2020 Derby Weekend Part 2 – My Old Kentucky [at] Home
Updated: Sep 6, 2020
By Katie Hall
Baseball & Horse Racing Analyst
It’s Derby Day. Pour the bourbon. Put on the hat. And cue My Old Kentucky Home.
Unlike the Kentucky Oaks (for more information, see Part 1 of this Derby weekend series), the Kentucky Derby needs no introduction. They don’t call it the most exciting two in minutes in sports for nothing!
On the first Saturday in May, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Churchill Downs to watch some of the world’s best three year-old thoroughbreds race for one and ¼ miles on dirt for a chance to win the iconic garland of roses (and $3 million!).
Like most things this year, the 2020 Kentucky Derby will look much different today. Because there are no fans, the stands will look empty and there will be no roar from the crowd as the horses come around the curve into the final straightaway. Because the race is taking place in September (not May), the field looks completely different than it would have, as some horses would not have been ready (or qualified) to race four months earlier.
Luckily, some things have not changed! The race (and the entire afternoon of other races, including the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic) will be televised Grocery stores across the country are stocked with mint and bourbon – inviting sports fans to make their own juleps to get them in the mood for an afternoon of exciting racing!
But most importantly, the race once again has an incredible favorite – Tiz the Law. This New York bred horse has shown nothing but fire, especially in the Belmont Stakes in June and the Runhappy Travers in August. In this field of 17 horses, anything can happen, but don’t be surprised to see Mauel Franco and Tiz the Law covered in red roses in the winner’s circle.
In any other year, I would end this article here out of respect to the favorite. However, after Bob Baffert’s Gamine broke my heart yesterday in the Kentucky Oaks, I’ve decided to approach the Derby differently.
When analyzing horses, often experts look at the same major things. Here are a few:
1. Past performances – What kind of races has the horse run before? Was it a similar distance? What kind of competition did the horse have? Did the horse race against any of the other horses in the race today? How well did the horse run in those races?
2. Speed figures – It is, after all, a race. So, how fast is the horse? How fast has the horse raced in past races and during published workouts (Note: Trainers publish workout times for horses, so if a horse hasn’t raced in awhile, you can see how well it has been practicing between races.)
3. Post position – On the Tuesday before the Derby, the horses are given their post positions (i.e. which slot they get in the starting gate). The post position draw is actually done with bingo balls! The thought is that you do not want a post that is on the far ends. However, if the horse is good enough, post position doesn’t matter. For example, Big Brown won from the 20 post and American Pharoah won from 18. That being said, no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from the 1 post position.
4. Trainer – The best trainers in the country each almost always have a horse in the Kentucky Derby, so each horse has an advantage. However, Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs is hard to bet against, as he’s won the Derby five times in his career, including Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify.
5. Jockey – Who is actually riding the horse? Have they ridden the horse before? For today, the jockey is what I am paying particular attention to.
My friend Danielle asked me last night after the Oaks, “How important is the jockey to the race?” I couldn’t help but laugh because, to me, besides the horse, the jockey is the most important piece to running a successful race. Pedigree and training, of course, are relevant, but once the horse is loaded in and the gate opens, the jockey is in charge and often the decisions he or she makes determine where the horse will finish. For example, in 2009, had Calvin Borel not taken Mind that Bird to the rail, the 50-1 longshot never would have won the Kentucky Derby. Today – I’ll be looking for revenge for John Velazquez. After failing as the favorite with Gamine in the Oaks, I hope he comes out and upsets Tiz the Law with Authentic – Bob Baffert’s Derby horse.
Regardless of the outcome, today will be a Derby to remember. Tune in today starting at 1:30pm EST. For more analysis and tips for how to bet, see some expert advice from Big Joe and Sammy.
Big Joe – Expert Analysis
Anything can happen in a race with 17, 3 year-old horses many of them running a distance they have never run before and will never run again. With that said, let’s look at the race on paper and begin with horses we can logically say have little to no chance to win and move from there.
Horses that would have been in the Derby in May, had little chance then and little chance now:
Storm the Court, Major Fed, Sole Volante, and Enforceable. I listed Enforceable last because this is the classic closer—a horse that comes from the back of the pack late in the race—that used to do very well in the Derby. This is a horse that has an real chance at 2nd or 3rd. Would be a major upset winner, but in a true speed dual there is at least a scenario he could pull it off.
