The 149th Kentucky Derby is Saturday, with 20 of the best athletes in the world facing off in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. They have been bred for speed and distance, trained since birth by the best in the world. For them, this moment is three years in the making, a chance to win not only the Kentucky Derby but possibly the Triple Crown, one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in sport. The distance is 1¼ miles, and within 2 minutes, a champion will be crowned, a blanket of 554 red roses draped upon them and, from that day forth, they'll be recognized as one of the champions of the sport.
While sports betting is only newly legal or still prohibited in most states, betting on the ponies has a long history in this country, whether at the track or through off-track betting outlets. Still, there are plenty of people new to the activity or who bet on only the big races. If that describes you, welcome, you're in the right place. I grew up watching Triple Crown races with my grandfather but got more into the sport when I moved to Baltimore in 2006 and attended the Preakness. Today, I share a percentage of horses with the Final Furlong Racing Stables through the Stake in Stardom program created by America's Best Racing. In this column, I'll give you the basics you need to bet the Derby, plus some insight into some of the bets I like for Saturday's race.
What to know about the 2023 Kentucky Derby
The 2023 Kentucky Derby will be race No. 12 on Saturday. Post time is 6:57 p.m. ET.
A purse of $3 million -- the most lucrative of the three Triple Crown races -- will be awarded to the top five horses, with the winner taking home $1.86 million (the jockey gets $186,000). Second place earns $600,000, third $300,000, fourth $150,000 and fifth $90,000.
This year's Derby does not have a true head-and-shoulders-above-any-other horse. Therefore, the race will have more parity, and with morning-line favorite Forte scratched Saturday morning, this truly could be anyone's race.
Two of the best trainers in the world have more than one horse in the race. Todd Pletcher had the now-scratched No. 15 Forte, who entered the weekend as the favorite. He also trained No. 5 Tapit Trice and No. 6 Kingsbarns, so he still has a decent shot to see the winner's circle. Brad Cox has No. 1 Hit Show, No. 2 Verifying and No. 14 Angel Of Empire.
No. 17 Derma Sotogake is looking to make history by becoming the first Japan-based horse to win the Derby.
News came Saturday morning that morning-line favorite No. 15 Forte was being scratched, reducing the field to 18 horses. Four previous scratches on Thursday and Friday had already shrunk the field to 19, with all three reserve horses being added to the outside lanes.
Six horses have died in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby, with the most recent being Chloe's Dream on Saturday afternoon. This is very unusual, and Churchill Downs Racetrack is investigating. Take Charge Briana was injured while running on the track, and Code of Kings injured his neck after an accident in the paddock, with both being euthanized.
Wild On Ice was euthanized after being injured April 27, and then the No. 9 horse, Skinner, took his place. Skinner was then scratched Friday with a fever, bringing the field down to 19 horses.
On Thursday, No. 10 Practical Move was also withdrawn because of a fever, so No. 21 Cyclone Mischief was added to the field.
Two horses trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. -- Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, who were not in the field for the Derby -- died suddenly for unknown reasons. Joseph was suspended Thursday and his horse, No. 19 Lord Miles, withdrawn, bringing in No. 22 Mandarin Hero.
No. 20 Continuar, also scratched Thursday, made room for No. 23 King Russell to enter the field as the final eligible horse. Any further scratches will continue to reduce the field.
Want to know more? Check out our 2023 Kentucky Derby FAQ
Betting on one or more horses
It's important to know horse racing odds are determined by a pari-mutuel system, which means you're betting against everyone else: The more people bet on the same horse you do, the more ways the pot gets split. If you're one of few people to bet on a long shot, there are fewer bettors to share the winnings with, so your payout is much larger. The odds are therefore determined by the bettors. Morning-line odds were originally set by the track handicappers, but those odds have since changed based on how much is bet on each horse. The odds will change throughout the week and are not locked in once your bet is made: Your potential payout is determined right before post time.
Because this Derby is so wide open, I suggest you go to the window with a $1 trifecta with a five-horse box, which will cost you $60. What does that mean? You are selecting five horses, and if three of the five finish first (win), second (place) and third (show), you win. The longer the odds on the horses that finish in the top three, the more money you win.
Morning-line odds displayed. Check here for the latest.
5. Tapit Trice (5-1) Trainer - Todd Pletcher; Jockey - Luis Saez; 5 starts, 4 wins and a show
Looks the part as a beautiful gray horse who sold for $1.3 million at auction. This horse has stamina and has won Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
14. Angel Of Empire (8-1) Trainer - Brad Cox; Jockey - Flavien Prat; 6 starts, four wins and a place
Won the Arkansas Derby with an impressive time and still had gas in the tank. He possesses great closing speed.
17. Derma Sotogake (10-1) Trainer - Hidetaka Otonashi, Jockey - Christophe Lemaire; 8 starts, 4 wins and 2 shows
Fresh off a win in Dubai at the UAE Derby, this Japan-based horse was bred specifically to win the Kentucky Derby. With good speed and a strong front foot, if he gets the right trip, he could pull off the upset!
6. Kingsbarns (12-1) Trainer - Todd Pletcher; Jockey - Jose Ortiz; 3 starts and 3 wins
The only horse entering the Derby undefeated, including a win at the Louisiana Derby. Sire is Uncle Mo. He breaks well but did not race as a 2-year-old, which is rare and the only concern.
3. Two Phil's (12-1) Trainer - Larry Rivelli; Jockey - Jareth Loveberry; 8 starts with 4 wins, 1 place and 1 show
He has won on this track before, at the Street Sense Stakes.
2. Verifying (15-1) Trainer - Brad Cox; Jockey - Tyler Gaffalione; 6 starts with 2 wins and 2 places
Sire is Justify, who won the Triple Crown in 2018. Has great stamina and closing speed.
8. Mage (15-1) Trainer - Gustavo Delgado; Jockey - Javier Castellano; 3 starts with 1 win and 1 place
A South Florida-based contender who came in second to Forte in the Florida Derby.
The long shots
4. Confidence Game (20-1) Trainer - Keith Desormeaux; Jockey - James Graham, 7 starts with 3 wins, 1 place and 2 shows
Son of Candy Ride and bred for distance. He won the Rebel Stakes.
11. Disarm (30-1) Trainer - Steve Asmussen, Jockey - Joel Rosario; 5 starts with 1 win, 2 places and 2 shows
Has been bred for this distance. Rosario won the Derby in 2013.
7. Reincarnate (50-1) Trainer -Tim Yakteen (transferred by Bob Baffert); Jockey - John Velazquez; 7 starts with 2 wins, 3 places and 2 shows
Likes to get to the front and won't let many horses get past him. He has an experienced rider in Velazquez, a three-time Derby-winning jockey.
Other horses in the field
1. Hit Show (30-1)
12. Jace's Road (50-1)
13. Sun Thunder (50-1)
16. Raise Cain (50-1)
18. Rocket Can 30-1)
21. Cyclone Mischief (65-1)
22. Mandarin Hero (62-1)
23. King Russell (50-1)
$1 / 5-horse trifecta box - $60 (60 possible combinations)
14. Angel Of Empire
17. Derma Sotogake
5. Tapit Trice
$1 / 6-horse trifecta box - $120 (120 possible combinations)
Take the same five and add No. 3 Two Phil's
$1 / 7-horse trifecta box - $210 (210 possible combinations)
Include No. 7 Reincarnate
Editor's note: This file, including Anita's best bets, has been updated to reflect the withdrawal of Forte. It was originally published Friday afternoon.