Kentucky Derby Prop Bets & Picks for 2023 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs

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These are fascinating times. Kentucky Derby props may one day grow like wildfire, as they have in the Super Bowl.

For now, it’s an evolving process, comparatively speaking, as it requires a more deliberate state-by-state approval process and rollout. But the sector is growing each year. There are a good number available to bettors for Saturday’s Run for the Roses.

Here’s a sample of Kentucky Derby prop bets offered at Circa Sports in Las Vegas, along with my picks. These are in no considerable order of preference. Check your favorite sports betting apps for their Derby prop offerings.

More on Saturday’s Run for the Roses: Kentucky Derby Best Bets | 2023 Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw & Field | 2023 Kentucky Derby odds | DraftKings boss helps Gaming Today preview Derby

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Kentucky Derby Matchup Props & Picks

One form of prop betting in horse racing mirrors that of golf or NASCAR betting: picking one entry to finish over the other, each offered at a certain moneyline. In the first head-to-head Kentucky Derby matchup props listed here, for example, Forte does not have to win the race for a bet on the No. 15 to cash; he simply has to cross the finish line before No. 5 Tapit Trice.

Forte (-170) vs. Tapit Trice (+140)

Nod to Forte, as I like him to win the race. Tapit Trice is in one of my trifecta box tickets with Forte, however.

These colts have won nine in a row between them. Forte, with five straight triumphs, ran about half a second faster in his last outing, the Florida Derby, than Tapit Trice ran in his, the Blue Grass Stakes, both races contested at 1 1-8 miles.

Two excellent horses, who have done everything asked.

Angel of Empire (-160) vs. Derma Sotogake (+130)

Nod to Angel of Empire, but what respect this shows for Derma Sotogake. Japanese breeds are rapidly improving. Angel of Empire might be trying to run down Derma Sotogake in the stretch.

Angel of Empire is offered in 2023 Kentucky Derby prop bets.
Angel of Empire (pictured on the outside working out at Churchill Downs) figures into our 2023 Kentucky Derby prop bet picks (Coady Photography, Churchill Downs)

Verifying (-130) vs. Two Phil’s (Even)

A lean to Two Phil’s, even though it’s tough to evaluate the synthetic surface upon which he won the Jeff Ruby Steaks. He’ll likely be chasing Verifying, who had a dream speed trip in nearly winning the Blue Grass.

Confidence Game vs. Mage (Both -115)

Fascinating matchup. I lean Mage. What happens if this horse ever breaks somewhere better than the back of the pack? Also, coming off a layoff after winning the Rebel in May is a risky move for Confidence Game connections.

Confidence Game has proven himself in the slop. On a clear day with no weather problems, we don’t know. Rain now looks unlikely to affect the race.

Hit Show vs. Disarm (Both -115)

Lean Disarm is the pick in this fairly-priced prop. Neither horse won the big preps. Hit Show finished second to 59-to-1 shot Lord Miles (scratched Thursday from the Derby) at the Wood Memorial. Disarm is in bridesmaid mode — loves to hit the board, but hasn’t been winning.

Skinner (-130) vs. Two Phils’s (Even)

Going with Two Phil’s. Excellent late-running style. Was moving better at the end of his Jeff Ruby Steaks triumph than Skinner was in his third-place Santa Anita Derby finish. Good action bet on either side.

Raise Cain vs. Reincarnate (Both -115)

Fascinating toss of the coin. Raise Cain runs late, Reincarnate goes early.

I will go with Reincarnate and his third in the Arkansas Derby over Raise Cain’s fifth in the Blue Grass.

Jace’s Road (+135) vs. Rocket Can (-165)

Might be time to go with an underdog. Jace’s Road got a nice third in the Louisiana Derby in front-running style. Rocket Can was fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Came out of a faster pace, but at this price, I’ll take a pop on the dog.

Skinner (-160) vs. Mage (+130)

Going with Mage. Had the Kentucky Derby favorite Forte beaten with 50 yards to go in the Florida Derby before being nipped. Yes, the big field and his inability to break well hamper him, but I’d rather take a shot that he breaks even a little bit.

Might be overlooked in general for the race.

Skinner was in position to win the Santa Anita Derby but did not run strongly enough at the end, finishing third.

Sun Thunder (Even) vs. Rocket Can (-130)

The betting price is about where this one sits. Sun Thunder ran nice, rallying second to Angel of Empire in the Risen Star. Rocket Can was later fourth to Angel of Empire in the Arkansas Derby.

Is this a slam dunk for Sun Thunder? Not that easy, as Angel of Empire improved between races.

Nonetheless, I will take the chalk.

Angel of Empire (-175) vs. Kingsbarns (+145)

Could be a microcosm of the race itself. I have both in superfecta tickets.

Kingsbarns is going to be in the pack of speed horses. If the pace is contentious, he could be in trouble. If it’s not, he’s dangerous, by virtue of winning at 1 3-16 miles.

Lean Angel of Empire, because he’s my favorite choice alongside Forte, but not at this price.

Cross-Referencing the Kentucky Derby Props

Besides being fun to play and potentially profitable, the props give a secondary insight as to how oddsmakers may be viewing the field.

Verifying, for instance, is favored over Two Phil’s, who has the highest Beyer speed figure in the race at 101. Verifying has a 99, which also is excellent.

But Verifying is a longer price on the race board (15-to-1 odds) than Two Phil’s (12-1). Do the oddsmakers believe Verifying is undervalued? Food for thought.

Good luck with these!

More horse racing: Kentucky Oaks 2023 betting guide | What is an exacta bet? | What is a place bet?

About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Writer
Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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