Owners with Derby Fever—Would not have qualified in May and should not have qualified now:
Mr. Big News, Winning Impression, and Necker Island.
Improving Horses, but are they improving enough:
Max Player, South Bend, and Attachment Rate. Simply put, these horses have a pattern of getting faster each race, but it’s questionable that continued improvement will be enough to win the Derby with improvement on their past performances against the top horses in today’s race. Keep these horses in mind for 2nd or 3rd place finishes.
Why is this horse in the Derby:
Money Moves. The answer isTodd Pletcher. Pletcher needs a horse in the Derby. The question is can this lightly raced, non-stakes tested horse make a jump in class. Based on his speed figures, it is not totally out of the question, but will take a great improvement. Very interesting long shot.
Authentic – I believe this is the top early speed in the race and a true superstar. The issue is can this horse carry that speed for 1¼ miles? When talking about a win, I will bet against him, but definitely use him in exotics, place and show bets.
Thousand Words – How deep is Bob Baffert’s stable? If this was the first weekend of May, Thousand Words would be the 5th best horse in his barn. Now he is coming off a win over Honor A. P. Definitely worth a serious look.
Honor A.P. –A very classy horse with a great chance to win.
NY Traffic – Improving horse that gave a great effort in a very close loss to Authentic in the Haskill. Based on Odds, not a contender, but there is something about this horse that I really like. If Tiz the Law runs into trouble, this is my pick.
Tiz the Law – Last but not least – the favorite and most likely the winner. This horse is a monster. On paper he should not be beat. I highly doubt he gets beat, but in a race with 17 horses, anything can happen.
If you are going to bet on Tiz the Law, the trick is how to make money on a heavily favored horse. You need to look at multi-race bets (pick 3 or pick 4) and exotics (exactas, trifectas and superfectas.)
Exacta: 17/7, 10, 15
[Every $1 Exacta of this combination costs $3 to bet.]
Trifecta: 17/7,10,15/2, 3, 7, 10, 15, 16, 18
[Every 50 cent trifecta costs $9.00. You can also make another bet 17/2, 3, 7, 10, 15, 16, 18/ 7, 10, 15.]
Sammy – Expert Analysis
Tiz the Law is the real deal. For all of the talk of a potential asterisk if this son of Constitution ends up winning the 2020 version of the triple crown, it’s important to remember that this horse likely would have been one of the favorites for a Derby-day on the first Saturday of May as well. He was in incredible form this Spring, but he would have admittedly faced a much saltier group had this race been run in May. While there are very talented horses in today’s Derby, about half of this field would not have found themselves running for the roses in any normal year.
Are there reasons to bet against Tiz the Law? Sure, if you’re desperate for an excuse. He has only run at Churchill Downs once and that is still the only race he didn’t find himself in the winner’s circle. But he finished third, losing by less than a length and it was a sloppy track that day in Louisville (nothing but clear skies today). The bigger reason to consider a bet against him is that this is derby day and anything can happen. Tiz the Law’s running style suggests that he will be just off the pace and with 16 horses running, there’s always a chance that he gets boxed-in and runs out room to make his move. I’m not betting on that, but hey, anything’s possible on Derby Day – just ask Mine That Bird.
In a race like this, I think you need to primarily decide if you’re with the favorite or if you’re against him. If you’re with the favorite and you would normally bet a trifecta, I would suggest that you play a superfecta - put Tiz the Law in the first spot and forget about him and then identify the next 3 horses like you would for a trifecta. If you’re inclined to bet against Tiz the Law, then have some fun and hope that lightning strikes for a massive payout. If something were to go sideways for Tiz the Law, I like some longshots to be in the mix: 10-Thousand Words (15/1); 15-NY Traffic (20/1); 12-Sole Volante (30/1); and 2-Max Player (15/1).
$0.50 Superfecta: 17 / 10,15,16,18 / 2,10,12,15,16,18 / 2,10,12,15,16,18 [Ticket Cost: $40]
$5 Exacta: 17 / 2,10,12,15,16,18 [Ticket Cost: $30]
Longshot Ticket: $0.10 Superfecta: 10,15,16,18 / 10,15,16,18 / 2,10,12,15,16,17,18 / 2,10,12,15,16,17,18 [Ticket Cost: $24]
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