TIZ THE LAW enters Saturday’s $3 million dollar Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs as the overwhelming favorite — a deserved honor, given his talents and accomplishments along what was a strange 3-year-old Derby Trail.
Upsets do occur in this race, although the points era has made surprise long shot Winners almost non-existent except for COUNTRY HOUSE last year. (And that Win was via a controversial disqualification.)
For the most part in recent years, the horse that wears the roses has gone off at low single-digit odds.
So let’s take a look at this years field of eighteen runners.
1. FINNICK THE FIERCE [ML 50-1] Trainer: Rey Hernandez. Jockey: Martin Garcia. His Blue Grass Stakes (G2) effort was disappointing. After making a decent move into 4th on the turn, he became tired and faded to 7th. A closer’s strength is closing the gap in the stretch, not losing ground to the Winner. Drawing the rail does not strengthen his cause.
2. MAX PLAYER [ML 30-1] Trainer: Linda Rice. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. This deep closer keeps picking up pay checks. He gave modest runs for 3rd in both the Belmont and Travers Stakes (G1). This is the kind of horse who passes tired horses in the stretch and brings Value to the Trifecta or Superfecta payoffs. He is usable in that capacity.
3. ENFORCEABLE [ML 30-1] Trainer: Mark Casse. Jockey: Adam Beschizza. As a closer his effort in the Blue Grass Stakes was not impressive. He at least hung on for 4th, which is not terrible. However, he did get beat down the stretch for 3rd. His running line in that race shows he never got closer than seven lengths off the lead. He is just not very fast and figures to get caught in plenty of traffic from Post 3.
4. STORM THE COURT [ML 50-1] Trainer: Peter Eurton. Jockey: Julien Leparoux. The reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champion is 0 for 5 this year. He was no match for AUTHENTIC and HONOR A. P. in the San Felipe Stakes (G2), finishing a non-threatening 3rd by 5 3/4 lengths. He then ran 6th by 12 lengths in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He does not belong with these horses.
5. MAJOR FED [ML 50-1] Trainer: Gregory Foley. Jockey: James Graham. After a promising 2nd in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2), he ran 4th in the Louisiana Derby (G2), 10th in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) and 2nd in the Indiana Derby (G3). Toss the Matt Winn effort, as a wide first turn severely hurt his chances. If he can revert back to his Risen Star style and settle in mid-pack at least, he has a shot to hit the board. At his odds, he might be worth a play underneath.
6. KING GUILLERMO [ML 20-1] Trainer: Juan Carlos Avila. Jockey: Samy Camacho. Despite the 126-day layoff, this colt has done nothing wrong in 2020. He Won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) by 4 3/4 lengths with a 119 speed figure. Finished a strong 2nd to the invincible NADAL in the Arkansas Derby (G1). In the AD he posted a speed figure of 120. Those speed figures came in the spring, so he is probably a stronger and faster horse by now.
7. MONEY MOVES [ML 30-1] Trainer: Todd Pletcher. Jockey: Javier Castellano. He lost an Optional Claimer at Saratoga on July 25, so it is hard to take him seriously. Yes, he ran against older horses and lost by only a neck, but neither of his two prior races are impressive enough to make him in play here. He needs more time to develop.
8. SOUTH BEND [ML 50-1] Trainer: William Mott. Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. This race has a fair amount of closers, including this guy. He did complete the Superfecta in the Travers Stakes (G1), but two lengths separated him and 3rd place finisher MAX PLAYER. Prior to that effort, he ran a closing 2nd in the Ohio Derby (G3). Betting every closer is an expensive strategy. No RUDY story here.
9. MR. BIG NEWS [ML 50-1] Trainer: Bret Calhoun. Jockey: Gabriel Saez. He Won the Oaklawn Stakes after a pace collapse before showing his lack of class in the Blue Grass Stakes with a tepid 6th place finish. The connections decided to attempt this race at the last minute, and that is not a great sign of confidence. On the upside, he draws a good Post Position and figures to pick off tired horses. Superfecta players might want to think about tossing him in the 3rd or 4th spots.
On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will freshen up its bourbon and look at the remaining nine derby contenders, as well as make some fearless, Value-driven picks.
So be sure to stop back.