The first Saturday in May is less than a month away.
The 100-point prep races have all been run. The major players in the Kentucky Derby field are set.
Sportscasters, writers, and commentators will soon begin making and publicizing their official Derby selections.
It is now time for the common bettor to start analyzing trends in preparation of their Derby Day trip to the betting window. Although there are a few key pieces of information missing, such as post position, Churchill Downs workouts, and knowing how the foreign horses handle shipping, there is a lot that can be extrapolated now from the Kentucky Derby prep races.
Do you want to learn how to place a bet on the Kentucky Derby? Let’s take a look at the most recent runnings of the Kentucky Derby (excluding 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a rescheduling of the race) and see if we can make this Kentucky Derby picture a little bit clearer.
All of the 100 point prep races are prestigious races in their own right, but there is no doubt that some have been more successful in producing Kentucky Derby winners than others.
Excluding 2020, all of the last ten winners of the Kentucky Derby have exited a 100-point final prep race, though not all won or even hit the board.
The Grade I Florida Derby has produced three Kentucky Derby winners of this time period with Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016), and Always Dreaming (2017). The Grade I Santa Anita Derby also has three, boasting I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), and Justify (2018). American Pharoah (2015) and Country House (2019) exited the Grade I Arkansas Derby, Mandaloun (2021) rebounded from the Grade II Louisiana Derby, and Rich Strike (2022) came out of the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks.
Looking at the current Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, three horses are exiting the Florida Derby as their final prep: first and third place finishers Forte and Mage, with runner-up Cyclone Mischief second on the also-eligible list as of this writing. Practical Move is the only Santa Anita Derby runner assured a place in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, although third-place finisher Skinner is currently first on the also-eligible list.
Four Arkansas Derby competitors currently qualify, those being the top four finishers Angel of Empire, King Russell, Reincarnate, and Rocket Can. Kingsbarns, Disarm, and Jace’s Road, the top three finishers from the Louisiana Derby are on the leaderboard, as are Two Phil’s and Major Dude from the Jeff Ruby Steaks.
Although the Kentucky Derby morning line will not be installed until the post positions are drawn, barring disaster, it is extremely likely that 2022 Champion Two-Year-Old Male Forte, who tops the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard for 2023, will be the Kentucky Derby favorite.
The points system under which Kentucky Derby hopefuls must qualify for the race began in 2013. Leading points earners who went on to win the Kentucky Derby include Orb (2013) and California Chrome (2014). In other years, the leading points earner finished second (Epicenter, 2022), third (Gun Runner, 2016, Tacitus, 2019, and Essential Quality, 2021), thirteenth (Girvin, 2017), and nineteenth (Magnum Moon, 2018). In 2015, leading points earner International Star was scratched on the day of the race.
In the last ten runnings of the Kentucky Derby, excluding 2020, the previous year’s champion two-year-old male has competed in the race seven times. Those resulted in a ninth place finish (Hansen, 2012), a fifth (Game Winner, 2019), a fourth (Classic Empire, 2017), a third (Essential Quality, 2021), a second (Good Magic, 2018), and two wins (American Pharoah, 2015, and Nyquist, 2016).
Finally, post time favorites have fared very well in recent Kentucky Derbies. Excluding 2020, post time favorites of the last ten runnings who went on to win the Kentucky Derby include Orb (2013), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016), Always Dreaming (2017), and Justify (2018). Other recent favorites have finished second (Bodemeister, 2012, and Epicenter, 2022), third (Essential Quality, 2021), and fourth (Improbable, 2019).
All of this spells good news for the champion son of Violence, who comes into the Kentucky Derby off of wins in the Grade II Fountain of Youth as well as the aforementioned Florida Derby.