The Run for the Roses has returned.
The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports makes its way back to Churchill Downs in Louisville for the 149th Kentucky Derby. From the mind of Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. (yes, grandson of the explorer from Lewis and Clark renown), the Derby has evolved into one of the biggest must-see sporting events in North America — the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
From Aristedes in 1875 to Rich Strike in 2022, we have seen record-breaking feats from legendary horses, improbable victories with starters facing seemingly insurmountable odds, but also some let-downs from heavy favorites.
On Saturday, Forte and Tapit Trice enter as the front runners. And while the race will take place over 700 miles away from New Jersey, you can still find your way to a horsetrack or pick up your go-to NJ horse betting app to get in on the action.
While not a direct betting guide to the 2023 Kentucky Derby, perhaps this could provide some historical data for a wager. If nothing else, it will certainly provide some fodder for small-talk over a mint julep.
Post positions for 2023 Kentucky Derby
The 2023 Kentucky Derby features an array of noteworthy starters, jockeys and trainers with 11 victories among them.
Post time for the Derby is 6:57 p.m. ET on NBC, setting the stage for the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports.
|Angel of Empire
|Irad Ortiz Jr.
|Saffie Joseph Jr.
Which starting gate has produced the most wins?
Since 1930, no starting position has produced the most Kentucky Derby victories than No. 5. From that spot, 10 horses went on to win the roses, including Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming in 2017. It only makes sense, then, that another Pletcher thoroughbred, Tapit Trice, will start the 2023 Kentucky Derby out of the fifth stall.
Gate No. 10 has the second-most victors with nine, while stalls 1, 7 and 8 have each seen eight winners.
That fifth position has also had the most Derby champions since 2000 with four, a total that is matched only by No. 15. Oh, look, another Pletcher tie: Forte will storm out of the 15th gate. (Going back to the Pletcher vs. Cox angle: Angel of Empire will start out of the 14th gate, a position that has only sent off two winners in history, the last coming in 1961.)
Of note, the only starting spot never to have produced a Kentucky Derby winner is No. 17, which could either be ominous or fortuitous for Derma Sotogake, which looks to become the first Japan-based horse to win the Derby.
How Kentucky Derby betting favorites fared vs. longshots
Forte comes into the Kentucky Derby with one of the shortest betting lines in history. It’s a well-deserved and perhaps rational line at 3/1, especially considering his six victories in seven starts.
It’s the same morning line that Justify and Nyquist held before going on to win in 2018 and 2016, respectively. Then again, Zandon started as a 3/1 favorite before finishing third. Essential Quality held the same post-time odds in 2021; he also came across in third.
In fact, each of the past four morning line and post-time favorites failed to post a Derby victory. This after six straight champions held the shortest odds to win. Since 2000, eight horses with the best morning line odds (who each held the shortest post-time lines) and another two with the top post-time odds went on to claim the Derby crown. That means 15 horses upset the morning line favorite (13 for post-time).
But it’s not just the starters in the top-tier of betting odds who can contend. Consider last year, when Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby with a line of 80/1. Only Donerail, at 91/1, held longer odds — in 1913.
Just since 2000, the Derby has seen winners come across with odds that most bettors likely glossed over. Such as Country House in 2019 (at 65/1, though he was awarded the victory after Maximum Security was disqualified) and a pair of 50/1 victors in Mine That Bird in 2009 and Giacomo in 2005.
Seven winners carrying odds of 20/1 or longer have won the Derby since 2000, compared with 13 champions holding lines of 8/1 or shorter.
A battle of horse trainers: Legend vs. Local
On paper, this looks like a battle between two of the most respected, experienced and celebrated trainers in history.
Forte and Tapit Trice are both groomed by Todd Pletcher, who has three starters in the Derby for the 11th time. It will also up his starting total to 64 for the most all-time for a trainer.
Meanwhile, Louisville-born Brad Cox has four horses in the Kentucky Derby, a total that stands as the second-most in a single race all-time. (For what it’s worth, Pletcher has accomplished this feat seven times, including twice when he had five horses.)
His top thoroughbred, Angel of Empire, enters Saturday with the third-best odds to win the Derby. His other three starters (Verifying, Jace’s Road and Hit Show) hold odds ranging from 15-1 to 30-1.
By the way, you can’t forget about Steve Asmussen, who makes his 25th start with Disarm out of Gate 11. Asmussen currently holds the record for most starts without a Derby win. But he doesn’t have a prime starting spot; the 11th stall has produced only two winners in Derby history. None since 1988.
Pletcher, a two-time winner of this race, the last coming in 2017, appears to have the upper hand with the two betting favorites.
What’s in a name?
Throughout the history of the Kentucky Derby, there has been no shortage of outstanding names to claim the title of champion.
Thunder Gulch, Strike the Gold, Majestic Prince, Assault, Regret (was it?).
This year’s field itself does not disappoint. From Reincarnate (fittingly featuring 51-year-old jockey and three-time Derby winner John Velazquez) to Sun Thunder to Rocket Can.
Any bettor or horse racing fan or casual viewer can find a way to connect with a horse based on the name alone.
Statistically, though, starters with names beginning with the letter ‘S’ have fared far better than any other with 19 winners. (Perhaps good news for Skinner bettors.) Horses beginning with the letters ‘B’ and ‘C’ have claimed 13 Derby titles apiece. (Continuar shares the longest line at 50/1.) Only the letters ‘Q’ and ‘X’ are unaccounted for.
What about name length? Two-word names (including 16-letter California Chrome in 2014, the longest name in history) have proven more successful with 75 champions, 10 more than single-word titles (which includes Zev and Orb in 1923 and 2013, respectively, as the shortest names). Only eight times has a horse with three-word names claimed the Derby crown, the last coming by I’ll Have Another in 2012.