2023 Derby Handicapping Analysis

Well, it’s finally the end of the road and for all the questions to be answered…we hope. Here is an overview of what has happened since January and who is left from the hundreds of Derby hopefuls. We will conclude with a feeble attempt to explain our wagers, knowing we are all grasping for straws when it comes to the wild and wacky world of the Kentucky Derby. ~ Steve Haskin

Will Forte or the Gray Make Pletcher’s Day?

By Steve Haskin


There is a lot to cover, so no need for any introductions. Let’s just get right to it beginning with some interesting random notes.


The three oldest horses in the Derby field are all trained by Todd Pletcher. It seems a lot of people have jumped off the Forte bandwagon, whether it’s because they weren’t impressed with his Florida Derby victory, he didn’t wow anyone in his workouts, or that his speed figures have not improved since last year, and in fact have regressed. Could it be that by being the second oldest horse in the field, with a February 3 foaling date and shipping to Pletcher on March 25 last year and debuting in brilliant fashion on May 28, he peaked early and has not been able to improve his form from last summer and fall? It sounds strange considering he hasn’t lost since last July while racking up four Grade 1 victories along the way. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see his stablemate Tapit Trice go off as the favorite or close to it. I feel people still like and respect Forte, but not as the 2-1 or 5-2 and are looking elsewhere for value.

On the other hand, that same statistic, along with a few others have made me do a complete 180 on my handicapping the Derby. Two of the first horses I eliminated were Mage and Kingsbarns because of them having only three lifetime starts and not racing at 2. The only horse to overcome that much history (108 years and 141 years) is Justify and he was special enough to win the Triple Crown. So why do I now believe that Kingsbarns has a very good shot to win the Derby? It is because of stats that you won’t find in the past performances. First off, Kingsbarns is the oldest horse in the field and the only horse foaled in January (Jan. 17). So although he’s had only three starts he likely is more physically and mentally mature than the majority of the field. He just had a few minor issues coming out of the 2-year-old that made his connections take their time with him. But his physical and mental maturity may have been evident when Todd Pletcher decided to start off his career going a flat mile at Gulfstream Park, which is a tough distance in which to debut. Not only did Kingsbarns win, he won like a seasoned professional overcoming major traffic problems at the head of the stretch when he was totally boxed in with nowhere to go.

After winning over the quirky Tampa Bay surface for fun, he was given another tough assignment having to go 1 3/16 miles off only two lifetime starts. Many people dismiss his victory, even though it was by a comfortable 3 1/2 lengths, because of the slow fractions he set. But there are several important points that are being overlooked.

In 2017 I raved about Always Dreaming in my Derby Dozen after a 1 1/8-mile allowance victory and ranked him No. 8 before the Florida Derby even though he had never run in a stakes and people knocked his allowance win because of how slow he went (:51 3/5, 1:16 4/5, and 1:53 4/5 for the nine furlongs). But I used that as a positive because of how fast I knew he was, having run :45 and change opening half-miles sprinting. For a horse that fast to be able to turn off that speed and run that slow when asked showed me this was a push-button horse who will run as fast or as slow as you want him to. We all know what happened with Always Dreaming. Well, with Kingsbarns, he had worked a quarter at the Gulfstream Park 2-year-old over a dead racetrack in an insane :20 3/5. His consignor Tom McCrocklin said to work that fast at Gulfstream was “science fiction.” It’s not supposed to happen. So here we have a horse with tremendous speed who is able to slow down the pace in a 1 3/16-mile race, going in :49 3/5 and 1:14 3/5 only because no one else wanted the lead. What also went overlooked was that, even with the slow fractions, Kingsbarns’ final three-sixteenths in :18 1/5 was remarkable considering Preakness winners don’t come home that fast and he did it on the lead.

So the bottom line is perhaps having only three starts isn’t as much of a negative with him as we think it is. And perhaps he has shown us that what he’s done in those three starts only enhances how special a horse he really is and that his early foaling date shows us he is mature far beyond his years. I went back to Week 1 in the Derby Rankings and this is how I began my comment on his debut: “The horse who really caught my eye, but is not quite ready to be ranked in the Top 12, was the Todd Pletcher-trained Kingsbarns, who debuted at a mile at Gulfstream and got so much out of the race it gave him a lot more experience than other horses with only one start.” So there is my 180 turn and I will live with the historical consequences. In short, I have no idea how good this colt really is and how good he may be. If he wins the Derby watch how many times the words Triple Crown will be used.


