Horse racing in May means one thing: the launch of the fabled Triple Crown, featuring the world’s top 3-year-old thoroughbreds.
The sport’s most celebrated three-race series starts with the $3 million Kentucky Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
It advances to the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes May 20 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, and concludes with the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes June 10 at Belmont Park in Elmont.
The Belmont is not only the oldest Triple Crown race, dating back to 1867, but the final proving ground for Triple Crown hopefuls. The Belmont has crowned 13 Triple Crown champions and seen 23 Derby and Preakness winners denied the sweep.
The countdown to the Belmont begins with the running of the Derby. And we’re here to take you through the history of the event as well as a breakdown of how to participate in legal horse betting in New York.
Top contenders for 2023 Kentucky Derby
Here’s a look at the field for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. It is the 149th edition of an event first run in 1875 and will cover 1 ¼ miles.
Lord Miles seeks to become the Cinderella Story of the Derby.
He prevailed at 59-1, the longest odds of a Kentucky Derby prep, in winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Park in New York in April.
Raise Cain, who won the Gotham at 24-1 on a muddy, sealed track at Aqueduct in March, is another longshot hopeful. But he was beaten handily by Tapit Trice and Verifying in the Blue Grass.
Other horses gaining notoriety include Angel of Empire, who captured the Risen Star Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Practical Move represents Santa Anita Park in California with triumphs in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby’s. Two Phil’s captured the Jeff Ruby Steaks, while Confidence Game scored in the Rebel Stakes.
Several horses have a shot for the glory this year.
Noteworthy Kentucky Derby trainers have NY ties
Todd Pletcher is not only one of the biggest names in the sport, but he has three legitimate contenders in this race: favored Forte, Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns. Forte won the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park; Tapit Trice owns victories at the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes; Kingsbarns captured the Louisiana Derby.
Pletcher has numerous training titles in New York, Kentucky and Florida. That list includes five consecutive titles at the Saratoga summer meet. He has won several Eclipse Awards, is a member of the United States Racing Hall of Fame and lives in Garden City, Long Island, New York. Pletcher owns two Kentucky Derby victories with Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017.
New York-based Chad Brown has won three Eclipse Awards. He trained 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing. He guides Blazing Sevens, who was initially targeted for the Derby but now looks aimed at the Preakness.
Bill Mott has a stable of horses in New York and Kentucky and is the trainer of Rocket Can. Mott’s horse won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park before finishing well behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth and Angel of Empire in the Arkansas Derby.
Kentucky Derby NY horse betting primer
For many individuals, betting on a horse race is a fun and enjoyable experience. But it can also leave bettors confused as to what exactly each bet means and how to go about placing a wager.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common types of horse bets.
The basic wagers
- Win: Horse must cross the line first.
- Place: Horse can finish first or second. Pays less than the win line.
- Show: Horse to finish first, second or third. Pays lower than win and place but has better chance to hit.
- Across the Board: Betting a horse to win, place and show
Next Level of Betting
- Exactas: Selecting the top two finishers in order. For most bettors, it’s wise to put them in an exacta box. A $5 exacta box with the 2 and 4 horses, for example, costs $10. It wins whether the finishing order is 2-4 or 4-2.
- Trifectas: Selecting the top three finishers in the race. A $1 trifecta box costs $6 and gives you three horses. (a 6-7-8 box pays on any combo of those three in the top spots). A $1 trifecta “key” is inexpensive too. It means putting a horse in a specific place with others filling the trifecta combination. Putting the 1 over the 6-7-8, for example, means the 1 must win and any combo of the 6-7-8 in the next two spots pays off. Put the 1 in the second position with those same horses and they must fill up the first and third slots, while the 1 must be second. This bet, placing the 1 in the first and second spot with three horses, is only $12.
- Superfecta: Top four finishers in order. Expensive, hard to hit, but lucrative.
Final two legs of Triple Crown awaits, including Belmont Stakes
Once the Derby concludes, it’s on to the Preakness Stakes in Maryland. This race is the shortest race of the three at 1 3⁄16 miles. The field is usually about half the size of the Derby, meaning there should be less traffic congestion and fewer incidents of “racing luck” that can affect the outcome.
Early speed is often rewarded here.
The last two Preakness winners, Rombauer and Early Voting, did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Some trainers feel it’s too taxing on their horses to run these two races two weeks apart.
This is a recently-emerging dynamic that makes the Triple Crown sweep harder to attain.
A Look at the Belmont Stakes
The big daddy of ’em all, at 1 ½ miles, the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races and a severe test.
The biggest temptation jockeys must avoid is moving too soon on this longer, novel distance.
The Belmont has also become famous in recent years for loading up its card to resemble a mini-Breeders’ Cup.
In 2022, Belmont Park staged nine major stakes races and the card exceeded $6 million.
This string of tremendous events helps Belmont corner the lucrative gambling market surrounding its big race.
Will any horse win the Triple Crown in 2023?
That depends on how the Kentucky Derby winner comes out of the race.
Lightly-raced Kingsbarns might be logical to handle all three races within six weeks.
In recent years, connections for the Derby winners have been reluctant to race in all three events. They also prefer gunning for the Breeders’ Cup in November.
But that’s all part of the speculation.
For now, as May hits, it’s Triple Crown season.
New York’s finest Triple Crown performers
The term “New York horse” is thrown around loosely, as a thoroughbred who hooks up with a trainer in that area may fall into that category.
But two Empire State performers stand out boldly.
One was Funny Cide, who captured the 2003 Kentucky Derby and was bred in New York. He also won the Preakness handily but could not garner the Belmont Stakes. The other is the immortal Secretariat. Although the GOAT of horse racing is listed as a Virginia bred, much of his career unfolded in New York.
Secretariat won 11 races in New York in a short career that ran from July 1972 until October 1973. Among his major achievements was a Triple Crown sweep in 1973, highlighted by victory at the Belmont.
Secretariat still has the fastest time in all three Triple Crown races, set within a six-week period.
Those records are now 50 years old.