Early Contenders For A Kentucky Derby Spotlight

There are few more anticipated events on the horse racing calendar in the United States than the Kentucky Derby. The Run for the Roses will take place

There are few more anticipated events on the horse racing calendar in the United States than the Kentucky Derby. The Run for the Roses will take place on Saturday, May 6, this year, and it already looks set to be an intriguing horse race in prospect. 

It’s unlikely that bettors will be ruling out any contender in the field this year following Rich Strike’s unlikely 80/1 win at Churchill Downs in 2022, but who are some of the early contenders that bettors should be following with the big race in May in mind?

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Todd Pletcher looks to have another exciting Derby contender on his hands this year, as Forte heads the current betting for the race at Churchill Downs. This contender has done very little wrong on track to this point, as he progressed very nicely throughout the late part of 2022. 

Forte was a commanding winner of the G1 Hopeful at Saratoga over seven furlongs, before improving again over 1 1/16 to land the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. His track dominance continued at the start of November, as he looked like the winner from a long way out in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. We are yet to see him re-appear since winning at the illustrious event, but if he has improved since that effort, he could have a leading chance of Derby success in 2023. 

However, the Juvenile perhaps hasn’t been the best indicator for the Kentucky Derby throughout history, as only two previous winners of the Breeders’ Cup race have gone on to land victory at Churchill Downs.  

Arabian Knight

Bob Baffert may be banned once again from making entries for the Kentucky Derby, but we will likely once again see him send some of his leading stars to a new yard in order to force their way into a starting berth at Churchill Downs. His current leading contender looks to be Arabian Knight, who was brought for an eye-watering sum of $2.3 million last year. 

The son of Uncle Mo has only made one career start to this point, but it was an extremely impressive outing on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Keeneland. Arabian Knight was a stunning seven-length winner in a maiden special weight, reaching a speed figure of 105. 

That form does appear increasingly strong, as second behind Arabian Knight was Determinedly, who followed up with a win at Churchill Downs, before finishing third in the Gun Runner Stakes. The Baffert-trained runner has three likely stops in the coming months, which include the G3 Robert B Lewis, G1 Santa Anita Derby, and G2 San Felipe Stakes. 

Practical Move

A horse already in the yard of one of Baffert’s old assistants is Practical Move. Tim Yakteen is yet to win a Triple Crown race, but the odds would certainly suggest that this three-year-old is well worth keeping an eye on over the coming weeks and months. Practical Move finished second to Cave Rock on debut at Del Mar, before then finishing third behind National Treasure and Massimo in maiden special weight company at the same track. 

He finally got off the mark when stepped up to a mile at Santa Anita in October, reaching a fairly solid speed rating of 85. However, he fell short when stepped into graded company for the first time in November, as he could only take third in the G3 Bob Hope. 

But, the return to an extended distance seemed to once again bring the best out of him on his previous start. On that occasion, he landed the G2 Los Alamitos Futurity over 1 1/16 miles, reaching a career-best rating of 95. The Derby distance could suit him perfectly later this year. 

Corona Bolt

After looking at the latest odds, it was somewhat surprising to see Corona Bolt still priced up at around 40/1 with the leading sportsbooks. The Brad Cox runner had been in excellent form before the turn of the year, and looks set to be a key player in the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races. 

The three-year-old broke his maiden at Churchill Downs at the end of November over 6 ½ furlongs, beating Communication Memo to achieve a speed rating of 90. He was immediately thrust into graded company following that excellent display, and he looked excellent in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. That run over six furlongs scored a rating of 101. 

He is still yet to compete over a distance of at least a mile, but he has charged past the line on each of his previous two starts, which appears to scream out that he is ready to run over an extended distance. There is every chance he could be a leading contender for the Derby this year. His sire, Bold d’Oro, finished second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby to Justify, and was the winner over 1 1/16 miles in the G2 San Felipe Stakes.