopeless at the 1/8th pole, Forte found his stride. I haven’t seen the chart, but I’ll bet he went the final furlong in 12 seconds…or LESS. Did Saez move too soon with Mage? As for Forte, he’ll have to break better in the KD, and be closer to the leader when they straighten out into the stretch.

    How about Angel of Empire? Somebody here was high on him and wrote a couple of times in recent weeks about how he was being overlooked. Was that Matthew? Simon? Looks like the Risen Star Stakes has become pivotal since FG increased the distance.

    As a longtime South Floridian, I must acknowledge the miraculous run by Florida Atlantic in the NCAA tournament. Univ of Miami’s journey was almost as amazing an accomplishment. Kudos to finalists SDSU and UConn. I must add that local Nova Southeastern University won the Division II championship.

    Three big ones to go!

    • Matthew W says:

      It was not Matthew W who liked Angel of Empire, admittedly….

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Hi Roberta.

      Great day of racing yesterday at Gulfstream…

      I watched the Florida Derby bunch from the saddling area to the waling ring and loved how Mage looked. I was recording with my phone the horses in the walking ring and Forte’s handler was kind enough to spin the horse in modeling for of us…

      but I realized afterward that I had unknowingly stopped recording after the first pass of Mage … the light rain made me clean the phone many times and apparently in one touch I stopped the recording.

      Anyway, I saw Forte full of energy in the walking ring and he was all business focusing during warm up as you said….

      I thought the race was over for Mage when he broke completely last but Luis Saez was great in driving the chestnut circling the field and at some point he looked to leave Forte way behind in their dash. As we expected Mage made the Forte work a bit harder this time… but the champion is a worthy Derby favorite after his impressive closing kick… he has done everything now.

      I hope all the horses come back well from those efforts and keep healthy and happy until D day…!

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Nelson, I was looking for you…based on your online photo attached to your comments. Dou you still have a beard? Ha ha!

        • Nelson Maan says:

          Yes Roberta…

          • Roberta Greevey says:

            Nelson, I just watched the replay. Mage’s move was even more stunning than what I could see from the rail. He is a very talented colt. And as close as I was to the start of the race, I didn’t realize his start was as bad as it looked in the replay. He is going to win some big races as he gains experience.

      • Davids says:

        Nelson, your faith in Mage has come to fruition, for a second, you thought he had the Florida Derby. I thought Mage ran the best race especially when he broke slowly. Luis Saez, as you say, should be congratulated on his ride.

    • Davids says:

      Roberta, something that surprised more than anything in the Florida Derby was how well Mr. Ripple performed considering he was so washy, rearing at the start, sweating profusely yet was only 5 lengths from the winner. For me, Forte lost composure, during the post parade, warmup, start I didn’t think he was going to perform as expected. Mage, ran as he looked, had the jockey waited a tad more it would have been much closer.

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        That should be a good learning experience for Mage AND Saez. As for Mr. Ripple…Who was that masked man? Ha ha!

    • Terri Z says:

      Thanks Roberta Greevey. Several people were quite concerned when they saw Forte sweating on the track. After the race, Gulfstream showed the interview of all of the connections of Forte (2023 Florid Derby Interview on You Tube). Irad Ortiz, jr., said that this is Forte’s usual behavior on the track and in the walking ring. Don’t forget he has that large efficient heart in his pedigree like his relatives Zenyatta and Blame and he can worked up and is still good to go.
      What a personality Forte has, so much talent, and intelligence. What a horse!! Do we ever need a really talented horse like we did 50 years back.

  12. John Goggin says:

    First, congrats to the winners today at America’s prep KD races….Forte and Angel of Empire…..but dang, Forte just received a 98 Beyer for his win today….is this horse about as consistently good or what?
    Another 98 Beyer? A believe the last five or six races this horse has run has been measured by Beyer in the 98-100….and another win.
    If you want a horse that gives you a 98-100 Beyer every race they run then who better than Forte?
    Going forward will this be enough?

    PS…congrats to the Aztecs of San Diego State for reaching the title game.

