Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Three More Horses Lock Up Berths

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 6, 2023
road to Kentucky Derby

Three new qualifiers on the road to the May 6 Kentucky Derby literally embody the concept of their names. Placed into one sentence, last Saturday’s preps produced a Forte for delivering a Practical Move that Raised Cain in the betting world. These are the names of the three horses who stamped their Derby credentials with varied victory styles in the respective Fountain of Youth, San Felipe and Gotham Stakes prep races across America.

The betting public produced a prohibitive 1-2 favorite in Forte, a 4-1 medium-priced contender in Practical Move and a 24-1 Cinderella story in Raise Cain.

The diverse methods produced a new group of contenders in the road to the Kentucky Derby, which continues this Saturday with the “win and you’re in” Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. This will be the final 50-point award to the winner. Point totals double in a string of higher-profile prep races starting March 25.

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Fountain of Youth Stakes

Forte, who now towers above the road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 90 points, showed that the bettors had a knack for recognizing excellence. They slammed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion from small favorite to resounding chalk on race day at Gulfstream Park in Florida.

He won in the manner expected, taking over at the top of the stretch and kissing the field goodbye in the 1 1/16-mile showcase. Forte emerges as the first Derby horse the public will be excited about preceding the May 6 race. His 98 Beyer speed figure also will prompt betting respect in the Run for the Roses.

The Florida Derby on April 1 seems a logical next step for him, although that hasn’t been announced.

Rocket Can, the Holy Bull winner at Gulfstream last month, secured second place and 20 Derby qualifying points. He has 40 now, ranking sixth, and will receive a Derby invitation.

San Felipe Stakes

Practical Move also was aptly named for Santa Anita Park in California. He lurked behind pacesetting Hejazi until the home stretch, took control and then barreled home uncontested as a medium-priced 4-1 shot. He ranks second in the standing with 60 points, and is Derby qualified. 

Practical Move notched an excellent 100 Beyer, guaranteeing betting support on Derby Day.

The Santa Anita track, drying out from 6 1/2 inches of rain the previous weekend, fashioned a day-long practice of deep closing moves overcoming early speed. The frontrunners were usually able to stay in the exotics tickets, though. Geaux Rocket Ride did to secure second and procure 20 valued qualifying points.

Practical Move trainer Tim Yakteen said the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 8 was the next logical entry for his horse.

Gotham Stakes

Raise Cain did just that, romping home at 24-1 by 7 1/2 widening lengths in the 1-mile Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. At 54 points and fifth place, put his name on the Derby qualifying list.

Playing into a day-long trend of the sealed, muddy track yielding to deep closers, Jose Lezcano guided Raise Cain from double-digit lengths back to a going-away triumph. Early speed Carmel Road led the field into the turn and had nothing for the stretch.

The race became complicated when Howgreatisnate unseated his rider and ran loose on the lead. Eric Cancel aboard Carmel Road said the loose horse in front prompted his to go faster than advisable early. The half-mile time of 45.53 indeed proved prophetically damaging for Carmel Road on the heavy track.

Slip Mahoney surged from the back to get the 20-point second-place consolation prize.

Gotham Stakes bettors sprinted to the bank as the $2 exacta box paid $162.50 and the $1 trifecta with General Banker third produced $735. Eyeing Clover was fourth and completed a $2 superfecta worth $12,232, a $1 super worth $6,116 and the 10-center for $611.60.

Gamblers who cashed this ticket did not necessarily have to love the 24-1 longshot. They may have gotten it by putting all their favorite perceived closers onto one ticket. Speed indeed fell apart, opening the door for this gigantic payday.

Raise Cain, who earned a 90 Beyer speed figure, is being targeted for the $1 million Blue Grass at Keeneland or the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.


The Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule began in September. However, the win-and-in races began Feb. 18 with the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. That was the first race that awards 50 points to the winner. Below is the race schedule for the 50 and 100-point prep races. Those race winners qualify for the Kentucky Derby if entered.

RaceTrackDatePoints For Top Finishers
UAE DerbyMeydan RacecourseMar 25, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Louisiana DerbyFair GroundsMar 25, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Jeff Ruby SteaksTurfway ParkMar 25, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Sunland DerbySunland ParkMar 26, 202350-20-15-10-5
Florida DerbyGulfstream ParkApr 1, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Arkansas DerbyOaklawn ParkApr 1, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Wood MemorialAqueductApr 8, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Blue GrassKeenelandApr 8, 2023100-40-30-20-10
Santa Anita DerbySanta Anita ParkApr 8, 2023100-40-30-20-10

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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