Keeping Score: Forte favored in 149th Kentucky Derby

Published: 5/5/2023 5:41:01 PM

Good morning!
Hunch players will be betting Kingsbarns to win today’s Kentucky Derby, and it’s as good a handicapping strategy as any considering the touts couldn’t pick last year’s winner Rich Strike at 80-1.

Churchill Downs’ morning line oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Forte as the 3-1 favorite in the 20-horse field. The dark bay colt is owned by Mike Repole, trained by Todd Pletcher and has won six of seven starts, all with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. Repole is a high-profile owner from Queens who landed on easy street after he invented Vitaminwater and sold the company to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion.

On April 1, Forte was sent off as the odds-on favorite and ran down a lightly-raced chestnut colt named Mage to win the Florida Derby.

Mage is listed at 15-to-1 today and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. Meanwhile, Luis Saez will be on the 5-to-1 second choice Tapit Trice, a winner of four straight including the Blue Grass Stakes his last out.

Angel of Empire, 8-1, is trained by Brad Cox and owned by Albaugh Family Stables. Flavien Prat will be in the saddle for the second time after riding him to a 4 1/2-length win in the Arkansas Derby.

Practical Move was 10-1 off back-to-back 100 Beyer Speed Figure wins at speed-favoring Santa Anita Park before being scratched on Friday, Two Phil’s is 12-to-1 off a 5 1/2-length romp under Jareth Loveberry at Turfway Park, and Verifying is 15-1 after finishing second by a neck to Tapit Trice in the Blue Grass.

That brings us to Confidence Game, a chestnut colt that was auctioned for $25,000 at Keeneland and has yet to win a Grade I race.

Yet two of Confidence Game’s three wins are at Churchill Downs where he turned in a bullet best-of-54 work last week, and that got Greenfield handicapper John Dobrydnio’s attention.

“I do understand who Forte is and he’s a wonderful horse and the only downside is his obnoxious owner,” said Dobrydnio, “but Confidence Game had an eight week layoff and I think they corrected something. I saw the workout and he was tearing the exercise boy’s hands off.

“Mage is my first horse, he was the better horse in the Florida Derby. Confidence Game is my second horse — both to win, and I’m going to use Tapit Trice in exactas and Forte in tri boxes and exacta boxes.”

Commentator Jerry Bailey concurs with Dobrydnio: “Mage will be a player if his run is timed just right.”

Today’s 14-race card begins at 10:30 a.m. and includes four Grade I and four Grade II races. The Run for the Roses is the 12th race and post time is 6:57 p.m.


Townsfolk of a different era remember when Bob Wolanske helped organize the Greenfield Men’s Softball League and started an annual cribbage tournament so big it had to be moved from Hojo’s to the roller skating rink in South Deerfield (now Douglas Auctioneers).

On Sundays after church, people would go to Naples Bakery for fresh bread, stop at Musacchio’s open air market for vegetables and go to Barrett and Baker for the Sunday newspapers.

All are shuttered now, and with Wolanske’s passing on April 25 the town continues to lose its character and characters.


Bruins killer Brandon Montour (five goals, three assists) played at UMass for John Micheletto in the winter of 2015. Micheletto was 31-64-9 in three seasons but showed an eye for talent by recruiting both Montour and Cale Makar.

After sitting out his first semester, Montour had three goals and 17 assists in 21 games. “He was dynamic,” says Greenfield’s Bob Weiss. “He’d do end-to-end rushes. I used to love to watch him.”

Radio voice Brock Hines concurred: “Dynamic and underrated.”


NFL DRAFT NOTES: Pass rusher Keion White looked downright ornery having to wait to be selected by the Patriots with the 46th overall pick. White tried to explain it away by telling the media, “I’m a pretty chill person.” … North Dakota State offensive tackle Cody Mauch’s reaction was much the opposite after Tampa Bay took him 48th overall. Surrounded by a VFW hall full of cheering supporters he said, “I got my teeth knocked out in a high school basketball game running into one of my buddy’s heads. A couple of years ago I took out the retainer and embraced the no front teeth look and decided to save money on haircuts and grew my hair out and that’s my look.” … Several players who lined up against the Minutemen came off the board. Liberty’s Demario Douglas who the Patriots took caught 14 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns in four games against UMass, and Toledo defensive lineman Desjuan Johnson had six tackles during the Rockets’ 55-10 win against UMass last year. Johnson was the 259th and final pick by the Los Angeles Rams, garnering him the title of Mr. Irrelevant. … The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah on Pats’ third round pick Marte Mapu of Sacramento State: “He’s what the modern linebacker looks like in the NFL right now. He can run, cover and blitz. He’s my favorite player in the whole draft.”


TRIVIA: According to, Sixers forward James Harden has four nicknames. Try to name two. (Answer in Squibbers)


SQUIBBERS: At this writing only 586 of the 1,614 athletes who entered the transfer portal had committed to a new school. One reason? The door swings both ways and coaches are using it to push out players they don’t need. … The sweet spots out of the starting gate for today’s Kentucky Derby are the five (Tapit Trice), seven (longshot Reincarnate), eight (Mage), and ten (Practical Move). Those posts have 35 combined wins. …  Pope Francis forward Josh Iby, who had 20 goals and 18 assists in 26 games for the Cardinals, will do a PG year at Cushing Academy. … The undefeated Pioneer Panthers baseball team pickled Oxford, 4-3, last week in what might have been a D-5 tourney preview. … Terry Francona’s advice to Cleveland rookies Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee: “Look guys, we’re gonna be very patient with you, but you’ve gotta learn quickly.” … New Buffs coach Deion Sanders has kept just 12 scholarship players from last year’s one-win team. … Kody Clemens made his father proud by hitting two home runs while the Phils were in hometown Houston last week. …  Trivia Answer: The Beard, El Chapo, Jimbo Slice and Honey Bun. …Terrible news from Dartmouth that football coach Buddy Teevens was hit by a pickup truck while cycling in Florida in March and had to have his leg amputated. …  Angels broadcaster Terry Smith after Shohei Ohtani called time to dust himself off: “He’s gotta be kind of a clean freak.” … Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe in the locker room before Game 5 against Tampa Bay: “Relax the mind, let the legs do the talking.” … The NY Post’s Phil Mushnick, after ESPN fired sideline reporter Marly Rivera for her expletive-laced tirade at a rival female reporter: “Rivera’s rant was so vulgar it immediately came to Roger Goodell’s attention for inclusion in the halftime show.” … WFAN’s Richard Neer on the latest in-vogue word used by football’s talking heads: “He bends. ‘He’s really good at bending.’ OK, I’ll have to look that one up.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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