Updated May 4, 2023 - 10:20 pm
Michael “The Wizard” Kipness, a professional horse racing handicapper since 1986, analyzes the 20-horse field for Saturday’s 149th Kentucky Derby, designating each horse as a contender or pretender.
Kipness considers contenders to be viable candidates to run first, second or third in the Kentucky Derby. He feels pretenders won’t win, place or show.
Visit Wizardraceandsports.com for his full card selections and wagering strategies for Oaks Day (13 races) and Derby Day (14 races), as well as his free analysis on all Derby prep races.
Note: No. 10 Practical Move, No. 19 Lord Miles and No. 20 Continuar were scratched and replaced by No. 21 Cyclone Mischief, No. 22 Mandarin Hero and No. 23 King Russell.
Post position, horse, jockey, morning-line odds:
1. Hit Show, Franco, 30-1
One of three horses in the Derby trained by top horseman Brad Cox. He was an impressive winner of the Withers followed by a nose defeat in the Wood Memorial after a tough trip. If he had won the Wood, Hit Show would have been a far shorter price than he will be in the Derby, but with the same license to be competitive. Should handle 1¼ miles. Post 1 has not won a Derby since 1986. Contender.
2. Verifying, Gaffalione, 15-1
Was beaten by a neck by expected co-favorite Tapit Trice in the Bluegrass. Will be triple the price of that colt in the Derby. His main issue is if he can carry his speed 1¼ miles. Contender.
3. Two Phils, Loveberry, 12-1
The light bulb clearly went off in his head, scoring a career-best victory when switching to a synthetic surface last time out. The question is if he can replicate that performance back on dirt where his form was not nearly as good. Worked very well on dirt Saturday at Hawthorne. Larry Rivelli is a very high-percentage winning trainer. Contender.
4. Confidence Game, Graham, 20-1
It’s clearly a negative that his final Derby prep came 70 days ago. He won the Rebel at Oaklawn that day in the slop. His form on dry tracks in his prior six starts suggests he’s way overmatched in the Derby regardless of track conditions. Pretender.
5. Tapit Trice, Saez, 5-1
Going for his fifth win in six starts and is 3-for-3 with Saez aboard. Late runner has a strong middle move and a solid stretch kick. Has plenty of upside and has the look of a colt who will handle 1¼ miles successfully. Will vie for favorite role with trainer Todd Pletcher’s top 3-year-old, Forte. Contender.
6. Kingsbarns, Jose Ortiz, 12-1
One of three Pletcher-trained entrants, Kingsbarns is short on experience with just three career starts and none as a 2-year-old. But he’s long on talent. All three wins have come at different tracks, including a decisive win last time out stretching out to 1 3/16 miles in a weak renewal of the Louisiana Derby. Contender.
7. Reincarnate, Velazquez, 50-1
His best races are up to one mile. Horse is not Derby material at 1¼ miles. Pretender.
8. Mage, Castellano, 15-1
Lots of buzz about this Florida invader following his second-place finish, beaten by just one length, to likely Derby favorite Forte last time out. Having started in late January, Mage is light on seasoning with only three starts but does have upside. I question his ability to handle 1¼ miles, and he’s never run outside of the Sunshine State. Pretender.
9. Skinner, J. Hernandez, 20-1
Ran a very good third in the Santa Anita Derby last time out. The top two finishers had far better trips. He was forced to sustain a wide rally following a troubled start to miss by only a half-length. I question his ability to finish strongly stretching out to 1¼ miles. Contender.
11. Disarm, Rosario, 30-1
Has shown very little improvement in his three starts this year. Pretender.
12. Jace’s Road, Geroux, 15-1
One of three horses entered in the Derby from the Brad Cox barn. I don’t envision him carrying his speed the distance. Pretender.
13. Sun Thunder, B. Hernandez Jr., 50-1
Has never run a race in his six starts that would even remotely consider him a Derby contender. Pretender.
14. Angel of Empire, Prat, 8-1
Steadily improving 3-year-old is one of only two horses in the Derby field with two wins at 1⅛ miles, the other being Japanese invader Derma Sotogake. Will be closing from off the pace, but he has gears to avoid trouble in a field of 20 and a strong finish. Prat fits him like a glove. Worked very well at Churchill in preparation for the big day. Contender.
15. Forte, Irad Ortiz Jr., 3-1
Last year’s 2-year-old champion has won six of seven starts, including 4-for-4 around two turns. Went all out to win a weak renewal of the Florida Derby. Pletcher trains this likely favorite, who will have to have a clean trip and some pace to close into. Can his late punch be as effective stretching out in distance? Doesn’t have a significant edge over the field but will be the favorite. Contender.
16. Raise Cain, Corrales, 50-1
Got a great pace setup in his upset win two starts back but then showed little in the Blue Grass. Pretender.
17. Detma Sotogake, Lemaire, 10-1
Horses from Japan have made their mark on the international stage. They finally have a legit horse for racing’s biggest stage with Derma Sotogake. In eight starts, he has four wins, including a pair at 1⅛ miles and last time out winning by 5½ lengths in the UAE Derby going even further. He’s versatile and handles any track surface well. Last time out his connections switched to world class rider Christophe Lemaire, who will be back aboard in the Derby. Contender.
18. Rocket Can, Alvarado, 15-1
He’s never run a race in six starts to consider him a Derby contender. Pretender.
21. Cyclone Mischief, Rosario, 30-1
Has not run a race that would make him competitive in the Derby. Pretender.
22. Mandarin Hero, Kimura, 20-1
Japanese invader was beaten by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby in a solid performance. I would prefer him not to run here because of his awful draw. The Preakness is a much better spot. Contender.
23. King Russell, Bejarano, 50-1
Has only a maiden win to his credit. Just his post will do him in. Pretender.