It figures. As soon as the package from Amazon hits the doorstep you realize you don’t need the product after all. At least not right now. That’s sort of how the folks at Churchill Downs feel. They ordered a brand-spanking new 20-stall starting gate, custom made especially for them, only to find out that this year’s Run for the Roses has attracted just 18 runners. Therefore, their new purchase isn’t really required--at least not this year. That disappointment is so 2020, don’t you think? After all, at least 20 horses have entered the race every year since 2004, and in 17 of the last 19 years. Who could have imagined that probable second choice Art Collector, contenders Caracaro and Dr. Post all would miss the race?
As the kids say, ‘Whatever.’ We’ve got a field of 18 runners with a prohibitive 3-5 favorite to boot. Below is a horse-by-horse analysis of this year’s Kentucky Derby followed by one man’s suggested superfecta plays.
1. Finnick the Fierce Hernandez/Garcia 50-1
It’s difficult for us to make too much of a case for this son of Dialed In. He’s crossed the finish first just once—first time out in a maiden race at Indiana Grand and he was placed first via disqualification in an Oaklawn Park optional claiming $80k/allowance race. He was third in the Gr. 1 Arkansas Derby behind Nadal and #6 King Guillermo. He’ll need to step up his game in here from the tricky rail post. Blind in his right eye, all he’ll see early is that long stretch of Churchill rail. Don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Either way, we suppose he could be used in the final slot of the superfecta at huge odds.
2. Max Player Asmussen/Santana 30-1
Trained by the capable Linda Rice for all 5 starts, this colt will run in the Derby under the banner of Hall-of-Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen. Don’t know about you, but we consider changing trainers right before the Kentucky Derby bad juju. It’s understood that Asmussen has a string at Churchill and Rice is based in New York and, furthermore, that we’re dealing with pandemic-restricted travelling routines for equines and humans. Still, Rice knows enough about the game to have worked things out. Don’t know the entire story but dislike the optics. Max Player has a suitable running style for this race—from off the pace. In 5 career races, he’s improved Beyer Speed Ratings each time by at least 4 points. If he has another forward move in the tank, he could find the bottom rung of exotics. He was no match for Tiz the Law in the last 2 races— more than 5 and more than 7 lengths behind ‘Tiz in the Gr 1 Belmont and Gr. 1 Travers, respectively. Doubt he can turn those shortcomings around, but he’s never been off the board and may finish strong enough again to get a check. He was doing his best with high-knee action going 5 furlongs in :59 3/5 on 8/24 at Churchill—out in 1:25 3/5. He figures to hit the board but we’re rooting against him doing that because of the trainer change and he’ll be overplayed in the lower rungs of exotics.
3. Enforceable Casse/Beschizza 30-1
He’s a rare bird in this Derby—a horse that comes from far back. Things could set up for him with a few Derby runners with ‘go’ on their minds. If not outright frontrunners, there are certainly plenty of entrants that would like to lay ‘close’ early and that could gig up what happens just behind the leaders. Next question: Is Enforceable talented enough to take advantage of a favorable pace scenario should it develop? No doubt, he’ll need to run much better than he ever has before. This son of Tapit ought to appreciate the mile and one-quarter distance. Just 2 wins in 10 starts isn’t ideal, but he could be one of those late-developing types. Trouble is, for him, some of the early developers are pretty good. We’ll use him because he’s likely to be overlooked in the wagering, he’ll be a huge price and he should have something left for the finish.
4. Storm the Court Eurton/Leparoux 50-1
He’s was the 2-year-old champ last season but hasn’t lived up to that title this year. He’s been around—fourth in the Gr. 2 San Vicente; third in the Gr. 2 San Felipe; third in the Gr. 3 Ohio Derby and 2nd in the Gr. 3 LaJolla on turf at Del Mar last out. His last win was the BC Juvenile at nearly 46-1. He’s about that price again to win this race and we don’t see that happening, but he could fill the bottom of the superfecta.
5. Major Fed Foley/Graham 50-1
He’s never been fast enough to threaten in here. He finished second in the Gr. 2 Risen Star and Gr. 3 Indiana Derby, as well as fourth in the Gr. 2 Louisiana Derby. He has worked well at Churchill for this, including a bullet :59 (best of 36) August 28. This son of Ghostzapper will be a huge price and will come from off the pace. He could be used in the bottom rungs of exotics on tickets searching for a bomb with a long fuse.
