Wes Stevenson’s Favorite Day
May 4, 2023
What epitomizes Louisville, Kentucky more than the Kentucky Derby? The answer is simple: nothing. Derby weekend represents the pinnacle of being a Louisvillian. Though the Derby has evolved into a fashion show, social gathering, and weekend-long celebration, today’s focus is on the true reason for the event: the race.
I could discuss my race predictions at length, but my knowledge of horses is akin to an eight-year-old selecting a horse based on its name. Instead, I’ll provide an overview of the race to avoid being blamed for your busted picks. The Kentucky Derby is one and one-quarter miles long for three-year-old horses, known as “the fastest two minutes in sports,” which reflects the race’s duration.
This year’s favorite is Forte, the Florida Derby winner. A two-year-old champion, Forte claimed victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the world’s most prestigious race for two-year-olds. The horse’s talent has only improved while racing in Florida this spring. Both Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., a four-time top jockey of the year, are confident in Forte. If victorious, Forte will be the third horse to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.
Another Todd Pletcher trainee, Tapit Trice, is also a contender. Named after his sire, Tapit, a legendary racehorse and stallion who sired horses like Essential Quality, Flightline, and Frosted, Tapit Trice boasts a stunning gray color often seen in the winner’s circle. With consecutive wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, he and Forte could secure Pletcher’s third Kentucky Derby win (Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017).
From the west coast racing scene comes a successful colt, Practical Move. Trained by Tim Yakteen, a close friend and associate trainer of Bob Baffert, Practical Move will certainly garner attention on Derby Day. The horse has an impressive résumé, having won the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby this spring at Santa Anita Park in California. Improving with distance, Practical Move will be ridden by lesser-known jockey Ramon Vasquez, who placed 13th in his only Derby appearance in 2015.
The final horse to highlight is Angel of Empire, trained by Louisville native Brad Cox. With significant wins in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course, Cox seeks his second Derby victory but hopes for a first-place finish at the wire. In 2021, Cox was awarded the Derby win with Mandaloun after Medina Spirit’s disqualification months after the race. Similarly, jockey Flavien Prat won in 2019 when longshot Country House was declared the winner following Maximum Security’s disqualification for interference.
The 149th Kentucky Derby promises excitement for all. As a casual horse racing fan, I offer this advice: enjoy the day and don’t stress about picking the winner. As demonstrated last year, anything can happen, regardless of race predictions. Derby Day is steeped in incredible traditions that make me proud to be a Kentuckian. If you find me on Derby Day, you’ll likely see me shedding a tear during “My Old Kentucky Home.” So do me and yourself a favor, savor this glorious day of horses and history.