    • Davids says:

      That is the eternal question, John. The answer is in the running. Ha ha

    • Lynda King says:

      John, I think Forte had a great race and no doubt learned from it.
      Some have commented about his behavior in the paddock and in the post parade.
      If one has been following Forte as I have and watched his schooling sessions they would know that being up on his toes is normal for him.
      When asked in an interview after the race, Todd said that if he was not up before the race that he would be concerned and that after his warm-up gallop he settled down to business.
      So far I am impressed by how he seems to be holding his weight and condition and seems to bounce back quickly after a race.
      That is something I think is very important in this long run up to the Derby.
      You have hit on something else that I think is important…consistency. That too is something I look for as well.
      Others have commented on the win margin of being only a length.
      Not only is a win a win but in this instance Forte demonstrated that he has more in the tank in the stretch.

      • Terri Z says:

        Linda King: As a Zenyatta fan, I loved the show that Forte put on in the show ring and on the track. He was prancing, showing off, and playing like his much older cousin, Zenyatta had done on the track.
        Forte is related to Zenyatta through his damsire Blame. Blame’s sire, Arch, was Kris S. Zenyatta’s dam was Vertigineux who was sired by Kris S. Blame and Zeynyatta are first cousins. Then Forte and Zenyatta are second cousins.
        I have been in love with Forte since I first watch him race at Saratoga (on TV). But I am even more in love with his with his antics.+

  13. Matthew W says:

    Steve look at todays Santa Anita race four….Ultimate Gamble, $1.75 million 2yo purchase….had the one maiden race last August, vs Cave Rock and Practical Move, today he went a mile, 1:36 3/5 he is a huge horse by Medaglia d’Oro out of a Ghostzapper mare….big strides, 2 1/2 lengths gallop out way in front..

  14. Lynda King says:

    Final comment on the day.
    Mike Repole’s enthusiasm for the sport and the horses is so refreshing. He makes me smile!
    So happy for Dale Romans. Just the nicest, kindest person. He and is team are just awesome. He looks great after his weight loss.
    Forte did not disappoint!
    Terri Z, you were spot on. It takes a really good horse to win out of the 11 in that deep track. I think Forte proved himself today. Not always find of Irad but have to admit he is probably the best jockey in the US now.
    Angel Empire and Cyclone Magic both came out of the race in good shape.
    Dale said in an interview after the race that the time off made all the difference in Cyclone Magic.

    • Demolition Derby says:

      Hi Lynda, totally agree on Dale. He comes across so genuine and kind in his interviews. And I commented earlier that Cyclone’s coat was much healthier compared to the FOY. He’s on the improve. I just wonder, can he get 1 1/4 miles?

      • Lynda King says:

        Hello Demolition Derby.
        $64,000 question I guess, not only for CM but all these colts.
        His pedigree certainly says he can.
        If you believe as I do, based on research, the Nearctic was the carrier of the speed gene, he does have speed. I know many like to see inbreeding to Mr Prospector and there has always been some doubt if Into Mischief can consistently sire a speed horse that can go the Derby distance.
        I have always been a believer that on any given first Saturday in May that any horse can win the Derby.
        There are just so many variables in the Derby, including track and weather conditions, post position, jockey strategy, the break and on and on.
        Add too that these colts are raced so lightly now, it is hard for them to get experience racing.
        Not much of an answer I guess.
        He is, according to Dale, going in the right direction even though he is not 3 yet.

        • Demolition Derby says:

          Appreciate the insight Lynda. 1 1/4 is still a grey area imo. Only until you get to 1 1/2 miles is where you can be a little more certain/confident with the distance pedigree.

  15. Discopartner says:

    I don’t think Forte lost any status only winning in the final stretch by just over a length. The pace was fast as in the Derby, maybe a bit faster. He may have been a bit too far back, caught by surprise by the fast pace. I would not overlook the winning time or the come home time, they were well above average. The bottom line is he won and showed again he could fight to the finish.