6. King Guillermo Avila/Camacho 20-1 SCRATCHED
King Guillermo did not visit the track Thursday morning and is scratched from the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Juan Avila brings this colt into the Derby off an extended layoff since a runner-up finish to Nadal in the Gr. 1 Arkansas Derby May 2. It’s an ambitious venture to enter the Kentucky Derby off such a long layoff but Avila is no Johnny-come-lately; he’s trained thousands of winners in native Venezuela. With just 5 starts under his girth—3 on dirt--King Guillermo is a real question mark in here. He absolutely romped at nearly 50-1 to win the Gr. 2 Tampa Bay Derby. That was in March and he had been off since November before that, so you know he can run well fresh. August 22, at Churchill, he worked a sparkling five furlongs in :58 1/5—eagerly pulling early and going out a mile nicely in 1:40. Before that, also at Churchill, he sped five furlongs in a bullet ‘best-of-46’ :59 2/5. He’s fresh, should show early speed and actually could settle into a cozy, rail-skimming position behind #18 Authentic into the first turn. If that’s the case, #6 King Guillermo could hang around until the finish.
7. Money Moves Pletcher/Castellano 30-1
With just 3 starts under his girth, this son of Candy Ride is the most lightly raced runner in the field. This is a huge ask off a sloppy track sprint maiden win, a $75k optional claiming/allowance race mile score at Gulfstream Park and a neck defeat at the $62.5k optional claiming/allowance race going a mile and one-eighth at Saratoga. The most recent race was against older foes and he’s the only runner in the field to have done that. The Pletcher name will draw some support, but this guy really seems overmatched at this stage of his career. As of Thursday, of Derby week, trainer Todd Pletcher had not yet arrived at Churchill Downs and has left the training of this guy in the capable hands of his Hall-of-Fame mentor and recent COVID 19 survivor D. Wayne Lukas. Looks like this camp is merely ‘taking a shot’ at the Derby.
8. South Bend Mott/Gaffalione 50-1
He leads the field with 12 lifetime starts and has 3 wins--all coming at age 2, in his first 3 races! He’s 0-for-8 this year, including 0-for-5 on turf, but has 2 seconds and 2 thirds this year. He closed ground late to just miss in the Ohio Derby and then was a well-beaten fourth behind #17 Tiz the Law in the Travers. This son of Algorithms could pick up a few pieces late but that seems about the best that can be expected from him. He was a late addition to this race and that’s usually not a successful maneuver. It should be noted that he is 2-for-3 at Churchill, so he likes the track. We’ll use him at a huge number to clunk up and juice the exotics.
9. Mr. Big News Calhoun/G. Saez 50-1
Here’s another late-running colt that seems too slow to win, but deserves a longshot look in the bottom rungs of the exotics. He’s 2-for-7 with a Fair Grounds maiden win and a tally in the Oaklawn Stakes. He’s usually a big price and that trend will continue in here. He’s best on turf and those types sometimes handle Churchill Downs dirt well. He’s another clunk-up type at a monster number.
10. Thousand Words Baffert/Geroux 15-1
Five-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert sends this one out following a wire-to-wire score in the Shared Belief at Del Mar. That afternoon he outran #16 Honor A. P. to regain some of the luster he had lost since earlier in his career. #10 Thousand Words won his first 3 races, including the Gr. 2 Los Alamitos Futurity at 2 and the Gr. 3 Robert Lewis at 3. A pair of losses, including a stumbled start fade job in the Oaklawn Stakes in April, sent connections back to the drawing board. If any horse has benefitted from a delayed Kentucky Derby, this guy has. He returned July 4 to finish second in the Los Alamitos Derby before his Shared Belief triumph. He’s another Derby starter that would like to be close early…and that position figures to be crowded. A mile and one-quarter doesn’t seem like the ideal trip for this son of Pioneerof the Nile out of a Pomeroy dam and, except for his last race, he seems a bit below the top ones. He will be over bet in exotics but we’ll use him defensively.
11. Necker Island Hartman/Mena 50-1
He was claimed for $100k at Churchill in June. Blinkers, worn in each of his 10 starts will be removed for the Derby in hopes of reclaiming the form that led to victories in 2 of his first 3 starts. The cupboard is bare since then—about a year. We’ll pass on him.