We no longer have Trakus to help us break down the interior parts of a race, but we do now have GPS, which provides us with the number of strides a horse takes and the varying lengths of his stride. So, did Forte get stronger at the end of the Florida Derby or did Mage get weaker? It’s a combination of both, but there is no doubt Mage was shortening stride. Forte’s maximum stride came in his fourth furlong, reaching a whopping 26 feet, 40 inches. He did shorten it to 24.13 at the eighth pole, but picked it up in that furious final eighth, finishing up at 24.27, which was matched only by Tapit Trice’s 25.39 at the finish of the Blue Grass Stakes and Angel of Empire (25.19) in the Arkansas Derby. The latter is the only horse whose stride got progressively longer in the final three furlongs, which is pretty impressive considering distance had no effect on the length of his stride. As for Mage, his stride got progressively shorter, going down to 21.16 at the end, so he no doubt was tiring in the final furlong. One thing that did impress me about Forte was that 26-foot stride earlier in the race and the fact he was able to lengthen his stride at the wire after it appeared as if he was tiring just before that.


Most of us are aware that Churchill Downs, with its clay base surface, is friendly to horses running on grass and synthetic surfaces. If you are in a quandary about whether Two Phil’s moved way up on Turfway’s Tapeta surface in the Jeff Ruby Steaks or he is simply improving at the right time, it really doesn’t matter. It’s probably a combination of both, but even if he mostly improved because of the synthetic surface, coming off it should help him. Animal Kingdom had never run on dirt going into the Derby. Paddy O’Prado was a grass horse who finished third the Derby. Dullahan excelled on grass and synthetic and also finished third in the Derby. Barbaro was a grass horse, who in his first race over a fast dirt track was all out to beat the distance challenged Sharp Humor by a half-length in the Florida Derby before romping in the Kentucky Derby. And of course last year we had Rich Strike coming off a third in the same Jeff Ruby Steaks. So don’t worry about Two Phil’s, who has already won big in the slop at Churchill Downs and placed twice in graded stakes at Fair Grounds. Even if he isn’t as dynamic as he was at Turfway Park he still has the credentials and the speed figures to win on Saturday and could actually move up coming off the synthetic track.


It has been rare for me to rank a horse coming off a maiden victory, especially if the horse broke his maiden in a photo or in a sprint or on a sloppy track. Times obviously are changing so you have to be more flexible and simply go by what your eyes tell you. Are you seeing a horse with star potential who will excel at classic distances? This year in Week 1 back in January I ranked a horse at No. 12 off a maiden sprint victory, who hadn’t run for 4 1/2 months. He had a lot going against him time-wise, but he showed me enough from his mechanics, raw ability and closing punch to suggest he had a bright future and enough time to get in a couple of two-turn races. But it was going to be very tight and everything would have to work out perfectly. And he still needed to show what he could do going two turns.

A week later I added an even more unusual horse to the Rankings and even had the audacity to rank him at No. 7. I originally put him at No. 5 but figured at the last minute that was going a bit too far so I moved him down two places. What made him unusual was that he only won by a neck coming off one third-place finish and it was on a muddy track. To rank him at all was out of the ordinary, but to rank him that high was insane. However, from a visual standpoint he was outstanding, with a magnificent, fluid stride you rarely see in a young horse. Even in a photo finish there was something dominant about him. So there were these two maiden winners with plenty of question marks taking up two spots in the Rankings in Week 2.

Needless to say there is no way I will not be boxing an exacta of Disarm and Tapit Trice in the Derby, especially after they turned in two of the most impressive works I’ve seen all week. Disarm has looked so strong and focused every day and his two works have been so eye-popping I fear he is now a wise-guy horse who will take a lot of money. All I know is that both horses sure have come a long way.


Here are the horses I feel are on the strongest Thoro-Graph pattern.

Angel of Empire – His first four races were slow, running a career-best 9 1/4 in the Smarty Jones Stakes in his fourth start. Then in the Risen Star Stakes at 13-1 he made a huge leap to a 2 1/4. Many horses will bounce off such a big jump, but he pretty much paired up that number with a 2 in the Arkansas Derby, which means he likely will now make another move forward.

Two Phil’s – Running on all kinds of surfaces at all distances at different racetracks, he was able to remain very consistent with three straight numbers of 7 3/4. When it was time to finally show some improvement he ran a 4 in the LeComte and paired that up with another 4 in the Risen Star. Then came the move to synthetic and he jumped to a 2. That put him in position for another improved performance, and if he is just getting good now he could make a significant jump.

Tapit Trice – His 1 in the Blue Grass Stakes makes him the fastest horse in the field and it followed a 4 1/4 and 4 1/2 pairing, which shows what you can expect when a horse pairs up career-best numbers. The second number validates the first one and then comes the big jump forward.

Verifying – He is on a similar pattern as Tapit Trice, going from a 5 1/2 pairing to a 1 1/2, but is not as sure a thing to improve going another quarter of a mile. If he does he will be dangerous.

Skinner – I love his pattern. Once again we have a horse making a huge leap from a 17 to a 4 1/2 and then pairing up that number to validate it. Although he then finished third in the Santa Anita Derby, his 2 1/4 number was faster than the winner and the runner-up and was another example of a horse making a significant move forward after pairing up career-best number. The extra furlong should help him improve once again.