    • Jiffy says:

      I agree. I’m a fan of Forte–I wanted him to win today and I want him and Irad to win five weeks from today. I feel more confident after this race than I would have if he’d won easily like Angel of Empire did. He had a lot going against him–a bad post, he was said to be sweating and acting up in the paddock, he had a lot of ground to make up, and at one point he appeared to be going nowhere. But he was able to get it all together, to close with a rush, and to win. I was reminded of all the times I thought Buckpasser was beaten but he always got to the wire first. Forte proved that he’s not intimidated–he can overcome bad situations and he doesn’t give up. He showed the qualities I wanted to see, and I was very pleased with him.

      • Davids says:

        It was the ‘sweating and acting up in the paddock’ that concerned me the most more than the closish win. Normally, Forte is so composed, just something that seemed out of character. Mind you, it may be nothing, wait and see. I feel the competition is catching up with Forte though, makes for a more exciting race come the first Saturday in May.

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          As I recall, the FOY day temp was in the low 80s, like yesterday. Forte looked great that day in the walking ring and the warmups. To think that he may have been a bit off yesterday yet win the way he did…Wow!

          • Davids says:

            Yes Roberta, Forte in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Fountain of Youth appeared, on the internet anyway, ready to explode but in total control. Cool, calm, collected – composed, ready to perform. In the Florida Derby, on the internet, Forte appeared agitated, sweating slightly, wanting things to be over. I hadn’t seen this behavior before from Forte, it may be nothing but at Churchill Downs…

  16. Demolition Derby says:

    Swing and a miss! lol

    Forte is good.

  17. Bill Dawson says:

    It ain’t over until it’s over.
    San Diego St. Aztecs advances to the title game, with a last second shot to beat Florida Atlantic.
    This one’s for you Simon.

  18. Lynda King says:


  19. Matthew W says:

    1:49 3/5 is a very good time, for the Arkansas Derby… earlier Hopper won the Oakjawn Mile in 1:37 3/5 so this time is faster…

  20. Matthew W says:

    Forte won like he was galloping…..there’s more…much more in his tank….Arkansas Derby I gotta think Harlocap is going to send, being that Steve also has Red Route One….thought Fort Bragg ran OK, but if you’re going to send, you need to break better than a length behind the field, Joel….can they fit another person on that Oaklawn apron?!…must be 50,000 at least….

    • Davids says:

      Forte won but perhaps it was his least impressive race, I expected more but then again the Florida Derby is a prep to the main event. Mage is improving at the right time. Agree with you on Rosario’s ride but Fort Bragg is definitely not a 10f horse anyway.

      Angel of Empire impressed more in the Arkansas Derby win but how good was the field? Next week the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes and Wood Memorial will answer more questions.

      • Jeff says:

        I think at this stage, the KD, is wide open. People will play the safe play in Forte. He won’t win, I’m taking that stand. Has it run over a 100 BSF yet?

        • Davids says:

          I think you’re right but there still appears quite a chasm between the top half dozen or so, this will either expand or shrink after next Saturday’s preps.

          • Todd Vaughn says:

            I think Angel of Empire, and possibly Practical Move, are the horses at this point. Maybe Pletcher didnt’ have Forte quite sharp today, but he still hasn’t progressed from last year, and he got outmoved on the turn. Forte is a winner, but he needs to be faster. Angel of Empire manhandled a deep field and has a great stride. Looks like the most likely Derby winner to me.

            • Davids says:

              I would agree with you that Angel of Empire has had the most impressive win thus far this year, you only have to compare where Mage finished behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth and where Mage finished behind Forte in the Florida Derby to determine which colt is progressing the most as the distances advance to 10f.

              Next weekend’s major preps can’t come sooner. I’d have Forte, Practical Move, and Angel of Empire all equal at No. 1 with Tapit Trice and Mage equal at No. 2 or equal No. 4 depending on how you want to count the numbers down.

  21. Lynda King says:

    Just over the moon! Forte, Mage, Cyclone Magic!

  22. Jeff says:

    Forte-nah. Be smart and play others in KD

  23. Lynda King says: