Mage wins the 2023 Kentucky Derby in a big upset

A week that saw a number of horses scratched from the field culminated with Mage winning the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Verifying, Kingsbarns and Reincarnate got out of the gate strong, followed by Two Phil’s as the field came to the backstretch. Verifying was on the inside with Kingsbarns on the outside, and that is when Two Phil’s made a move as the field came to the stretch. But then Mage broke strong on the outside to the line, coming across ahead of Two Phil’s and Angel of Empire.

Mage was given 17-1 odds at post time. It was also the first Kentucky Derby victory for jockey Javier Castellano, in his 16th Kentucky Derby.

Here is a look at the finish:

The field was shaken up multiple times before the Derby. The week began with three horses — Practical Move, Lord Miles, and Continuar — scratched from the field. Practical Move was scratched for a fever, and Continuar’s trainer did not think the horse was in the best condition for an event such as the Kentucky Derby.

Lord Miles was scratched following deaths of two horses earlier in the week trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., also the trainer of Lord Miles. Churchill Downs announced an indefinite suspension of the trainer due to the “unexplained sudden deaths.”

Then came the shocker on Saturday, with word that Forte, the early favorite, was scratched as a result of an injury suffered during training on Thursday. Forte went out for a workout on Saturday morning but word came shortly after that the favorite was out. Skinner was scratched as well, leaving just 18 horses in the field.

With Forte — who began the week listed as the favorite at 5-1 — out of the field Tapit Trice (9-2) and Angel of Empire (9-2) moved into position as co-favorites early on Saturday. But those odds shifted late in the day, as Angel of Empire moved into position as the favorite.

Kentucky Derby 2023 purse and prize money

The Kentucky Derby is by far the most lucrative race of the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby pays out twice as much in its total purse as the Preakness Stakes and three times as much as the Belmont Stakes. The total purse for the Derby is $3 million, to be split among the top five finishers. In addition, the winning jockey will receive a 10 percent cut of the prize money, while the second and third place jockeys receive a five percent cut.

Here is how today’s top-five finishers will divide the purse:

First place finish: $1.86 million
Second place finish: $600,000
Third place finish: $300,000
Fourth place finish: $150,000
Fifth place finish: $90,000

What were the odds for the race?

Forte, listed at 3-1, began the week as the favorite, followed by Tapit Trice (5-1), Angel of Empire (8-1), and Derma Sotogake (10-1). But with Forte being scratched, the odds shifted over the course of Saturday. Angel of Empire and Tapit Trice were listed as co-favorites for most of the day.

However that shifted shortly before post time, thanks to a well-known individual in the betting world. A large wager on Angel of Empire from none other than Mattress Mack — made during NBC’s coverage — pushed the Brad H. Cox-trained horse into the favorite’s spot:

NBC’s Steve Kornacki was doing a live segment as Mattress Mack placed his bet, and the NBC analyst was quick to note that the odds would immediately shift as a result:

Here were the odds shortly before post time, and after the wager from Mattress Mack:

Up next? The Preakness Stakes

Mage will now aim for the second leg of the Triple Crown at the Preakness Stakes. The Preakness is scheduled for May 20 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

Horse racing fans have not seen a Triple Crown winner since Justify accomplished the feat, referred to as one of the most difficult challenges in all of sports, in 2018. American Pharoah — no stranger to us here at SB Nation — won the Triple Crown back in 2015.

A few horses have come close in recent years. Back in 2012 I’ll Have Another won the first two legs, but was scratched from the Belmont Stakes with a leg injury. During the 2014 season California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but settled for fourth place at Belmont.