2023 Kentucky Derby Contender Profile – Angel of Empire


He debuted on a sloppy track at Horseshoe Indianapolis back in August, where he came from off the pace to break his maiden at first asking in a one mile contest. He tried cutting back in distance and moving to the turf when going 6 and ½ furlongs at Kentucky Downs. Clearly that wasn’t what he wanted, and upon returning to Indiana, he would take a significant step forward to dominate a N2L allowance race at two turns. 

He made his first start in stakes company at Oaklawn in the Smarty Jones Stakes in January. He was facing his stablemate, Victory Formation, who felt like the lone speed in the race. While he was clearly second best that day, he still closed well and looked like a horse that would benefit from going longer distances. We captured his first graded stakes victory when beating a large field at the Fair Grounds in the Risen Star. The pace was more aggressive that day, so closers certainly had the advantage. However, he didn’t get a perfect trip and he finished in front of some promising horses. He became a Grade 1 winner back at Oaklawn, winning the Arkansas Derby by 4 and ½ lengths. 


I think he fits very well with this group. He’s made a strong progression of speed figure improvements after each start. He’s proven on multiple occasions that he is capable of producing a sustained bid for a half mile. He’s also proven that he can sustain that energy when in between rivals and in tight spots. His Beyer Speed Figures are a shade lower than some of the other contenders, but he’s a horse whose figures continue to climb. He has two wins at nine furlongs, and he’s finished both of those races with good energy, hinting that he could go longer. There’s not a ton of speed in the body of the field for the Derby at this time, but he has enough tactical speed where I think he can find himself squarely in the middle of the pack. 

Bet the 2023 Kentucky Derby with TwinSpires


Brad Cox, who was awarded the 2021 Kentucky Derby, trains this Pennsylvania bred colt for the Albaugh Family Stables, LLC. Flavien Prat, who also rode Kingsbarns to victory in the Louisiana Derby, has committed to ride Angel of Empire, which I see as a positive sign. He’s sired by Classic Empire, who was a two year old champion and a Grade 1 winner at nine furlongs, winning the 2017 Arkansas Derby. His dam, Armony’s Angel, was winless in eight career starts. She was sired by To Honor and Serve, who was a Grade 1 winner at nine furlongs as well. One interesting caveat with his pedigree is that his dosage index is much higher than the norm in this field, being assigned a 9.0 figure. To put that in perspective, horses over 4.0 are believed to be naturally predisposed to struggling at longer distances. Many of those contenders this year are under the 4.0 threshold. Strike the Gold was the only Derby winner to win, having such a high dosage figure. In recent years, there have been several anomalies to this system, with horses winning the Derby despite a higher dosage figure.


He’s a horse that’s going to be included on several of my tickets in this year’s Derby. While he has a more modest pedigree than many in this field, I love how he continues to improve in each dirt start and how he is adaptable to whatever pace scenario develops in his races. Like everyone else, he’s going to need to work out a decent trip. This has been a race that has been kind to horses on or near the lead in eight of the last nine Derbies, last year’s edition being the exception. I still see him as a top-three candidate in this race.

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