Speed Kills: Using Speed Trends to Bet on the Kentucky Derby

  • The best bets in the past for the Kentucky Derby have been horses that have posted fast E-Speed trends before the gates open.
  • In 2023, that would mean that Practical Move with +1000 odds is the best bet to win the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The gates for the Kentucky Derby open on Saturday afternoon, with bettors served well to look at the speed trends of previous Kentucky Derby winners.

Online USA sportsbooks are offering odds on all 20 horses plus three different alternates ahead of the Run for the Roses, with players able to secure bets on every fast Kentucky Derby horse ahead of the most popular race of the year.

Kentucky Derby Odds 2023

  • 1. Hit Show +3000
  • 2. Verifying +1800
  • 3. Two Phil's +1200
  • 4. Confidence Game +1800
  • 5. Tapit Trice +500
  • 6. Kingsbarns +1000
  • 7. Reincarnate +3500
  • 8. Mage +1600
  • 9. Skinner +2800
  • 10. Practical Move +1000
  • 11. Disarm +3300
  • 12. Jace's Road +5000
  • 13. Sun Thunder +5000
  • 14. Angel Of Empire +900
  • 15. Forte +300
  • 16. Raise Cain +6600
  • 17. Derma Sotogake +1000
  • 18. Rocket Can +5000
  • 19. Lord Miles +5000
  • 20. Continuar +6000
  • 21. Cyclone Mischief +5000
  • 22. Mandarin Hero +2000
  • 23. King Russell +8000

Trends for the speed of previous Kentucky Derby horses can be garnered using the Equibase Speed Figures, which give a speed rating that equalizes all tracks by field, distance, and conditions.

This accurate speed figure can indicate to bettors which horses in the 2023 Kentucky Derby are best to bet on.

E-Speeds can be measured for nearly the entire field of horses at the Derby except for Derma Sotogake and Continuar from their races as they qualified via the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. Mandarin Hero (the second alternate) has only one E-Speed figure available.

Using the E-Speed figures of the past ten horses to win the Derby, some trends for the Kentucky Derby that may give bettors an edge and the horses that qualify are below.

Race Before the Kentucky Derby E-Speeds

  • Every single one of the past ten winners of the Kentucky Derby had achieved an E-Speed of at least 95 in their race directly before the Derby. In the 2023 field, that would eliminate Jace's Road (+3300), Raise Cain (+6600), Sun Thunder (+6600), and Disarm (+3300).
  • Six of the last ten winners of the KY Derby had E-Speed figures of 105 or higher directly before the race. This greatly limits the field, with only Angel Empire (106 speed, +900 odds), Practical Move (105 speed, +1000 odds), and Mandarin Hero (105 speed, +2000 odds) as the only horses that qualify for the trend.

Previous Two Races before the Kentucky Derby

  • Seven of the last ten winners have hit E-Speeds of 102 or higher in their two races that preceded the Kentucky Derby. The only three horses in 2023 to hit 102 speeds and higher in their last two races are Forte (+275), Practical Move (+1000), and Skinner (+2800).
  • Five winners have been at 104 or higher in back-to-back races before the Kentucky Derby. That would leave just Forte and Practical Move.

Previous Three Races Before the Kentucky Derby

  • Nine of ten Kentucky Derby winners have scored 102+ E-Scores in at least two of their three races before hitting the starting blocks. In the 2023 Kentucky Derby field, that includes four horses: Forte, Practical Move, Skinner, Verifying.

Put simply, past Kentucky Derby winners had shown previously that they could reach top speeds before reaching Churchill Downs.

Those top speeds have meant that they could elevate their speeds when the lights are the brightest, with nine of the past ten Kentucky Derby winners positing E-Speeds of 106 or higher on the big day.

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Of course, Rich Strike (the winner in 2022 who overcame +8000 odds) bucked many of these trends.

Some notable Rich Strike E-Speed numbers include:

  • Kentucky Derby: 97 E-Speed
  • Jeff Ruby Steaks (Race before): 99 E-Speed
  • John Battaglia Memorial Stakes (Two Races before): 93 E-Speed
  • Leonatus Stakes (Three Races Before): 84 E-Speed

Rich Strike overcame very long odds to win the Kentucky Derby because of those speeds, with another long shot unlikely to do so again in 2023.

Following the five trends outlined above, that could mean a horse like Forte (satisfied 4/5 trends, +275 odds) could win.

What may be even more like and profitable at 2023 Kentucky Derby sportsbooks is that Practical Move wins at Churchill Downs on Saturday with +1000 odds because they satisfy all five trends of past Kentucky Derby winners.