Kentucky Derby Standings: Angel Of Empire Rises After Risen Star

Written By Dave Bontempo on February 21, 2023
road to kentucky derby

Angel of Empire, who authored a definitive Risen Star Stakes triumph at 13-1 on Saturday, enters the last week of February as the new leader in the Road to Kentucky Derby point standings. The Brad Cox-trained 3-year-old obtained a berth in the Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 6 by winning the $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, worth 50 qualifying points.

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Latest Road To Kentucky Derby Point Standings

Angel of Empire paces the pack with 54 points, vaulting second-place Forte (40) and third-place Instant Coffee (32). Sun Thunder, who notched 20 points for second in the Risen Star, has 24 and is fourth. Two Phil’s, third in the Risen Star, hiked his total to 23 and sits fifth.

It is possible that all five will be granted Kentucky Derby invites? Berths are granted to the connections of the top 20 point-getting horses in a series of qualifying prep races that will last throughout the spring. The point cutoff last year was 30 points. In 2021, the total was 10. It all depends how many horses drop out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby.

The next stop on the circuit is the $1 million Rebel Stakes, awarding 50 points to the winner Saturday at Oaklawn. Here is the full Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, courtesy of Churchill Downs.

Risen Star Race Recap

Angel of Empire embossed his Derby invitation by blossoming in the Risen Star. At a career-long distance of 1 1/8 miles,  he turned the tables on Victory Formation, who had held him off in the 1 mile Smarty Jones in January. 

He also sparked a betting bonanza, paying $29.40 to win and hooking up with 16-1 shot Sun Thunder for a $2 exacta worth $358. The $1  trifecta with 5-1 choice Two Phil’s in third returned a sizable $1,470.

Victory Formation, the 9-5 favorite, ran a fading ninth.

Angel of Empire, handled superbly by Luis  Saez, passed the stretch out to 1 1/8 miles while Victory Formation did not. Saez broke Angel of Empire from the 6 hole in a 14-horse field to a rail position several lengths behind the leaders. He enjoyed a ground-saving trip the whole way, finally shifting outside and gobbling the field up in the final 1-8 of a mile.

The fractions were contentious enough at 23:34 for the first quarter mile and 47.50 for the half mile. Early speed did fall apart and the closers did occupy the first three positions. But although Victory Formation was forced wide from the 13 post, he was handled well enough by Flavien Prat to be in stalking position approaching the final turn. He simply wasn’t the horse for this distance.

Angel of Empire recorded a Beyer speed figure of 87. If he can push that number in to the 90’s in his next start, he will be respected in betting circles for Kentucky Derby odds.

Cox said he will point Angel of Empire toward the Louisiana Derby (March 25, Fair Grounds), the Arkansas Derby (April 1, Oaklawn) or the Blue Grass (April 8, Keeneland). He believes Angel of Empire will run better the longer the race goes.

Angel of Empire is the son of Classic Empire, who won the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the 2017 Arkansas Derby. He was also second in the 2017 Preakness Stakes.

Risen Star Race Replay

Angel Of Empire No Longer A Longshot

Before the Risen Star, Angel of Empire was 225-1 in fixed odds Kentucky Derby futures at Circa Sports Las Vegas. Those odds were as of Feb. 13. Here were the horses that were shorter than 50-1 to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. Angel of Empire’s futures odds are sure to shorten now.

Tapit Trice8-1
All Other 3-Year-Olds10-1
Practical Move12-1
Instant Coffee19-1
Red Route One 24-1
Hit Show28-1
Geaux Rocket Ride30-1
Confidence Game30-1
Angel of Empire38-1
Rocket Can42-1

2023 Road To The Kentucky Derby Prep Race Schedule

The Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule began in September; however, the win-and-in races began February 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, enough for the race winners to 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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