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2023 Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/17/23: Prat On Angel Of Empire; Disarm Makes Starting Gate
Angel of Empire (Tommy Land/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/17/23: Prat On Angel Of Empire; Disarm Makes Starting Gate

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!

The 2023 Kentucky Derby Trail has left its final stop before Churchill Downs, with Disarm’s third-place finish in the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland earning him enough points to make the starting gate. Also, jockey Flavien Prat officially picked Angel of Empire as his Derby mount, leaving Kingsbarns looking for a new jockey. How did these affect the rankings? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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1. Tapit Trice

Pros: Four straight solid wins; outstanding pedigree; long stride

Cons: Still a little behind from a timing standpoint; fairly green

Outlook: He did exactly what he needed to do in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) with an impressive win. His running style in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) was not ideal; however, he was able to sit mid-pack, and ranged up to third up the backside, which put him in perfect position. If he gets that kind of trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1), then he will be ultra-tough to hold off down the stretch.

2. Forte

Pros: Five stakes victories; has passed every test

Cons: Beyers have regressed

Outlook: His latest victory in the Florida Derby (G1) opened the door for someone to move up to the top spot. He just keeps winning, but his speed figures are regressing, which is concerning. He’s still a top contender, but at a short price, he might be a little sketchy.

3. Derma Sotogake

Pros: Japan is on a roll internationally; visually impressive win in the UAE Derby (G2)

Cons: UAE Derby horses have had zero prior success in the Kentucky Derby (G1)

Outlook: We’ll see if this horse can break the trend of UAE Derby (G2) runners making no impact in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He was very impressive in that victory, but others have been in the past as well. Japan is going to win this race one day and it could be sooner than we think. You also cannot ignore how well his countryman Mandarin Hero did in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to get second by a nose.

4. Angel of Empire

Pros: Solid turn of foot; Brad Cox; the longer the better; 2 straight graded stakes wins

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

Outlook: You have to give him credit for back-to-back solid victories in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). He seems to be getting better with each start and it seems like the longer the distance, the better. He now looks to be the best Cox horse coming into the Kentucky Derby (G1).

5. Practical Move

Pros: Three straight impressive graded stakes wins in Southern California

Cons: Questionable pedigree; didn’t look quite as sharp stretching out to 1 1/8 miles

Outlook: He didn’t have the same kick winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) that he did in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). The distance of the Kentucky Derby (G1) is going to be tough for him and he’s had perfect trips in his last 2 starts, another thing that will likely not happen in Kentucky.

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6. Two Phil’s

Pros: Consistent horse; crop-best 101 Beyer in Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) romp

Cons: Hasn’t been able to finish the job on dirt

Outlook: If the Kentucky Derby (G1) was run synthetic, then he’d probably be the favorite after a romp in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park. His 101 Beyer in that race is the fastest of any 3-year-old colt this season; however, he hasn’t been able to finish the job in a couple of dirt stakes this year. Still, his talent is there, and you have to love how consistent he’s been.

7. Kingsbarns

Pros: Three for three to start his career; solid pedigree; improving with every race

Cons: Speed figures still need small improvement; no races as a 2-year-old; Prat chose to ride Angel of Empire instead

Outlook: He looks to be developing into a monster after an ultra-impressive romp in the Louisiana Derby (G2). His lack of experience is still going to be an issue, but he has the running style that you like to see for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

8. Verifying

Pros: Speed figures that are comparable to the top horses in the crop

Cons: Several losses on the resume; inconsistent

Outlook: He improved greatly in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), coming up just short. That type of effort will give him a chance in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but he still will be hard-pressed to hold off some of the closers as they stretch out in distance.

9. Mage

Pros: Progressing with each race; competitive with our top-ranked horse

Cons: Behind from a timing standpoint with no races as a 2-year-old; trouble breaking from the gate

Outlook: He has proven to be a tough horse, running well in 2 stakes despite getting poor trips in both. His troubles at the gate will make for another brutal trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1), though, which is a big worry.

10. 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. Despite a poor post in the Wood Memorial (G2), he was still able to get second and came within a nose of winning.

11. Confidence Game

Pros: Solid progression; proven to be versatile

Cons: Best race came in the slop; speed figures are lacking; no race since February

Outlook: His Rebel Stakes (G2) victory was an eye-opener when he proved that a sloppy track is not a problem. He still needs to improve to be a strong contender and he won’t have raced between the Rebel in February and the Kentucky Derby in May, a gap which rarely works out in a horse’s favor.

12. 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; seems one-paced

Outlook: He made no progression whatsoever in the Arkansas Derby (G1) despite a perfect trip. After that effort, it looks like he might just be a tad bit behind the top horses in this crop.

13. Wild On Ice

Pros: Won the Sunland Derby (G3)

Cons: Seems to be a few notches below the top horses from a speed figure standpoint

Outlook: He reminds me a bit of Rich Strike from last year. His speed figures are low, he looks to be a cut below, but he comes with a nice run down the lane each race. If we see another pace meltdown, then he might be the shocking horse who can pick up the pieces.

14. Rocket Can

Pros: Won the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) despite running wide throughout; excellent pedigree; solid second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)

Cons: Beyers are still low; lacks a huge turn of foot; didn’t run well in the Arkansas Derby (G1)

Outlook: He looked to be heading in the right direction to start the year, but his effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1) was not great. He might just be one-paced and a cut below the top of this crop.

15. Lord Miles

Pros: Improved greatly to win the Wood Memorial (G2)

Cons: Hadn’t shown much before his win at Aqueduct

Outlook: Give him credit for improving at the right time and beating a suspect Wood Memorial (G2) field at Aqueduct. However, we’ll need to see more improvement from him if he can do the same thing in Kentucky.

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16. Sun Thunder

Pros: Consistent horse; solid pedigree

Cons: Low speed figures; running style; failed to win several prep races

Outlook: He earned his spot with several on-the-board finishes throughout the prep season but didn’t win any of them. It’ll be hard to change that trend in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

17. Disarm

Pros: Solid pedigree; flashy races; decent second in the Louisiana Derby (G2)

Cons: Lack of experience; 0 for 3 this season; speed figures must improve

Outlook: This one could develop into a nice horse this summer but doesn’t look to be good enough as of right now. He made a big improvement in his second race of the season but made very little forward progress last time out in the Lexington Stakes (G3).

18. Continuar

Pros: Japanese horses have been dangerous in big international races

Cons: Was no match for the top two horses in the UAE Derby (G2)

Outlook: He showed some talent on the international level but failed to get the job done against the top talent. His experience is good enough to think that he’ll come to America and run ok, though.

19. Blazing Sevens

Pros: Improved in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1)

Cons: Has always been a cut below the best horses in the crop

Outlook: He improved enough in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) to finish third, which got him in the gate. He’ll need a lot more improvement to make an impact in the big one, though.

20. Raise Cain

Pros: Impressive close to win the Gotham Stakes (G3)

Cons: Low numbers; running style; beaten by several horses on the trail; nowhere close in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1)

Outlook: He earned a spot into the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Gotham Stakes (G3); however, that race set up perfectly for him. He made no impact in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).