Derma Sotogake – After the UAE Derby I considered moving him into the Top 3 and then when he was given a 1 1/2 Thoro-Graph number following a 6 1/2 and 6 3/4 pairing to back it up I was tempted to put him No. 2 or even No. 1. His UAE Derby figure, and his projected Beyer, make his stirring victory faster than the Dubai World Cup, and that makes him a serious horse.

I also have to say that the two lightly raced horses, Kingsbarns and Mage, are in very similar steadily improving patterns they still need another jump of about two to three points. Kingsbarns has run a 9 1/2, a 4 1/2, and a 3, due in part to the pace, so who knows how much of an improvement he has in him?


It’s still early but let’s look at the horses who have made the best impression in the morning. There is no doubt that Disarm heads this list with his powerful gallops and two picture-perfect works. This colt has thrived since the unscheduled Lexington Stakes, coming back with a monster work just nine days later following several gallops in which he was really in a zone with his head down into the bit and his neck arched. What stood out in his two works was the way he was extending himself, reaching out with powerful strides, while doing everything on his own. The mile and a quarter should only help him.

Although Confidence Game had a stunning work, just floating over the ground, and is putting a lot of bottom under him with strong gallop-outs, I still can’t ignore the fact he is coming off a 10-week layoff. It just hasn’t been done and I can’t project it happening now. More important, I don’t want it to happen. These horses are too lightly raced already and we really have no idea who they are. I barely remember Confidence Game, it’s been so long since he raced.

Tapit Trice had a simple, but powerful half-mile work, in which he demonstrated how easily he can do things while showing off that big stride of his and how strong he is on the gallop-out. When this horse fully matures he is going to be a beast. Will it happen on Saturday? Post 5 might be a little too far inside for him, as he is more comfortable outside of horses and he is one horse you don’t want to get stopped. He just has no speed out of the gate and doesn’t have the maneuverability of some of the others. But we know he can make more than one run and there is no one I’d rather have on his back than Luis Saez. This horse doesn’t just outrun you, he steamrolls you.

One horse who is constantly improving in everything he does is Angel of Empire. His :36 4/5 final three-eighths and :12 1/5 final eighth in the Arkansas Derby were powerful and he keeps making great strides at the right time. He did everything easily in his half-mile breeze in company with Jace’s Road, even throwing in an :11 flat eighth and then galloping out like a powerhouse, opening up a 10 to 15-length advantage down the backstretch.

Two Phil’s’ five-furlong work in :59 at Hawthorne was a thing of beauty. He did everything so easily with the rider’s elbows extended, but when he moved his hands just a little, the colt dropped down and opened five lengths on his workmate in a flash.

The forgotten horse, who also might be sliding in popularity, is Practical Move. Like Forte, all he does is win, perfect trips or no perfect trips. He also has sneakily been working lights out. In his last work he somehow was able to go five furlongs in :59 even with his rider standing straight up in the saddle trying to keep him from hooking up with another worker in the stretch who was under a drive. Every one of his works has been spot on, going fast under no urging with the rider way up in the saddle.

I loved Derma Sotogake’s last work, the way he settled down and how he was getting over the ground once the rider let up on the reins and gave him his head. This is a horse who wants action.

Two longshots who have looked good working are Hit Show and Sun Thunder. The latter will be getting blinkers, as will Rocket Can. I’m not a fan of equipment changes for the Derby, but both colts seem much more focused with them, and Rocket Can’s last work was exceptional. Hit Show showed great improvement settling in his work compared to his prior headstrong gallops.


This race is way too complicated with too many mysteries to get too creative and go overboard. I am quickly going to mention one of those mysteries and that is pace. Will it be Kingsbarns, Verifying, Jace’s Road, Derma Sotogake? The fact is that Reincarnate has more natural speed than any of them. He doesn’t want to pass horses after sitting just off the pace, but when he’s in front he won’t let horses pass him, so I fully expect John Velazquez to send him and outrun everyone. Even in the Arkansas Derby when he stalked the leader and was passed by Angel of Empire, he dug in and wouldn’t let horses pass him for second until King Russell came flying out in the middle of the track where he couldn’t see him. No one will pay any attention to him on the lead, so don’t be shocked if he and Johnny V pull off another Medina Spirit.

And I must mention the question of Skinner possibly being a hanger who doesn’t finish off his runs. Giacomo, like Skinner, had only one maiden win to his credit and had been a notorious hanger who couldn’t finish off his run. But John Shirreffs uses preps as preps and has his horses learn from each one with the goal being to peak on Derby Day. The truth is horses don’t hang in the Derby. They have too much on their mind in a 20-horse stampede. Giacomo was more intent on finding a hole to get through in the stretch to think about hanging. Once he stormed through his momentum and 150,000 cheering fans got him to the finish line first. You might bring up Zandon last year, who could not get by Epicenter. But he was not hanging, he simply was being outrun by the best 3-year-old in the country. So don’t even give hanging a second thought.

With all that said I feel in the end the Derby could very well come down to the three best horses – Forte, Tapit Trice, and Angel of Empire, with a sprinkling of price horses to back them up. But that’s not why I’m here. If I was a big bettor and looking for value among the favorites I would consider making my big win bet and key my exotics with Angel of Empire on top. While Forte and Tapit Trice have had their moments of concern in their recent races Angel of Empire has done everything perfectly, in the afternoon and morning, and is moving forward faster than anyone. And what you are looking for are horses getting good quickly this time of year. Angel of Empire fits that bill. I don’t know if he can duplicate his Arkansas Derby win against far better horses. My gut feeling is that he will run another big race, but a lot of it will depend on the pace.

Putting everything together and looking for big prices because of my tiny budget I was leaning toward a $1 trifecta box with Two Phil’s, Angel of Empire, Tapit Trice, Skinner, and Disarm. But after my late Kingsbarns revelation I may have to go with a .50 cent six-horse box instead. I hate not using my No. 1 ranked horse, Forte, but I can’t use a horse with such low odds whose Thoro-Graph numbers have remained stagnant for so long.  But it sure wouldn’t surprise me if he won, because that’s what he does.

I definitely will throw in win bets on price horses Two Phil’s, Disarm, and Skinner. And I have to add Derma Sotogake. I would rather bet him and lose than not bet him and have him make history after I was so high on him following the UAE Derby. Maybe the stars are aligning for him. Not only would he make history by winning, how appropriate would it be for him to become the first horse to win the Derby from post 17, the only post that has not produced a Derby winner. This is not your typical Japanese Kentucky Derby horse. This horse has a legitimate shot to win without it being even a mild surprise.

Those are my bets on Wednesday evening. But as we know, things can change, especially after seeing the live odds on Derby Day. Two win bets I have in my back pocket are on bombs Reincarnate and Hit Show if their odds draw me in. I don’t trust Johnny V and Reincarnate not to pull off another theft. And I have had Hit Show ranked high most of the year and won’t hold his Wood Memorial against him. He’d been traveling back and forth from Louisiana to New York and hadn’t run in two months. He is the second youngest horse in the field and won’t even turn 3 until three days after the Derby, and he really got battle-tested after being roughed up from both sides the length of the stretch in the Wood. He has settled in nicely the longer he’s been at Churchill and might be sitting on a big race even from the dreaded rail post. It all depends on his odds.

And finally what to do about Kingsbarns? Again it will all be about his odds at post time and how much I’m willing to bet. Right now I’m content to add him to my trifecta box, but I just may splurge if he keeps growing on me and his price is enticing enough. I am also looking for 12-1 to 15-1 on Practical Move hoping he will be the forgotten horse, as I had him ranked second most of the year, and his mainly unnoticed works stamp him as a serious contender. That’s all I needed was another dilemma. I will let everyone know where I stand with these extra win bets in the comments on Saturday afternoon or as an addition at the end of this column.

So in summation, I have my (now) six-horse trifecta box, three definite win bets, a saver on Derma Sotogake, and of course my Tapit Trice – Disarm exacta box for fun. And I am holding Reinarnate, Hit Show, and especially Kingsbarns in my back pocket until closer to post time. But I doubt I will do much with them if anything. Kingsbarns could turn out to be the smartest play of them all. He will turn out to be either just another three-career-start loser or racing’s next superstar. If it’s the latter you might want to hop on for the ride. But then what do I know?

****LATE BETS AFTER SCRATCHES. My .50 cent six horse trifeicta boxes aee now — Angel of Empire, Disarm, King Russell, Two Phil’s, Kingsbarns, and Reincarnate and another box substituring Angel of Empire with Tapit Trice. Dont want the two favotites in the same box. Win prices are now terrible 60-1 shots are 30-1.

Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.


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353 Responses to “2023 Derby Handicapping Analysis”

  1. Junior Wong says:

    Steve, I think you went over the cliff when you used the GPS info about FORTE and MAGE.
    I wished you had not written that Paragraph and even more I wished I had not read that same paragraph.
    You were right about Two Phil’s. If not for the GPS info- you me would have hit the Win , Exacta and Tri.
    I did much better in the OAKS.


    We no longer have Trakus to help us break down the interior parts of a race, but we do now have GPS, which provides us with the number of strides a horse takes and the varying lengths of his stride. So, did Forte get stronger at the end of the Florida Derby or did Mage get weaker? It’s a combination of both, but there is no doubt Mage was shortening stride. Forte’s maximum stride came in his fourth furlong, reaching a whopping 26 feet, 40 inches. He did shorten it to 24.13 at the eighth pole, but picked it up in that furious final eighth, finishing up at 24.27, which was matched only by Tapit Trice’s 25.39 at the finish of the Blue Grass Stakes and Angel of Empire (25.19) in the Arkansas Derby. The latter is the only horse whose stride got progressively longer in the final three furlongs, which is pretty impressive considering distance had no effect on the length of his stride. As for Mage, his stride got progressively shorter, going down to 21.16 at the end, so he no doubt was tiring in the final furlong. One thing that did impress me about Forte was that 26-foot stride earlier in the race and the fact he was able to lengthen his stride at the wire after it appeared as if he was tiring just before that.

  2. Lynda King says:

    Final comments on 2023 Kentucky Derby :
    Again , congratulations to Mage, the connections and Joel.
    He has always been one of my favorite jockeys and so happy he got his Derby.

    I had both Disarm and Angel of Empire on my shortlist to win or place well.
    So very pleased with both of their performances.
    Disarm is a mini me of his sire, amd if he is like his sire, he will get better and better in the coming months.
    Since the connections do like racing beyond 3, he might possibly be awesome as a 4 year old.
    Angel of Empire also performed well. I think he will like the extra distance of the Belmont.

    Best race of the day however and possibly now the best dirt horse in America is Coady’s Wish.
    If there is a more beautiful backstory for any of these horses than Coady’s Wish and young Coady, I cannot think of one. The heart to heart connections of these two is something to behold.

    The death of 7 horses will always be a shadow over this Derby. I have no answers but somehow, someway more has to be done. We will never get the numbers down to zero, that is a statistical impossibility, but we can, should and must do better.

    Would like to thank Japan for sending 3 to run in the Derby. And Jeff, they all left today, but they did not have their tails tucked between their legs. I hope that does not upset you!

    Thank you too for all the hard work, hours and efforts from all the trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, connections and horses. I applaud each and every one of you even the trainer who was referred to as “Sgt Shulz” and the owner who was referred to as “insufferable” and the same two who were basically called “liars” regarding the timeline on Forte. Just as an FYI to that person, please be advised that if knew anything about horses, you would know that a hoof bruise or a stone bruise does not always show up that same day or even the next day.

    Steve, thank you, thank you for another ” mostly” delightful run up to the Kentucky Derby.
    Now it is time to move forward off this Derby and onto the Preakness, Belmont and all the other upcoming races.
    Personally looking forward to the Royal Ascot in June. Queen Camilla is said to be a big supporter of horse racing, more so that the King. Hopefully the traditions and pageantry of the Royal Ascot will continue.

    • Jeff says:

      7 deaths in a week is sad and tragic. Hope they get more information, particularly , on the conditions of the track. Japanese owners didn’t want to try the Preakness? Sorry but that’s weak in my view, be a sportsman and be the first. Oh well maybe next year they can try again, but the field will surely be deeper in talent than this years running-making it harder for them to win their first.

  3. Nick says:

    Steve thanks for all you do to make the Kentucky derby build up so much fun ! Since January your columns each week have been awesome

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you Nick. Hey, I finished 2,3,4 in my trifecta box. Not too bad, but lost money again Lol

      • Randall Trahan says:

        I did exactly the same threw out the winner at the last minute for Kingsbarns life goes on but I thought the riders didn’t adjust to the pace

  4. Randall Trahan says:

    I really thought Loveberry was too aggressive with Two Phil’s on the backside and by taking the lead so early in the turn, if he gives the horse a breather in the turn I think he wins easily. Congratulations to the winner and the connections!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That horse ran awesome considering the ride he got. Everyone within 2 lengths of the lead finished up the track. He was 2nd, beaten one length

      • Matthew W says:

        In addition, Steve he was on his toes, for the walk up and in the saddling area, which I do not like it takes energy…Two Phils ran the hardest….

  5. Jim McDowell says:

    Steve, i used your top 12 for my trifecta boxes and am happy to say that I got the winning ticket so THANK YOU.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Really? Thats great, so happy for you. Btw my last rankings was a Top 10 and two were scratched, so I’m happy I had the top 3 finishers in the eight ranked horses.

  6. Laura Lee Lanham says:

    Awesome race and thrilling finish. As for the rest it has all the intrigue of a Dick Francis novel.

  7. Rachael says:

    The best part of the race was the interview with Javier. It was very touching. I noticed Mage’s face covered in dirt and realized Mage was very special indeed to not only win but to do it in the midst of all the kickback. For me, it solidifies also that I was right to think Forte had a great chance, also. It also reminds me to really pay attention the horse’s pedigree especially with all these lightly raced horses and also important to watch the workouts. I tossed a number of horses just based on the workouts. If they were too wound up, they got tossed. lol I’m happy to be surprised that Mage won. Also does anyone think Angel of Empire didn’t get sent soon enough? A genuine question because I haven’t really watched the race too many times yet but he was definitely eating up that ground at the end. I’m also pleased 2 Phils did well. I had picked him as well as Angel of Empire once Forte scratched. I look forward to Steve’s article about Mage because to me, Mage is a lovely continuation of the Curlin legacy.

