While the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate test of a thoroughbred’s speed, agility, and stamina, the qualifying races set the stage for the main event. Every year, the qualifying races are filled with twists and turns, unexpected upsets, and nail-biting finishes that leave fans on the edge of their seats.
Forty-eight races are held across the United States, Europe, and Japan. These races offer valuable points to the top finishers, and the horses with the highest point totals at the end of the series are guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
These races truly showcase the remarkable talent and determination of the contenders. In this article, we will look closely at some of the most riveting qualifying races leading up to the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
The Santa Anita Derby
The Santa Anita Derby is a Grade 1 race for three-year-old thoroughbreds. It’s a key stepping stone on the path to the Kentucky Derby, giving the winner 100 points toward qualifying for the Run for the Roses.
One of the main reasons the Santa Anita Derby is so thrilling is the caliber of horses that typically compete in the race. Over the years, the race has attracted some of the top three-year-olds in the sport, many of whom have won several prestigious races.
The race has also produced some nail-biting finishes, with several races being decided by just a nose or a head. The tight turns and long stretch run of Santa Anita Park’s track make for an exciting finish, with horses often jockeying for position as they make their way around the final turn and into the home stretch.
This year’s winner and part of the FanDuel 2023 lineup is a three-year-old colt named Practical Move. The colt was running in mid-pack at the start of the race. However, jockey Ramon A. Vazquez was able to find a gap on the inside and guide Practical Move through to the front of the pack in the stretch run.
Practical Move won the race by a nose in a thrilling finish, beating out its closest competitor by just a fraction of a second.
The Florida Derby
The Florida Derby is a heart-racing event that sets the stage for the Run for the Roses. As a Grade 1 stakes race, the Florida Derby is a magnet for the most talented three-year-old thoroughbreds in the country, all vying for a chance to be crowned champion.
Held at the famed Gulfstream Park, the Florida Derby draws crowds of racing fans and industry insiders alike, all eager to witness the sport’s next superstar. It’s a high-stakes race where every move counts, making it an adrenaline-pumping experience that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats.
The track adds to the excitement with its unique features and challenging layout. Gulfstream Park has a long backstretch and a short homestretch, which means the horses must accelerate quickly and maintain their speed to the finish line. It’s a test of skill and athleticism, and the race’s drama often leads to unexpected finishes and upsets.
The most recent winner of the race is Forte, the favorite to win the 2023 Kentucky Derby. At the start of the race, Forte was pushed back, but he gradually worked his way up and emerged as the winner in the final stretch. It was a stunning display of his speed and dexterity, and it’s no surprise that he’s already the top contender for the upcoming Kentucky Derby.
The Arkansas Derby
Get ready to witness one of the most thrilling races on the road to the Kentucky Derby – the Arkansas Derby! As a Grade I stakes race, it attracts the best three-year-old horses in the country who compete for a whopping $1 million purse.
Held at the historic Oaklawn Park racetrack, the Arkansas Derby offers a challenging dirt track and a long homestretch that rewards horses with speed and stamina. It sets the stage for close finishes and dramatic come-from-behind victories.
But that’s not all – the Arkansas Derby is a crucial prep race for the Kentucky Derby. It offers qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top four finishers, making it a must-win event for many contenders looking to secure a spot in the Derby starting gate.
This year’s winner is Angel of Empire. He stayed at the back for much of the race but made a spectacular move on the homestretch to secure a victory in a spectacular finish. Angel of Empire earned 100 qualifying points with the win and cemented his spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
As the road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby comes to a close, we can look back on some of the most exciting qualifying races that have set the stage for one of the most significant events in sports. From the heart-pounding finishes to the underdog stories, these races have given us a glimpse of the thoroughbreds’ talents and determination.