What to Expect From the 2023 Kentucky Derby

The 149th running of the Kentucky Derby is less than two weeks away. Forte is the clear favorite. Here’s why.

There are few horse races that generate the excitement of the world-famous Kentucky Derby. First held in May 1875, the Grade I stakes race is one of the most eagerly anticipated horse racing meets on the global calendar. Attendances at Churchill Downs often exceed 140,000, with several million tuning into television broadcasts around the world. Billed as The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports, the Kentucky Derby captures the imagination of the horse racing world, and the 2023 edition on May 6 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting runnings of the race in its 149-year history.

Rich Strike won the 2022 Kentucky Derby, causing one of the biggest upsets in the race’s long and illustrious history. The Eric Reed-trained chestnut colt with a white blaze and white socks on his hind legs went off from the 20th post, and gamblers had completely overlooked him. Rich Strike was 18th after the first half-mile, and jockey Sonny Leon trailed the leading pack by some 17 lengths. Amazingly, despite finding himself in heavy traffic and 15th place at the mile mark, Leon guided Rich Strike through the pack and romped home ¾ lengths ahead of the much-fancied Epicenter and 1 ½ lengths in front of Zandon. To give some context to the magnitude of the upset, Rich Strike only had 21 qualifying points before the race, while Epicenter has 164!

Forte is the Clear Favorite for the 2023 Kentucky Derby Glory

Such upsets are rare, but they happen, and that uncertainty fuels the excitement fire. This year’s race will be fiercely fought, although the latest Vegas odds Kentucky Derby 2023 suggest all but Forte are racing for second place. Forte is a dark bay colt owned by Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable and trained by Todd A. Pletcher, the latter being a two-time Kentucky Derby winner. Forte has incredible bloodlines, which is one reason he is a clear pre-race favorite. Blame is Forte’s damsire, Medaglia d’Oro the grandsire, while Queen Caroline and Violence are Forte’s dam and sire. Violence had a bright future but retired prematurely after sustaining an injury and was entered into stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms.

Forte has racked up 190 qualifying points for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, the most of any horse in the field. He won over six furlongs on his debut at Belmont Park in May 2022 before finishing fourth from 12 in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. However, since that fourth-place finish, Forte has won five races from five starts, including the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a time of 1:43.12 over 1 1/16 miles and the Florida Derby in a time of 1:49.37 over 1 ⅛ miles.

Ortiz. Jr Looking For First Kentucky Derby Victory

Legendary jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will be onboard Forte, as he has been during all seven races of Forte’s career to date. According to Equibase, Ortiz Jr. has enjoyed 17,490 starts and has won 3,520 of those races, although he has never won the Kentucky Derby. The Puerto Rico native has amassed an almost unbelievable $275,829,951 during his career. His honors include three consecutive Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey in 2018-2022; he won the award for the fourth time in 2022.

Ortiz Jr. has continued his incredible record throughout the 2023 season, riding home 141 firsts, 93 seconds, and 85 third from 536 starts for earnings of $10,03,794. With Forte’s current form, his incredible pedigree, Pletcher’s training, and Ortiz Jr’s expertise guiding him around the 1 ¼ miles track, it is challenging to see any other entrant getting near Forte in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.