    • Roberta Greevey says:

      Rachael, both Mage and AoE ran near each other for nearly the entire race. I think that Mage on the outside had a clearer run as they came out of the final turn, but AoE followed him. He didn’t seem to have an excuse. One of the many reasons I liked AoE was that he never got into trouble in his 6-race career.

      • Rachael says:

        Thanks for the insight. based on his accelerating speed towards the end he might be a natural Belmont bet? Though he has the highest dosage index of the whole field. That whole formula, I read about it in depth a few years ago so now my recollection of it is tenuous at best. But AOE’s dosage was 9. Which is very high and points to mainly sprinting bloodlines if I remember right.
        There was an amazing youtube channel this year that showed the workouts from the backstretch. So neat, and well organized. Neat to watch them change leads over and over again. I really enjoyed watching those and based on them I tossed Tapit Trice and Derma and a few others. I think Mage was only featured very briefly in the video I saw though and he looked prim and proper and very workman-like with an efficient stride. Not flashy but certainly impressive. But I thought he was too lightly raced. But perhaps this is a sign of the times, and we will see horse more skipping the 2 year old campaign, that’s got to be better for them from a developmental standpoint for a longer lasting career. I’m also beyond happy they have ditched lasix in major races. It needs to be ditched altogether.

        • Rachael says:

          — we will see more horses, I meant

        • arlingtonfan says:

          I’ve read that studies have indicated horses who race at two actually tend to be less injury-prone than those that start racing later. Seems counterintuitive in some ways, but I think the theory is that training and racing earlier helps them build up bone density.

          • Lynda King says:

            arlingtonfan, you are correct. 2 year olds do suffer fewer fractures than 3 year olds. The Jockey Club annual reports on bone injuries confirms that fact.

            There is a really good article titled “The Bare Bones: A Primer with Larry Bramlage” that explains why.

            Multiple studies also point to a correlation between bone loss and horses being stalled with few or limited opportunities for exercise…sprint gallops. If you read the article by Dr Bramlage he mentions 1/8th mile sprints.

            This same research indicates that the bone loss can start as soon as two weeks when the horse is kept in a stall and that hand walking or being on the hot walkers does not build bone density. The bones most affected by bone loss are the sesamoids. Fractures of the sesamoids are the leading cause for the necessity to euthanize the horse.

            The Japanese also did a twenty year study that showed that most fractures occur on the forelegs and at the times during the race
            when several lead changes are needed and on the turns. There is also a direct correlation per this study, between track surface conditions and fractures.

            • JanBer says:

              The Japanese do great work in this area. If you had the name of the study, I’d be very interested in getting a look at it.

              • Lynda King says:

                Epidemiology in Thoroughbred Race Horses with special reference to bone fractures: Japanese experience from 1980s to 2000s.

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          Rachael, I think that AoE will be well-suited to 12 furlongs. Mage, too. About that dosage thing: There was a discussion about it on this blog a while back, and I looked into the dosage system until a migraine hit me. Ha ha! The original dosage system was created by Steven Roman, who retired about 6 or 7 years ago. The system was based on a somewhat subjective designation of top sires in several categories related to distance. I believe the system was dormant for a few years before being brought back to life…maybe by more than one thoroughbred pedigree “expert.” One of them is/was Steve (a common name apparently, ha ha) Miller from London. In 2019 he added to the chefs-de-race roster the likes of Darshaan, Dubawi, Fasliyev, Linamix, Shamardal, and Unbridled’s Song. Not exactly sires you’ll find in North American pedigrees (except for Unbridled’s Song). At least according to the numbers in equinelinedotcom, Always Dreaming, Nyquist, and American Pharoah didn’t “qualify” among recent Derby winners. I see that AoE easily had the highest dosage in this year’s Derby, yet he finished ahead of all but two runners, gaining on the top two with each stride. (There were only two runners with dosage numbers above the 4.00 threshold.) Additionally, the system doesn’t take into account the dams in a horse’s pedigree. Bottom line, in my admittedly amateur opinion, is that it’s an unreliable system in handicapping Kentucky Derby entries.

          At this point, I don’t have a solid opinion about racing or not racing at 2. I thought we were returning to more experienced fields when there were only two runners having fewer than 5 starts (Mage and Kingsbarns had 3 starts). Last year there were 7 with fewer than 5 career races! But Mage’s win may reverse the short-lived trend.

  8. Roberta Greevey says:

    Mage is a grandson of Big Brown, who won the Derby in 2008 with the experience of just three races. Big Brown’s trainer Rick Dutrow returned yesterday from a 10-year suspension to win an allowance race at Belmont Park. Only in horse racing!

