The 146th Kentucky Derby is unlike any other, Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in a delay of four months and the Run For The Roses will finally go ahead on Saturday at Churchill Downs (7pm ET, Sept 5 live on NBC).
Here USAbetting analyzes the runners and gives our 2020 Kentucky Derby predictions, full preview and concluding betting picks.
The colt they all have to beat is Barclay Tagg’s Tiz The Law who deserves his position at the head of the Kentucky Derby betting market by a distance at 3/5. Owned by Sackatoga Stable, this son of Constitution was a bargain buy as a yearling at $110,000. He has cruised home in all his starts this season, most recently giving Tagg his first Travers Stakes win, run over this distance of a mile and a quarter. The opposition was not the strongest but the style of his five and a half length victory suggested he did not have to give his all to overcome it.
It was a similar story in the Belmont Stakes in June when he beat Dr Post by almost four lengths. In both those races he was ridden prominently by Manny Franco, tracking the leaders. In March Tiz The Law settled nicely in the middle of the pack before being ridden forward a quarter of a mile from home in the Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. He won easily by four lengths. If one of his rivals decides to set suicidal fractions on Saturday Franco should be able to keep Tiz The Law at a sensible pace without compromising his chances.
Tagg is not overly concerned that his colt has been drawn very wide in gate 17 which has never yielded a Kentucky Derby winner, confident that Tiz The Law has the necessary speed to gain a good position. Even the most superstitious race fans should be reassured that new, 20 gate stalls are being used for the first time this year.
Tagg is not anxious that Tiz The Law’s only defeat occurred at this track either. It was in the grade two Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes back in November and it was not the track but the conditions that did not suit him. It was his only run on sloppy and he took third place, beaten less than a length.
Unfortunately the colt thought most likely to challenge Tiz The Law and the one time second favorite, Art Collector sustained an injury at the track on Monday. He managed to strike into the heel of his front hoof with his hind hoof during a routine piece of work.
His disappointed trainer Tommy Drury reported that it was nothing serious and a full recovery is expected within ten days. Art Collector has been extremely progressive this season and was most recently seen winning both the Toyota Blue Grass and Ellis Park Derby in impressive style. He will now be pointed to the Preakness Stakes on October 3 at Pimlico in the hope of thwarting a Triple Crown bid.
Top trainer Bob Baffert is looking for his sixth Kentucky Derby win but his two most promising colts, Nadal and Charlatan, have also suffered injuries. Unlike Drury, Baffert has alternative ammunition and will be saddling Authentic and Thousand Words.
Authentic is the more popular colt in the Kentucky Derby betting odds with the top online racebooks for American bettors. This son of Into Mischief cost $350,000 as a yearling and looked a very good buy when he cruised to victory twice at Santa Anita earlier this year. He won the grade three Sham Stakes by nearly eight lengths in January and the grade two San Felipe by two lengths in March, starting the bookies’ favorite in both races.
The betting suggested that Authentic was a sure thing in the Santa Anita Derby in June. He was sent off at 1/2 but blotted his copybook and was beaten nearly three lengths into second by Honor A. P. In July he redeemed himself in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park but won by the narrowest of margins giving anyone who supported him heavily as the 3/5 favorite a heart attack as he approached the wire. Mike Smith had to go for everything to maintain his advantage as Ny Traffic stayed on gamely and almost headed him.
Authentic will be partnered by John Velazquez and encounter an extra furlong for the first time on Saturday. Drawn widest of all in this field of 18 and at his best when leading from flagfall, there have to be major doubts about his ability to get home over this trip.
The less fancied Thousand Words will also be trying this distance for the first time but his pedigree gives more cause for optimism. This son of Pioneerof The Nile was a $1 million purchase as a yearling and has plenty to do if he is going to pay back his owners. His most valuable win to date was in the grade two Los Alamitos Futurity as a juvenile in December but his latest run was encouraging.
Thousand Words sprung a major surprise in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on August 1. Ridden by Abel Cedillo for the first time, he beat Honor A. P., the 1/5 favorite partnered by Mike Smith. This colt is more tactically versatile than his stablemate and is drawn in stall ten. The thoroughly competent Florent Geroux will give him every chance of achieving place money.
Another colt with more hope than most is Ny Traffic. He has been ultra-consistent and is a credit to his young Bajan trainer Saffie Joseph Jr who lives for his horses. A son of Cross Traffic, he has not finished out of the first three since he joined Joseph in January and only missed out by a nose in the Haskell. He has run five times and always crossed the wire within two lengths of the winner.
The good news for bettors who like this colt is that Joseph’s trainees do not automatically attract support. Ny Traffic started as a 27/1 long shot in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March and was only beaten a length and a half into second by the favorite, Brad Cox’s brilliant but fragile Wells Bayou. His impressive effort in the closing stages of the Haskell suggests that, unlike many of his rivals, he may benefit from this slightly longer distance. The increase is slight, only 100 meters further than the Louisiana Derby. Paco Lopez partnered Ny Traffic in his last two runs and is booked to ride him from stall 15. He seems to be a good value bet for a place.
John Shirreffs’ Honor A. P. is the second favorite. This son of Honor Code out of a Wild Rush mare was a $850,000 purchase for CRK as a yearling and has looked very promising so far, scoring easily in a maiden special weight as a juvenile. He followed Authentic home in the San Felipe in March and reversed the placings with him when he won the Santa Anita Derby easily in June.
Getting beaten by Thousand Words in the Shared Belief was not part of the plan. Did his jockey Mike Smith get something wrong on that day or does he benefit from a marginally longer trip? Who knows but we do know that Honor A. P. is a relatively tractable colt who will settle mid pack giving him every chance of galloping all the way to the wire. Smith rides him from gate 16.
So we come to our Kentucky Derby predictions verdict and betting pick for this big-race preview. Churchill Downs is currently under water but the weather forecast suggests that conditions should be better on Saturday.
If the track is still sloppy on the day the one-eyed Finnick The Fierce could come into the reckoning at a very long price. Drawn in gate one, he is the only colt in the race who has beaten Tiz The Law, by a head on this track when it was wet last year. Mr Big News has defied long odds to triumph on a sloppy track in a lower-class contest but really we are clutching at straws.
If he is fit and well on the day the hot favorite TIZ THE LAW is in a different class to his rivals. Wet weather is the most likely thing to compromise his chances of gaining his trainer a well-deserved second Kentucky Derby win and set up the Triple Crown dream. We recommend you have a wager with Bovada, Bookmaker or 5Dimes.