It’s finally here – the first Saturday in September. And just when we get used to that clunky phrase, it will hopefully be forever retired. This year’s race comes down to a single question: will Tiz the Law do the business as the shortest priced favorite in recent Derby history? To answer it, Peter T Fornatale looks at the field from the rail out.
Watch the 2020 Kentucky Derby live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 5th September.
This horse is a candidate to become one of the weird national stories that causes a horse to be overbet in the Derby on the Tote because, like Patch before him, he only has one eye. On form and figures, he is way behind these and I can’t see a scenario where he hits the frame.
I would like his chances to earn a minor placing if he’s ridden to make one run again, a strategy that worked in the Belmont and Travers. My fear with him is that connections are clearly looking to change things up – Steve Asmussen is now training him for the same owners rather than Linda Rice. If they decide to also change up his running style, perhaps it will increase his chance of winning but it will also increase his chance of running out of the number. In the end, I think Tiz the Law is just too much for him to handle but he’s a cool horse who deserves his chance and an on-the-board finish would be no surprise. I just won’t be betting on it.
Another late runner and I can see a world in which he gets a small piece. Acquitted himself well in the first Louisiana Derby preps before enduring a rough trip in that race. Came off a long layoff to run fourth in the Blue Grass. Doesn’t look fast enough but could pass tired horses late into the lower rungs of the USA exotics.
The two-year-old champion, but that Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he earned that honor, was a long, long time ago. His recent form is pretty “meh” and many of these have him on the form book – including impossible longshots like Finnick The Fierce. It’s hard for me to design the race in a way where it really works out for him. If everything dovetails correctly, perhaps he could get third.
This horse has a couple of graded placings and I can certainly understand why connections are taking a shot in the USA’s most famous race. That said, his second in the G2 Risen Star came in slow time and the third last out in Indiana came with then benefit of an excellent setup. He’s a longshot for a reason, though late running tactics make him another who could clunk up third or fourth, in what’s becoming a running theme in this write up.
Could be the “wiseguy” pick in this year’s Derby. His workouts two and three back had clockers and fans very excited about his chances. His second in the Arkansas Derby was strong, especially considering the standing that Nadal held at that time. It’s a big question mark, the 10-furlong test off the long break. I am not convinced he will be good enough to beat Tiz the Law but this one would appear to me to be capable of running second if he’s improved the way his works suggest.
A surprise late entrant in this year’s Derby. A big, somewhat lazy horse who is built to get the distance, he lacks experience but owns upside. Connections think this will do nothing to harm him and that with the right set of circumstances they can hit the board. You can’t really make a form and figures case but as racing manager John Panagot said on my Kentucky Derby Monster podcast, “It might look like we’re taking a knife to a gun fight, but we have reason to believe the knife is pretty sharp.”
The other surprise late entrant in this year’s Derby. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: his late running style gives him a chance to run on for third and fourth if he gets the right trip and has the chance to pass tired ones late. On pedigree I would think the distance is too far but Bill Mott has forgotten more about horses than I’ll ever know and just looking at sectionals his last race, the first for Mott, was sneaky OK. Another to leave in for the low rungs of superfectas.
He simply doesn’t look fast enough to get involved even though he is another one-run closer type. Big win came at a massive price and while he had some trouble the last day, I’m just not seeing enough here to think he’ll be able to trouble these, even for a little piece late.
This horse has had an interesting trajectory as a Derby contender. At one point he potentially looked at the top of the class in the Baffert barn, then he looked like a sixth stringer, but his win in the Shared Belief catapulted him back into the Derby picture. He’s got the right, grinding running style for the race, and to get the distance. And his trainer, Bob Baffert, needs no introduction. I would be surprised to see him beat Tiz the Law and would expect Honor A.P. to improve back past him, but this is another horse I would leave in the mix for second through fourth, and I have a lot more confidence that he’ll be there at the end than with most of these others I’ve said similar about.
Another who just isn’t fast enough on speed figures and has been well held by several of today’s rivals. An on-the-board finish feels out of reach for this one.
12 SOLE VOLANTE
Flashed much talent – and impressive closing kick – earlier this year. The dud in the Belmont seems easily explained as he was back in just 10 days. He appears to have worked forwardly since and he has the right running style but I am still holding back on an endorsement. I have a feeling that he might ultimately do his best work on turf.