    For me, Mage’s win took the sting out of seeing Angel of Empire come up short by a length and a half. It’s gratifying to see the joy of Gustavo Delgado and his owners in the winner’s circle. This is a trainer that came to the U.S. in 2014 after an illustrious career in Venezuela, and until yesterday had won purses of more than $1 million in only three of those nine years.

    I’m also happy to see that the curse of Maximum Security has been lifted from the Florida Derby. I’m hoping to see many more Derby winners come out of Gulfstream’s marquee event for 3 year olds. Looking forward to reading Steve’s thoughts on Mage and another bizarre Kentucky Derby.

    • Terri Z says:

      Thanks Roberta Greevey about your thoughts about Big Brown and his former trainer. I am so pleased for Big Brown that he’s now won as a broodmare sire. I loved his son Dortmond as well.
      I am so pleased for Javier Castellano and I am glad that he has finally fully recuperated from Covid. He was much more ill than it was known.
      And what a story for this year’s Derby. And I am especially proud since Mage’s ownership group is from my adopted hometown.

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Terri, it was your previous comment (about Big Brown) that got me thinking about the connections. Mage’s win was indeed a great story amid the tumult of Derby week.

    • Davids says:

      That is so true, Roberta. There is always an ‘omen’ connection in racing. When Rick Dutfow said “Thanks Babe” to Maggie Wolfendale the mind started thinking…

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Ha ha! I missed that. On my!

      • Todd Vaughn says:

        I like the Dutrow reference. Big personalities seem to be disappearing from many areas, as everyone is so easily offended. Horse safety must be paramount, but i wonder if Dutrow and Baffert are bigger offenders or if their glib personalities make them ripe targets for the buttoned down powers that be?

  9. Terri Z says:

    Congratulations to everyone in Team Mage. What a story that starts in Venezuela and goes through Miami and onto Kentucky. I couldn’t be happier for Javier Castello and his trainer Gustavo Delgado, who both were from the same town in Venezuela. Javier’s dad was a jockey for Delgado in Venezuela. And how pleasing a win it is for Good Magic, the sire, and Big Brown, the broodmare sire. And this story is reminiscent of Cannonaro II.
    This is a story waiting to be told by Steve Haskin.

    • Davids says:

      Yes Terri, my thoughts exactly. Waiting for one of Steve’s dreamy, historical ‘trips’ full of beauty.

    • Lynda King says:

      Great story Terri. I hope Steve does write about it!

      • Terri Z says:

        Lynda King Steve Haskin wrote great stories about Canonero I and Canonero II a few years ago in the Blood Horse.
        I am sure he will update it.
        Incidentally, Delgado was a trainer at Calder in Miami after moving from Venezuela. Then he eventually moved to Churchill Downs. I am sure that Steve is contacting everyone and getting updates to the story.

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          Hi, Terri. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Delgado is still based in South Florida, specifically at Gulfstream. Of course, he races his horses in a number of circuits including many runners in Kentucky.

  10. John Goggin says:

    Congrats to the winner and especially Javier Castellano for his first KD win after 15 tries….well done. Again, congrats to JC and this horse’s connections.
    But who can continue without that beautiful story for Cody’s Wish and see this horse’s win. Wow. And after what we saw/read about how a horse, Wild On Ice, lost their life while training for the Derby while another champion, Forte, lost his chance to race that might been to hard to handle for some.
    Hopefullyl that said, can we now move to normality with Baffert horses going forward to the Preakness and the Belmont?
    Is National Security the Baffert horse that is going to the Preakness?

    • Roberta Greevey says:

      Did you say “move to normality with Baffert horses”? That’s funny.

      • John Goggin says:

        Eight Preakness chamnpions without any medical violations…where do you want to take this Roberta?

        • Zanytactics says:

          No “medical violations” means what exactly? That the chemistry used was not detected at Pimlico, a track owned by Belinda Stronach, who is oblivious to what he gets away with at SA and her other tracks.

          Trainers with lofty winning percentages are not a special breed and not the norm. He was banned for a year for administering morphine.

          • Jeff says:

            Instead of spewing false narratives, speak the truths. Baffert win percentage the last two years has been at highest ever. BTW the last two years his horses have been at their highest scrutiny with drug testing. No positives. The results for the last two derbies in my eyes show what a superior trainer for the Derby baffert is versus all others. He is the Michael Jordan of horse racing.

            • Roberta Greevey says:

              If you want to ignore Baffert’s history of violations, that’s your prerogative as an anonymous commenter. But if you call for truth you need to be truthful. Baffert’s win percentage for the past two years HAS NOT been his “highest ever.” Anyone can easily check the record. How have the “last two derbies” shown Baffert’s superiority? That’s another absurd comment. And Baffert is not an athlete, so the comparison to Jordan is ridiculous. And Michael Jordan was CLEAN.

              • John Goggin says:

                No I don’t ignore past violations. I asked ‘where do you want to take this’? Like I mention before are we to include Steve Asmussen whose rap sheet is long and a confessed wage theft. Chad Brown has confessed to physically harrassing a female and a convicted wage theft. Todd Fletcher, as recently as a year ago was fined by the New York Gaming Commission..

