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Horses, Hats, and High Stakes: Bonaventure Stables gets you Ready for the 149th Kentucky Derby

Bonaventure Stables offers insights on the Kentucky Derby, which has 20 talented runners vying for a $3 million purse. Following Rich Strike's upset in 2022, the top pick for the winner and a dark horse candidate are analyzed, along with tips on betting strategy.

Can you believe it's already May? The Kentucky Derby, with a $3 million purse, has arrived for its 149th running. On Saturday, just before 7 p.m. (post time is 6:57 pm), 20 runners will enter Churchill Downs' starting gate for the Run for the Roses.


Before the main event, there will be eight other thrilling Stakes races, which you can catch on NBC starting at 12 p.m. Additionally, you can stream the action live on Peacock and the NBC Sports app.


Will this Kentucky Derby have a dark horse winner like Rich Strike, the 80-1 upset in 2022? Rich Strike himself is trying to make a comeback this summer, but with a strong and well-rounded field of at least six horses, it looks like the odds of another long shot victory are slim.


I've decided to exclude the inside runners 1-Hit Show (although my preferred jockey Manny Franco is riding), 2-Verifying, and 3-Two Phil's. They are limited in their options as they try to avoid getting squeezed along the rail as the field charges out of the gate and heads into the first turn. The jockeys can either use up too much energy by attempting to outrun the crush or hold back, letting 18 other horses take the lead in the first quarter mile, and hope to make a single, strong push during the stretch. Neither of these tactics is a good strategy.


I also exclude the horses starting from the far outside: 16-Raise Cain, 17-Derma Sotogake, 18-Rocket Can (who can't), 19-Lord Miles, 20-Continuar, and 21-Cyclone Mischief. Practical Move's scratch allowed Cyclone Mischief to draw in.


So, who wins?

I predict that the winner of the race will be either 5-Tapit Trice or 14-Angel of Empire.


5-Tapit Trice has been consistently improving with every start and comes into the race at the top of his game. In his last outing, he won the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes by a long nose after rallying from far back. Although that race was run at 1 1/8 miles, the extra furlong in the Derby will work in his favor and give him the winning edge. Furthermore, he is currently on a four-race winning streak. Louie Saez, his jockey, is a very talented rider with great patience and a keen sense of when to accelerate.


14-Angel of Empire is a skilled deep closer with the ability to stalk the pace. He has convincingly won three of his last four races, showcasing his impressive form. Jockey Flavin Pratt's strategy is likely to let Angel of Empire settle around the first turn, while gradually making progress along the backside run. As they approach the second turn, Angel of Empire will start to pass his competitors one by one, maneuvering outside to avoid traffic congestion, before surging to the finish in a blazing stretch run.


Best of the rest?

15-Forte has shown in the past that he can handle the 1 1/4 mile distance, but I have some concerns about his starting position at post 15. Although trainer Todd Pletcher has expressed his liking for this spot, I think it will put Forte at a disadvantage, as he will have to navigate a wider turn and run outside in the 5/6 paths for much of the race. With so much ground to make up in the stretch, I don't think he will be able to carry the weight of the roses on his back.


8-Mage's chances of winning are slim, even with the expertise of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. While Castellano knows how to navigate a crowded race, Mage only has a maiden win in a scant record of three starts. Perhaps he will improve in time for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, but he is not likely to perform well in this Saturday's race.


9-Skinner, who has only won a maiden race, has consistently improved his Beyer speed figures with each race. I anticipate this trend to continue on Saturday. However, he is returning to race quickly after his last outing.


Although I eliminated the inside runners, 2-Verifying could still make a strong comeback in the stretch and finish in the money. This talented horse has a lot of potential and is one of the most experienced in the field.


Who's the wise guy horse?

Let's take a closer look at 4-Confidence Game. Although he was purchased at a bargain price of $25,000 at the 2021 Keeneland Yearling Sale, he has already earned $785,525 in his first seven races, which is impressive. I consider him to be a dark horse candidate, a runner who could surprise everyone right from the start. He might be the fastest out of the gate and could lead the pack. If other horses with a similar speed don't challenge him, he could control the pace of the race and possibly even come out victorious.


Interestingly, Tapit Trice, the most expensive horse in the field at $1.3 million as a yearling, is positioned right next to Confidence Game in the 6 post. He currently holds the highest earnings in the field at $883,650.


Betting Strategy

I'll be placing an "across the board" bet on both 5-Tapit Trice and 14-Angel of Empire. This may seem like a risky move, but considering that they are likely to have low double-digit odds, it has the potential to yield a good payout.


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

Trifecta: 5/14 over 3/8/9/15 over 2/3/8/9/15

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


Good luck, bettors!


(Bona Venture Stables, established in 2005, offers share-based horse racing partnerships for professional ownership at a fraction of the cost. With 8 to 12 horses racing in various tracks and races, Bona Venture Stables maintains a philosophy of racing as friends. Managed by Dan Collins, a lifelong racing fan with 15 years of thoroughbred experience. bonaventurestables.com)


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