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Most of the Kentucky Derby prep races this year have left fans, handicappers, and analysts underwhelmed and scratching our heads. The winners in most cases have been completely unexpected with mediocre resumes.  And then… there is Forte. 

Forte already has three Grade 1 wins in six starts including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last Fall. In his first and only race in 2023 he handily won the G2 $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Tomorrow he will attempt to make it six wins out of seven starts in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and should easily surpass the $2 million dollar mark in earnings. 
By now you are probably thinking his uber-wealthy owner, Mike Repole, paid more than a million dollars for this superstar. Wrong. The beautiful son of Violence out of the Blame mare Queen Caroline, was a $110,000 steal at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2021. That is peanuts for Mike Repole and most Todd Pletcher trained horses. 
Forte schooled at Gulfstream this week and pranced around the paddock like Zenyatta. He will have leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard again as in his previous six starts. Ortiz says the colt is a fierce competitor, knows what he has to do, and executes with precision. He also says he is getting smarter and stronger with every race. 
Forte drew the 11 hole which is not ideal, so he should get some much needed experience with overcoming obstacles prior to stepping into the gate in Louisville with 19 of his closest friends. There is never an easy trip in the Kentucky Derby, just because of the crowded field. Ortiz is not at all worried about the post, though. He says Forte will adjust and prevail.
I tend to agree with Ortiz on this one. This field is lacking in both class and talent. Something crazy will have to happen for the prohibitive 4-5 morning line favorite to lose. 
IF he were to get into serious traffic issues or have an off day, who might give him a bit of competition? Mage is a lightly raced colt with some upside and potential to improve for Gustavo Delgado. Fort Bragg is a Baffert horse coming in for Tim Yakteen…but we all know how that usually turns out. And the only other two horses I see with a shot to hit the board are Cyclone Mischief and maybe Dubyuhnell. If I play one long shot it will be Mr. Ripple. He is 30-1 morning line, but likes Gulfstream… and jockey Edgar Zayas is known for his upsets.  
Good luck to all. May the horse be with you!

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