          • John Goggin says:

            No medical violations means exactly that. Don’t spin the truth. They tested his horses. The New York tracks tested his horses. Stick to the truth.

            • Discopartner says:

              I didn’t like his lonely lead wins becoming the norm in the Derby, with no one challenging the lead horse. Also I don’t care for the just off the pace horses being declared superior based soley on running style, year after year, by writers and posters trying to handicap with this belief system. This year was different, the best horses were the stalkers and closers and it showed, time and again. But, there were also several pacers, capable of leading, some of them not bad, who set a decent pace, sure they got caught up in a speed duel, but that’s what happens in a COMPETITION. Maybe the riders could have done differently, but even Johnnie V. an experienced lone lead winner, got caught up two years in a row. This was a throw back Derby to decades ago, maybe, where there are several good who run in different positions. I hope it continues like this. It just seemed like a large group of people like predictable formula races. But I admit I want my favorite to win, he was scratched though.

            • Zanytactics says:

              They’ve been testing horses for a long time. If they don’t know what they are testing for, they will not find it.

              There’s a reason Servis and Navarro are serving jail time. They used UNDETACTABLE concoctions. Stop defending your idol. He doesn’t even know you exist.

  11. admin says:

    A little acknowledgement for Mark S. whose observations provided the Superfecta in his 5:04 p.m. posting today!

    • Bill Dawson says:

      Attn: admin

      I keyed All on top, (which included 3,8,11) and used 1-5-14 underneath.
      Do you know if this is a winning superfecta ticket.

    • Terri Z says:

      Congratulations to Mark S.

  12. Bill Dawson says:

    After I got home, I checked my superfecta tickets. I’m not sure but I think I just might have hit the Super.
    I keyed All on top, with 1,5,14 underneath.
    The order of finish was 8-3-14-11.
    Anyone out there know if this is a winning ticket?

    • Jeff says:

      Congrats. Glad to hear

      • Bill Dawson says:

        Hey Jeff

        I’m still not sure if my ticket is a superfecta winner.
        I keyed All on top which did not include AOE (14) but I have him in the 4th slot.

        • ChiefsCrown says:

          AoE ended up 3rd. You had him for 4th. I would say you just missed on the super.
          If it was a boxed super, you cashed!

          Hey how’d the knee replacement go?

          • Bill Dawson says:

            Thanks for the reply ChiefsCrown

            Rats! That’s what I was afraid of.
            The knee replacement surgery went well. It’s been almost five weeks since the knee replacement, and with the aid of a cane, I’m walking well.
            Thanks for your support.

  13. Jeff says:

    A few thoughts:

    Congrats to Mage and team. Wonderful development;
    Pletcher is an utterly a disaster running horses in the Derby, if I had all his millionaire horses, off the street, I would’ve had a better record;
    Baffert will get more horses for next year run, it’s very telling on why he is the all time winner;
    UAE Derby is a horrible prep for the derby;
    Japanese horses have a long long way to go before they can be counted on versus American 3 year olds

    • arlingtonfan says:

      The chart notes indicated that Derma Sotogake brushed the side of his gate stall “soundly” at the start, and Mandarin Hero got bumped hard going around the final turn and lost his momentum after that. Neither had a chance to show their best today.

  14. 1JoeP says:

    Congrats to Mage in the KY Derby. So proud of Disarm who rallied for 4th after getting body slammed in the stretch and kept coming to get fourth. Glad to win my KDFW2 bet Field/Disarm . The 3 horses finishing ahead of Disarm were field horses from KDFW2. Glad to win! That made my day.

    • JG Fine says:

      Nice score, Joe! WOW! Interestingly, Disarm was horse #11 listed in KDFW2, same number as his saddlecloth/original post position… After Saturday, I love Disarm in the Travers; Best finisher in this year’s Derby w/ Saratoga experience

  15. arlingtonfan says:

    As someone who loved Arlington, I just have to give a shout-out to Two Phil’s, Larry Rivelli, and Jareth Loveberry. What a race “Phil” ran! I can’t even imagine how thrilled Jareth must have been as he entered the homestretch on top.

    • JG Fine says:

      As they say hindsight 20/20, no disrespect to Larry Collmus and Travis Stone who did another great job calling the Derby for NBC and Churchill respectively, as Two Phil’s took the lead at the top of the stretch, it would have been real cool if one of them did an impromptu Phil Georgeff tribute and shout “Here they come spinning put of the turn!” My mom and my sweetheart were rooting on Two Phils big time as I watching my choice Disarm try to pick through the pack

  16. Lynda King says:

    Update on Hear Mi Song.
    Radiography showed no abnormalities.
    Probably overheated.
    After cooling down, appears to be OK.
    Good news of course!