April begins with a pair of huge prep and points races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 2023 Florida Derby has a prohibitive favorite in Forte (4/5), who is currently the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby at leading online sportsbooks and FanDuel Racing. The Arkansas Derby is a more competitive and higher-payoff betting race on paper. But we’ve seen plenty of upsets on the Derby trail and also in last year’s Kentucky Derby with a Rich Strike 80/1 longshot winner proving anything can happen with developing and improving 3-year-old colts.
The $1 million Florida Derby headlines the biggest day of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park with 10 stakes races. That includes a Road to the Kentucky Oaks race for 3-year-old fillies in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks.
The $1.25 million Arkansas Derby headlines the big day of racing in Hotsprings at Oaklawn Park with four stakes races. That includes the Road to the Kentucky Oaks in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes in Race 10 at 6:45 p.m. ET. Post time for Race 12 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby is 7:50 p.m. ET. Broadcast coverage on FS2 starts earlier at 3 p.m. ET and FanDuelTV has live broadcasts of both the Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby.
Top track announcer Pete Aiello will call the races at Gulfstream. The winners of the 1 1/8 mile races in the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby will earn 100 qualifying points and runner-up 40 points and a spot in the starting gate if not already eligible (like Forte) for the May 6 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
In addition, the all-stakes Late Pick 5 and Late Pick 4 at Gulfstream will pay off big for bettors that can hit the winners in those races, which includes the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks presented by FanDuelTV in Race 12 at 5:15 p.m. ET, and the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby in Race 14 at 6:45 p.m. ET.
NBC Sports presents live coverage of the Florida Derby starting at 6 p.m. ET on CNBC, and live streaming of the biggest races is available through FanDuelTV and FanDuel Racing.
Champion 2-year-old Forte has won three Grade 1 races already along with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream last month on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. That 4 1/2 length win and top 106 Equibase Speed Figure lowered his odds even further as the Kentucky Derby favorite. He’s the 4/5 favorite on the opening morning line pari-mutuel odds for the Florida Derby. The elite jockey/trainer combo of Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Todd Pletcher team up again with Forte, and Pletcher already has the most Florida Derby wins in history with six.
Along with FanDuel Racing coverage, I turned to the experts at Guaranteed Tip Sheet (GTR) for its big stakes race analysis and added insight and picks.
GTS top win contenders
Added horses to fill out exotics and exacta, trifecta spots in the lower payoff potential race:
Forte has shown near perfect balance and stamina in his prior two preps winning them both with authority. The minor challenge in this race is to overcome a far outside post that has proven difficult for most runners at Gulfstream.
Mage had a troubled trip when finishing fourth behind winner Forte in the Fountain of Youth and can move up. Cyclone Mischief improved his race internals from start to finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes after leading for the opening mile before fading to finish third. He was still 6-lengths behind winner Forte. Fort Bragg (5/1) is also one to watch and he can be another 3-year-old that is growing, maturing, and learning as very talented colt who gets a more moderate pace in the Florida Derby and will like the added distance as a son of Tapit. Mr. Ripple is a wild card making his stakes debut but will be pressing near the front and he finished second at this distance and track a month ago with a decent speed figure.
The Arkansas Derby along with the Fantasy Stakes have higher payoff potential.
GTS top win contenders
Two Eagles River has finished first or second in four of five starts including a minor stakes at Oaklawn. Angel of Empire raced his best when winning the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in Feb. In the Rebel Stakes in February at Oaklawn, Reincarnate got squeezed between horses when making his move in the stretch, and still rallied to finish third in the Rebel. Reincarnate is a son of 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic.
Top trainer Steve Asmussen has both Red Route One (3/1) and Harlocap (15/1) in the Arkansas Derby. Asmussen can tie trainer Todd Pletcher for the most Arkansas Derby wins (5) if either of his horses finish first.
Longshots to consider and add for bigger payoffs include #5 Airtime (15/1) and #3 Harlocap (15/1). Airtime is 2-for-2 this year at Oaklawn and makes his stakes debut. Harlocap pressed a blazing pace in the Risen Star, and faded to finish sixth. He’ll get overlooked in this race, but the pace here will be moderate. Harlocap is a son of Triple Crown winner Justify and can improve and run better near the lead.
In the Fantasy Stakes, look towards the two top win contenders
Wet Paint is 2-for-2 at Oaklawn and close to four wins in a row, and Guaranteed Tip Sheet also notes that Royal Spa has improved her race internals in her last races and has fast and stronger workouts since. Longshots #8 Pate (20/1) and #10 Condensation (10/1), with four wins and two runner-ups in seven starts, could surprise or offer a big payoff underneath. Pate recently move to the care of trainer Mike Maker, and she has moved forward in every one of her last three starts culminating into that near miss in the salty Dixie Bell Stakes at Oaklawn in Feb.
As gambling awareness month comes to a close in March, remember to bet with you head, and not over it. Show some strength and maturity when wagering, like race horses do most between ages two and three.
Check out FanDuel Racing for handicapping tools and resources, and follow the latest Kentucky Derby news, updates and information you can bet on for the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
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