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2023 Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/3/23: Forte Still On Top, But Big Weekend Looms
Forte (Coglianese Photos / Nicole Thomas)

2023 Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/3/23: Forte Still On Top, But Big Weekend Looms

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 Todd Pletcher-trained Forte kept to his winning ways in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park and still remains the top choice for the Kentucky Derby (G1), but how long will that last? Could a horse from this weekend’s Santa Anita Derby (G1), Blue Grass Stakes (G1), or Wood Memorial (G2) knock him down? And where did Aaron rank the Arkansas Derby (G1) champion Angel of Empire? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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1. 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. We’ll see if some one can step up this weekend, but as of now we will leave Forte at #1 for yet another week.

2. Practical Move

Pros: Picked up a big win in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2); improved greatly off of that effort in San Felipe Stakes (G2) win

Cons: Several losses on the resume; questionable pedigree

Outlook: He improved at the perfect time in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) with one of the most impressive wins on the Kentucky Derby Trail so far. He now has back to back prep victories, while his gallop out suggests more distance should be ok, despite a questionable pedigree. He’s working out well leading up to his next start in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) this weekend.

3. Two Phil’s

Pros: Consistent horse; 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 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 races. Still, his talent is there, and you have to love how consistent he has been.

4. 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 3-year-old

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; however, he has the running style that you like to see for the Kentucky Derby.

5. Angel of Empire

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

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, while the longer the distance the better for this horse. He now looks to be the best Cox horse coming into the Kentucky Derby (G1).

6. Tapit Trice

Pros: Three solid wins in a row; outstanding pedigree

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

Outlook: This guy took the next step up in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), where he picked up another nice win despite showing some signs of immaturity. His next race should tell us much more about him this weekend in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).

7. 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 this weekend in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2).

8. Mage

Pros: Progressing with each race; competitive with our #1 horse

Cons: Behind from a timing standpoint; trouble breaking from the gate

Outlook: He has proven to be a tough horse, running well in back to back stakes races 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.

9. Geaux Rocket Ride

Pros: Crushing debut win; solid connections; decent second in San Felipe Stakes (G2).

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

Outlook: He did well to run second in the San Felipe Stakes (G2), while he should move forward off of that race. However, you can’t help but be worried that he’s just a little late to the game. He has proven to have a high talent level, though. We’ll see him next in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) this weekend.

10. Derma Sotogake

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

Cons: UAE Derby horses have had zero 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.

11. 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. We’ll see him this weekend in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).

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. Disarm

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

Cons: Lack of experience; 0 for 2 this season; speed figures must improve

Outlook: This one could develop into a nice horse this summer after back to back runner up efforts to kick off his season. He made a big improvement in his second race and should continue to improve with each start.

14. 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, he might be the shocking horse that can pick up the pieces.

15. Jace’s Road

Pros: Runs well on dry tracks; solid trainer; good running style

Cons: Low speed figures; seems to be a cut below

Outlook: If the track is dry, then you can count on him to show up with a solid effort. He has a nice stalking running style; however, he wasn’t able to gain on the winner in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He looks to be a cut below the top horses.

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16. Raise Cain

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

Cons: Low numbers; running style; beaten by several horses on the trail

Outlook: He has earned a spot into the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Gotham Stakes (G3); however, that race set up perfectly for him and he still needs to improve greatly to have a legit shot at winning the big one. The Blue Grass Stakes (G1) is next.

17. Cyclone Mischief

Pros: Hit the board in back to back prep races

Cons: Was no match for the winner in either of those races

Outlook: Give him credit, his Holy Bull Stakes (G2) was a disaster, but he bounced back with solid efforts in his next two starts including the Florida Derby (G1). He’s probably not good enough to make much of an impact in the big one, but he has earned a shot.

18. King Russel

Pros: Solid closing second in the Arkansas Derby (G1)

Cons: Only 1 win in 6 starts

Outlook: He made a nice little move to run second in the Arkansas Derby (G1), but he has just 1 win in 6 starts. We’ll need to see an improved effort if he wants to make an impact in Kentucky.

19. 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; however, his effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1) was not great. He might just be a one-pace horse that is a cut below the top horses in this crop.

20. 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 has shown some talent on the international level but has failed to get the job done against the top talent. His experience is good enough to think he will come over and run ok, though.