The Road to the Kentucky Derby 2023 is well underway, and the field is already beginning to take shape. Only the top contenders on the leaderboard will line up for the prestigious race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 6, which means that bettors will see all of the likely runners between now and Derby day.
The betting market for the race has been open since late last year, but who are some of the early contenders that could be in the running for Triple Crown success in May?
You can find the full list on this website: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/contenders
There has already been a lot of talk surrounding Arabian Knight, and there has been little to suggest that he won’t be a credible contender should he line up in the Kentucky Derby in May. However, the three-year-old will need to leave Bob Baffert’s yard in order to participate this year, as the six-time winning trainer remains disqualified from entering horses for Derby again in 2023.
On track, Arabian Knight broke his maiden with a dominant victory at Keeneland in November, claiming the win by seven lengths from Determinedly on the undercard to the championship races at the Breeders’ Cup.
A dominant performance followed once again after being stepped up to 1 1/16 miles, as he scored a speed figure of 97 when landing the G3 Southwest Stakes in wet conditions.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has hardly been the ideal prep race for the Kentucky Derby throughout history, as only two previous winners have claimed victory in both prestigious Grade 1s. However, there is a growing sense that Forte could buck that trend in 2023, as the talented three-year-old for trainer Todd Pletcher has continued to progress effortlessly, and further improvement is extremely likely when he returns to action in 2023.
His Juvenile success was the most significant of his career to this point, but he eased to a victory over pre-race favorite Cave Rock by a length and a half. There is a feeling that the Derby distance will suit the three-year-old, as he has already shown his excellent finishing ability over 1 1/16 miles to this point.
Pletcher will also be hoping for a big performance by Forte on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, as the trainer goes in search of a first Derby win since Always Dreaming in 2017.
Another interesting contender from the Juvenile comes in the form of Cave Rock. The three-year-old like Arabian Knight will need to change yards to pick up Derby qualifying points as he is another trained by Bob Baffert. Cave Rock’s first defeat in four career starts was suffered in the Juvenile, but he still impressed for large periods of that race over 1 1/16 miles to score a speed rating of 99.
It could be argued that he was slightly disappointing on that appearance, especially considering the performances that he had put in before the start. His standout victory was registered over 1 1/16 miles in the G1 American Pharaoh, which was one by the race’s namesake as well as Nyquist on their way to Derby success.
Cave Rock finished five lengths clear of National Treasure on that appearance, scoring a mighty speed figure of 106. His form also looks even stronger given that he beat Havnameltdown by five lengths on his second start, and that runner has subsequently came out and landed the G2 San Vincent and G3 Bob Hope Stakes. However, no set date has been put on when we could expect Cave Rock to return to the track in 2023.
One of the big talking horses in the build-up to the big prep races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby has been Faustin. The colt by Curlin out of Hard Spun mare Hard Not To Like, has been visually impressive on both of his career starts to this point, as he has appeared to be crying out for a run over an extended distance.
The three-year-old made a winning debut on track in December, as he scored a mighty speed figure of 93 when landing a maiden special weight at Santa Anita over six furlongs. He was immediately stepped up into graded company for his second career start, but he came up just short against Havnameltdown, losing by a length and a half in the G2 San Vincent Stakes.
However, despite that defeat, there is every chance that the talented son of Curlin will be better suited to a race over an extended distance when he returns to the track in 2023. There hasn’t yet been an official entrant for the Bob Baffert runner, but it is expected that he will line up in the G2 San Felipe Stakes in March.
Rocket Can is one of the bright new stars on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and he looks to boast a classy pedigree to ensure that he is likely to be one to keep an eye on. The William Mott-trained runner is by Into Mischief, and is out of Tapit mare Tension. He already has some extremely eye-catching form in the book, and has been a progressive horse over 1 1/16 miles since the start of October last year.
His first start over that distance came at Churchill Downs, as he broke his maiden scoring a speed figure of 86. That ended a two-race winless run over seven furlongs, with the most recent of those seeing him finish seventh behind Instant Coffee. He was beaten on his next start in November, finishing a very close second to Confidence Game in an allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs.
However, a massive step forward was taken earlier this year, as he registered a first win in stakes company at Gulfstream Park. That win was achieved over 1 1/16 miles, as he claimed victory in the G3 Holy Bull to get himself onto the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Further improvement will be expected once again when he makes his next start next month.