12. Sole Volante Biancone/Panici 30-1
This guy added front wraps last time out and has been working exclusively on the turf course at Gulfstream Park. Obviously, he likes turf better than dirt—he’s 2-for-2 on the green stuff. Last time we checked; however, the Derby is contested on dirt. However, it should be noted that turf horses often like the Churchill main track. A repeat of his Sam F. Davis in early February would put him in the mix. His last race in the Belmont was poor and an immediate turnaround is required. He should get some exotic play off his earlier successes but, off the addition of front wraps and a poor Belmont performance, we’re inclined to look elsewhere.
13. Attachment Rate Romans/Talamo 50-1
Annually, it seems, trainer Dale Romans is quoted saying that his current Derby entrant is, ‘one of the best horses I’ve ever trained.’ This year, he hasn’t said a word about Attachment Rate except that, “It’s 2020, anything can happen.” Last out, in the Ellis Park Derby, this son of Hard Spun finished second to Art Collector in the best performance of his career. He could react from that effort. However, if you’re looking for a late-developing colt with a chance to juice the exotics at a big price, this just might be your guy. Churchill is his home base but he’s 0-for-2 there—showed speed and stopped first out in a 6-furlong maiden race and had a troubled trip in the Gr. 3 Matt Winn. Forgive his troubled Blue Grass and you might have something here. While Romans has yet to win the Derby, he recently reigned as the winningest trainer in Churchill Downs history (now Steve Asmussen) and has saddled some bombs that have finished in Derby exotics.
14. Winning Impression Stewart/Rocco, Jr. 50-1
He sports 1 win from 9 starts and that came in a sloppy $80k optional claiming/allowance race at Oaklawn Park. His last two races have not been good. Trainer Dallas Stewart has exploded exotic bombs in the Derby before so there’s that. However, that’s about all there is. Pass on him.
15. Ny Traffic Joseph/Lopez 20-1
Since his last win—an optional claiming/allowance race at Gulfstream in January—this Joseph Saffie, Jr. trainee has been no worse than third in four starts (Gr. 2 Risen Star; Gr. 2 Louisiana Derby; Gr. 3 Matt Winn and Gr. 1 Haskell). His last race, a game nose loss to Authentic in the Haskell, was the best of his 9-race career and he’s improved Beyer Speed Figures in 7 consecutive starts, always a good sign. This grey or roan son of Cross Traffic may not relish a mile and one-quarter, but he’s got enough speed to be prominent early and is game enough to fight at the finish. He’s a reach to improve enough to win this, but he could easily hang around for a piece of the exotics.
16. Honor A. P. Shirreffs/Smith 5-1
Trainer John Shirreffs (Giacomo) is one of four trainers in this year’s Derby that has previously won the race: Baffert (Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, American Pharoah and Justify), Barclay Tagg (Funny Cide), Todd Pletcher (Super Saver, Always Dreaming). This ridgeling son of Honor Code counts the Gr. 1 Santa Anita Derby as his prime sophomore achievement to go along with a one-mile maiden race tally. He has three runner-up finishes to his credit. #16 Honor A. P. is a big, long-striding type that takes a while to get into high gear. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will need to keep this mount in the clear because if they are stopped at any point in the race it will take Honor A. P. some time to get that massive frame going again. Shirreffs is a patient trainer and he’s brought this guy along perfectly—no backward Beyer Speed Figure step in 5 starts. Is he good enough to win? Maybe, but he’ll need to run the race of his young life and at least one other horse (Tiz the Law) will need to go backwards. Still, he’s one of the few that could win if the favorite stubs his hoof.
17. Tiz the Law Tagg/Franco 3-5
He’s the deserving 3-5 morning-line favorite in this year’s Run for the Roses. He’s won 6 of 7, including all 4 starts this year. Since he won the Belmont in June, he’s the only runner in the field with a chance to collect this unique Triple Crown that reads Belmont, Derby, Preakness. No doubt, this will be the toughest race of his career—that’s true for everyone in this field—but he’s won all six of his races by at least 3 lengths, a sign of complete domination. Those wagering against this son of Constitution may be banking on the fact that his lone loss came at Churchill Downs over a sloppy track. That afternoon, he had some traffic trouble and still missed by a mere three-quarters of a length. Detractors also might point to a shorter rest period between races than ever before and that his facile victory in the Travers was more of an effort than it seemed. He’s also facing a deep group of competitors, something he’s never experienced before. He’s drawn in post 17 for this race and no horse has ever won the Derby from that slot in the starting gate. Of course, that was out of the old starting gate…or gates. Maybe that new package from Amazon will come in handy after all? Tiz the Law should show good speed from the gate and settle into a close-up position on the outside. How wide he is forced to travel early in this race will tell the story. He’s clearly the one to beat but at 3-5 he’s got enough vulnerability for us to attempt to beat him on some tickets.
