Wow, it’s May already and time for the 149th running of the $3million Kentucky Derby. 20 runners will enter Churchill Downs’ starting gate shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday (post is 6:57 pm) for the Run for the Roses.

The Derby will be preceded by 8 additional Stakes races starting at 12 p.m. on NBC and streamed via Peacock and the NBC sports app. 

Kentucky Derby Who wins?

Will we see another massive upset as in 2022 with 80-1 Rich Strike rallying from the far outside 20 post to capture the Kentucky Derby win? Oddly Rich Strike failed to win again last year but he’s training for a comeback this summer. 

I don’t see another long shot winning this year. This is a quality and well balanced field with at least 6 horses having legitimate chances to win. 

I’ve eliminated the inside runners 1-Hit Show (although my favorite jockey Manny Franco is aboard) 2- Verifying and 3- Two Phil’s. They have only two options while trying to avoid being crushed along the rail as the field breaks from the gate and moves quickly into the first turn. The jockeys either employ pace burning speed to avoid the crush or ease out allowing 18 others position at the first quarter mile, bide their time and try to make one big move through the stretch. Neither of these is a good strategy.

I also throw out the four on the far outside 16 – Raise Cain, 17– Derma Sotogake, 18– Rocket Can (he can’t), 19- Lord Miles, 20- Continuar, and 21- Cyclone Mischief, who drew in with the scratch of Practical Move.

The winner is…

My money’s on either 5- Tapit Trice or 14- Angel of Empire

Tapit Trice comes into the race at the top of his game, improving off every start. Last out he rallied from far back winning the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes by a long nose. This was run at 1 1/8 miles and the Derby’s extra furlong will give him the winning edge. He’s on a four race win streak. Louie Saez is an extraordinarily talented rider, great patience and a knack for knowing when to put the pedal down.

Angel of Empire is a deep closer with stalking ability. He’s won three of his last four races by widening margins. Jockey Flavin Pratt should let him settle around the first turn, gain position along the backside run. He’ll begin picking off runners as they round the second turn, move a bit outside to avoid a traffic jam and come flying through the deep stretch run. 

Who else?

15-Forte has the record to indicate he can go the 1 1/4 mile distance. While trainer Todd Pletcher says he likes the 15 post position, I don’t. He’ll be wide on the first turn and forced to run in the 5/6 paths outside most of the race. There is too much for him to do in the stretch to see the bed of Roses laid over his shoulders. 

8- Mage can win if everything goes right for him. It won’t. Javier Castellano is a Hall of Fame rider. He knows how to avoid the crush at the start and how to weave through a crowded stretch run. Mage has only a maiden win in a thin resume of three career starts. We may see him an improved horse by the time the Travers Stakes at Saratoga comes around, but not this Saturday.

9- Skinner, another runner with only a maiden win. His Beyer speed figures improve each race and I don’t see why that doesn’t happen again on Saturday. But he’s coming back quickly for this run. 

2- Verifying, yes I discarded the inside runners, but he could rally enough in the stretch charge to finish in the money. A very talented horse with a great upside. He’s also one of the most experienced runners in the field. 

Who’s the wise guy horse?

Let’s look at 4- Confidence Game. He’s the cheapest runner in the 20 horse field. He cost the bargain basement price of $25,000 at the 2021 Keeneland Yearling Sale. I think he’s already paid the owners back with $785,525 earned in his first seven races. I like him as the wise guy runner, a horse who may just surprise right out of the gate. He may be quickest out of the gate and could be the pace setter. If other speed oriented horses defer and don’t challenge, he could slow things down and hold on for the win! 

Strangely the most expense horse in the field, Tapit Trice, who cost $1.3 million as a yearling is right next door in the 5 post. He leads the field in earnings with $883,650.

Betting strategy?

I’m going with 5 and 14 across the board. It’s betting against myself but likely they will be low double digit odds and provide a good payout.

Then 5/14 over 3/8/9/15 over 2/3/8/9/15 for a trifecta (triple).

For the 10 cent superfecta: 5/14/8/9/15 box. And 5/14/15 over 2/3/4/8/9/15/ over 2/3/4/8/9/15.

Exacta: 5/14/15 over 2/3/5/8/9/15.

Good luck!