He looks to me to be the most intriguing longshot. The last race was better than it looked as he was parked wide and stayed on nicely. It may also have been a little faster than the commercial figure makers have it. The race two back was also better than it looked, as he had trouble at the break, and got stuck down on a rail that might not have been the place to be. I think he’s improving, and I like the look of the last two workouts. Is he good enough to beat Tiz the Law? It’s not a likely scenario, but I really like him to run in the number, and an each-way bet at current odds of 50-1 might be the best bet on the board right now.
Represents Dallas Stewart, a trainer known for getting his horses to finish their races and who has a couple of huge number seconds in the Derby on his resume with seemingly overmatched runners. I worry that now that everyone is aware of that, this one will be a shorter price in those pool bets than he ought to me. I can’t make any kind of form and figures case for this one but I will include in third and fourth, if only because I’ll feel so frustrated to let a Dallas Stewart runner beat me in a bet like that.
15 NY TRAFFIC
He gave Authentic all he could handle in the Grade 1 Haskell and if you like one, I feel like you kind of have to like the other. He’s tactical and has trained well since. I worry that there are simply better horses who will be employing the same running style and that makes me a little skeptical about his chances. Might be interesting, with odds, in a head-to-head against Authentic (the current discrepancy between the two with Authentic at 9-1 and NY Traffic at 22-1 feels a bit too large). Ultimately, would be a surprise, but they’ve been known to happen.
16 HONOR A.P.
Was discussed on my podcast by Mike Smith as his “Derby horse” way back in January. It’s been a bumpy road. He had a minor setback leading to his being a little short in the San Felipe. Then he looked the real deal in the Santa Anita Derby, passing Authentic with ease. So what happened last time? Did he regress? Or maybe was it a true prep where connections were less worries with winning than with laying a bit closer and getting fitness from the run? The fact is, it was ugly. But given the hands he’s in (John Shirreffs), it’s possible he’ll be ready to build on the promise of the SA Derby in the one that really matters. He’s going to have to fire his best shot, that’s for sure. He’s the most likely upsetter, but at current odds he doesn’t inspire me to reach into my pocket.
17 TIZ THE LAW
This colt is a rockstar. He’s gotten so, so good this year as his partnership with rider Manny Franco has blossomed and he’s gone on to win three consecutive Grade 1s with ease, especially the last day going the 10 furlongs of the Travers, when he continued to widen his lead in the lane while under wraps. That’s stuff you typically only see in horse racing movies, not reality. The one bad race was at Churchill, and some will point to that as a potential Achilles’ Heel. But three things about that: it was in the slop, he was stuck on the rail, and his partnership with his rider wasn’t as strong as it is now. The forecast looks clear and this outside draw is actually a huge positive for this horse. Pro punter Sean Boarman said to me before the draw, “If he draws outside, the race is over.” Of course, it’s horse racing, and anything can happen, but I am coming around to the idea that this horse is 75 percent to win the race. That leaves a little bit of juice in the current 4-6 price and I’d certainly rather back it than lay it.
At one point your winter book favorite for this race and despite his name I have had some questions about how genuine he is at times. Earplugs seemed to solve the greenness he showed back in the Sham in January. Given the ease with which Honor A.P. passed him in the SA Derby and the life and death finish in the Haskell, he certainly looks like he might have distance limitations. Moreover he just didn’t look great running through the lane there. He might well have a clear lead and that always makes a horse dangerous, especially if the track is playing at all to speed or the inside on the day. But that’s not usually the case in the Derby, and I would think that when Tiz the Law comes calling on the turn, Authentic will crack.
PETER T FORNATALE'S VERDICT
TIZ THE LAW is by far the most likely winner, and he’s the horse that I will officially make my pick. I’ve been talking about him for this race since early this year and hopefully many readers will have gotten involved at the longer prices previously advised. If you just want a bet that’s a likely winner, go ahead and take the 4-6. I would also advise looking closely at the tote win markets as I think it’s likely you might get 4-5 there. So many people who bet one race a year bet the Derby through the Tote based on names and numbers and narratives and it can create great value on favorites (and horrible value on longshots).
The other bet I’m advising is ATTACHMENT RATE each-way at 40-1. I think he has a great chance to run in the number with Tiz and I’d put him on the short list of potential threats to the big horse. I think he’ll ultimately catch more money (imagining 20-1 tote) so get involved sooner rather than later.