18. Authentic Baffert/Velazquez 8-1
Like Tiz the Law, Authentic has just one blemish on his record—he finished second to #16 Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby when that one flipped the San Felipe script on him. He’s won 4 of 5, including the Haskell Stakes last out by a diminishing nose. He’s got speed and should improve off the Haskell for trainer Bob Baffert, who’s won 5 previous Kentucky Derbies, although none in September. Interesting to note that jockey Mike Smith, normally a ‘go-to’ guy for trainer Bob Baffert, departs #18 Authentic to ride #16 Honor A. P. There is some concern that a mile and one-quarter may be a bit further than Authentic wants to go—and his close call Haskell at one mile and one-eighth only adds to that suspicion. It’s likely Baffert didn’t have Authentic fully cranked for the Haskell and the trainer has continued to push the pedal to the metal since. According to Thoro-Graph speed figures, Authentic never really has taken a backward step—always a great sign for a 3-year-old. He’s got to ‘go’ from the #18 post position and then see who else shows speed. #15 Ny Traffic has some speed, but isn’t quite as quick as #18 Authentic. #16 Honor A. P. and #17 Tiz the Law shouldn’t be too far behind but if they leave this colt alone too long, he may be tough to catch…even at a mile and one-quarter.
Watch the start of this race carefully and focus your attention on horses in post positions #15 through #18. That’s where this Derby could be won or lost early. We suspect that #18 Authentic will be sent for the lead. It’s his best chance for success. Trainer Baffert wasn’t happy with the far outside post because he knows jockey John Velazquez’s hand is forced. Look for #18 Authentic to ‘haze’ #17 Tiz the Law leaving the gate. Any ‘pause’ they can cause to the favorite is a bonus.
#10 Thousand Words, #15 Ny Traffic, #16 Honor A. P. and #17 Tiz the Law could all be shuffling for position just behind the leader. If that’s the case, favored #17 Tiz the Law could get the worst of it and be forced extremely wide around the first turn. That’s going to sap energy he might need later and open the door to a possible upset. If #17 Tiz the Law can save some ground around the first turn without losing touch with the leaders, it’s game over, he wins. But, if things unfold the way we think they might, look out for an upset by any one of four colts in order of preference: #18 Authentic, #16 Honor A. P., #13 Attachment Rate or #15 Ny Traffic.
This year Churchill will offer $.10 cent superfecta wagers. Now, before you go dancing in the streets, realize that the small minimum means that every player and his uncle can now spread out like a California wildfire. In other words, if you hit the superfecta, chances are that you will share it with the world. So, if you’re thinking of sending in any superfecta tickets with #17 Tiz the Law on top, think of them less as superfectas and more as trifectas. Don’t expect to make much money unless:
A) You can beat #17 Tiz the Law or
B) He wins and a few bombs round out the super and you have it several times.
Most Likely Winner:
#17 Tiz the Law
Could Upset (in order of preference):
#18 Authentic, #16 Honor A. P., #13 Attachment Rate, #15 Ny Traffic
Lower Rung Bomb Exotic Considerations:
#3 Enforceable, #5 Major Fed, #8 South Bend, #9 Mr. Big News
The Tickets ($105.60 Total)
#17 Tiz the Law is the most likely winner and will anchor most tickets. He does, however, have slight vulnerability—poor post position; possible traffic issues; ground loss; shorter rest since his last race; coming off a taxing mile and one-quarter race; only loss at Churchill Downs.
We’ll key him in the first position and punch the $.10 cent superfecta 5 times. Let’s hope our bombs fill the remaining slots. Should things go a bit sideways and #17 Tiz the Law runs second, surrounded by our selections, we’ll have that dime super twice. That payoff will be much better than if the heavy favorite wins. Finally, in the least likely scenario, we’ll put #17 Tiz the Law in the third position for a dime. If that one hits, we’ll collect a bundle.
$.50 Superfecta ($66)
Second: #13, #15, #16, #18
Third: #13, #15, #16, #18
Fourth: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #12 #13, #15, #16, #18
$.20 Superfecta ($26.40)
First: #13, #15, #16, #18
Third: #13, #15, #16, #18
Fourth: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #12 #13, #15, #16, #18
$.10 Superfecta ($13.20)
First: #13, #15, #16, #18
Second: #13, #15, #16, #18
Fourth: #1, #2 #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #12 #13, #15, #16, #18