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2023 Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/27/23: Major 4-Prep Weekend Awaits After Rebel Stakes Shake-Up
Forte (Coady Photography)

2023 Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/27/23: Major 4-Prep Weekend Awaits After Rebel Stakes Shake-Up

Welcome to the 2023 Kentucky Derby Rankings! Each week leading up to the race, we will provide our Top 20 Kentucky Derby Prospects, as well as updates with the latest news on each horse.

Visit our Kentucky Derby page for the latest news, rankings, prep race schedules, the Kentucky Derby point standings, and much more!

1. Forte

Pros: Three Grade 1 victories as a 3-year-old; clear Eclipse Award winner.

Cons: Did he peak too soon? It’s hard to hold your form for as long as he will be asked to do.

Outlook: He is the clear leader in the clubhouse coming into 2023. It seems like he getting better with each race, while his pedigree suggests he should be able to handle the extra distance when the time comes. We’ll see him this weekend in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

2. Arabian Knight

Pros: Sensational debut at Keeneland; blowout win in the Southwest Stakes (G3); solid pedigree

Cons: Lack of experience

Outlook: He passed his first test with flying colors in a dominant effort in the Southwest Stakes (G3). He has now moved to the Yakteen barn so he can earn points in his next start, which will come in the Arkansas Derby (G1) or Santa Anita Derby (G1).

3. Instant Coffee

Pros: Big winner of the Lecomte Stakes (G3) gives him back to back graded stakes scored; solid distance pedigree and trainer

Cons: Still lacking a bit from a speed figure standpoint; lost to a few horses on this list in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1).

Outlook: The Brad Cox trainee was able to overcome a poor start to win the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and should move forward nicely off of that effort. He now has back to back graded stakes scores, which makes our top two horses look even better.

4. Tapit Trice

Pros: Two solid wins in a row; faster speed figures than most of the stakes winners

Cons: Still a little behind from a timing standpoint; no races around two turns yet

Outlook: This guy absolutely dusted an allowance field at Gulfstream Park, showing that he is ready for the next step up the ladder. He would have likely cruised in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) if entered, so look for him to be a major force when he does enter a Kentucky Derby prep race.

5. Red Route One

Pros: Has hit the board in a few big races; faced the best horses in the crop

Cons: Never been a threat to winning since his maiden victory

Outlook: Remember Lookin At Lee? This horse is so much like him it’s not even funny. You should not expect him to win; however, he is one you can play underneath with confidence in all these big races leading up to the Derby. He did it again last time out in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

6. Hit Show

Pros: Solid turn of foot; Brad Cox; solid pedigree

Cons: Hasn’t beaten much; speed figures are a touch low

Outlook: This one seems to be developing nicely with each start. His win in the Withers Stakes (G3) was visually impressive, even though the competition may have been light. We’ll see if he can continue to progress for Brad Cox.

7. Reincarnate

Pros: Never finished off the board; distance shouldn’t be a problem

Cons: Speed figures are still a bit low; several losses on the resume; never won off the lead

Outlook: It’s possible this horse could be getting better with each start. He showed tremendous heart holding off all challenges in his Sham Stakes (G3) victory, while he finished third in the Rebel Stakes (G2) despite a horrific trip. We’ll see him next in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

8. National Treasure

Pros: Should get better as distances get longer

Cons: Several losses on the resume; not competitive with the top horses in the crop so far

Outlook: There is no doubt his third-place effort in the Sham Stakes (G3) was disappointing. He might just be a “hit the board” type until we see him make a jump up and win one of these big races. We’ll see if hie can get it turned around this weekend in the San Felipe Stakes (G2).

9. Confidence Game

Pros: Solid progression; proven to be versatile

Cons: Best race came in the slop; speed figures are still lacking.

Outlook: His Rebel Stakes (G2) victory was an eye-opener, while he proved that a sloppy track is not a problem for him. He still needs to improve to be a strong contender; however, he seems to be improving.

10. Angel of Empire

Pros: Solid turn of foot; Brad Cox; the longer the better

Cons: Low Speed figures; running style might hurt him in the Kentucky Derby

Outlook: You have to give him credit for a nice off the pace win in the Risen Star Stakes (G2). The horse showed that he loves the longer distances, while he should only get better the longer they go.

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11. Two Phil’s

Pros: Consistent horse; distance has been ok for him

Cons: Hasn’t been able to finish the job; low speed figures

Outlook: Consistent horses have been rare with this crop so far, so it’s nice to see you can count on him showing up with a strong effort. However, he does look to be a cut below the best horses in this crop.

12. Rocket Can

Pros: Won the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) despite running wide throughout; excellent pedigree

Cons: Beyer came back extremely low; beat a questionable field

Outlook: We’ll see if he can continue to improve when they stretch out in distance. His pedigree says he should, and he’ll need to do so, as his speed figures are still pretty low. We’ll see him this weekend in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).

13. Practical Move

Pros: Picked up a big win in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2).

Cons: Several losses on the resume; speed figures are still a little low

Outlook: He might be improving at the right time after a solid win in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2). Sometimes, what happens at Los Alamitos stays at Los Alamitos, though, so he still has some proving to do. He’ll give the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita a shot this weekend.

14. Blazing Sevens

Pros: Classy horse; Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old; solid trainer

Cons: Speed figures are low; was not competitive at the Breeders’ Cup

Outlook: Chad Brown seems to have a solid horse here; however, he seemed to be a cut below the best horses at the Breeders’ Cup. We need to see improvement from him in 2023, which will start this weekend in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

15. Sun Thunder

Pros: Looks solid going longer distances

Cons: Only 1 win in 4 starts; lost the Risen Star Stakes (G2) with a perfect trip

Outlook: He has ran well in back to back prep races, while he seemed to improve stretching out in distance. He should be able to make the gate with one more solid race in the last round of preps.

16. Kingsbarns

Pros: Two for two to start his career; solid pedigree

Cons: Lacks experience; low speed figures

Outlook: He looks to be developing nicely, which will lead to him getting one shot at the Kentucky Derby in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. We’ll see if he can step up in class and get the job done in that spot.

17. Litigate

Pros: Solid recent win; usually shows up with a solid effort

Cons: Speed figures are extremely low

Outlook: His Sam F. Davis (G3) win was not great; however, it still goes down as a victory. He will go to the Louisiana Derby (G2) next, where he will definitely have to step his game up.

18. Geaux Rocket Ride

Pros: Crushing debut win; solid connections

Cons: Very lightly raced; must move up the class ladder quickly

Outlook: We’ll see if this recent debut maiden winner can jump up and win the San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita this weekend. If he does, he becomes a threat, but must continue to improve rapidly to have a shot at the big one.

19. Verifying

Pros: Fast recent allowance score; tremendous pedigree; solid trainer

Cons: Was no match for the top horses in the crop as a 2-year-old; defeated soundly when stepping back up to stakes company

Outlook: He ran a weird race in the Rebel Stakes (G2), losing several lengths on the turn, before making a mild rally late up for fourth. He deserves one more shot at a prep; however, he just might be a cut below the best horses in this crop.

20. Lugan Knight

Pros: Has run well against solid horse; nice prep win in the Jerome Stakes

Cons: Speed figures are a cut below the top horses; distance limitations are possible

Outlook: He makes his debut on the list after a solid win in the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. We will see if he can progress as the distances get longer, which may be a problem. We’ll see if he can get the job done this weekend in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct.