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An Early Look at the Kentucky Derby 2020

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This is a unique year for the Triple Crown.  Typically starting on the first Saturday of May with the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday of May, and concluding with the Belmont Stakes two or three weeks later, the running order this year is quite different.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, North American racing authorities moved to protect the Triple Crown by switching the schedule. The 2020 Belmont Stakes is already in the books after being held on June 20 – two weeks after its original date. The Kentucky Derby will now go second, on September 5, with the Preakness Stake hosting the finale on October 3. 

The running order and the prolonged time between the Belmont and the other two races has presented an unusual set of challenges to horses and trainers, and therefore the betting markets are prone to fluctuate over the coming weeks. 

However, what has caught the eye is the dramatic shortening of the odds of favorite Tiz the Law since his rampant win the Belmont Stakes. So, is the 3-year-old worth backing? We take a look at the landscape so far.

Tiz the Law big favorite

When the fifth round of futures betting opened for the Kentucky Derby on June 26, Tiz the Law started the morning at 7-2, before closing the day with odds of 9-5.

Since then, though, the some of the latest Kentucky Derby odds have brought Tiz the Law’s odds in even shorter, with certain sportsbooks now offering evens. Honor A P (5-1), Uncle Chuck, Art Collector (both 8-1), and Authentic (10-1) are considered the challengers to the Barclay Tagg-trained colt.

Tiz the Law’s emphatic 3-3/4 length victory in the Belmont has led to its short odds for the Kentucky Derby, but it’s worth noting that none of Honor A P, Uncle Chuck, and Art Collector raced at Belmont Park. 

Tiz the Law’s short odds are also a consequence of Nadal’s retirement in May. The Bob Baffert-trained horse was an early favorite for the Run of the Roses, was the leader of the Road to Kentucky Derby standings and was the top-ranked 3-year-old thoroughbred in North America before sustaining a career-ending fracture to his left front lateral condylar.

Adding another factor is the injury to Charlatan – another Baffert-trained colt – whose minor ankle issue will keep him absent from Louisville. The injury to Charlatan is another issue for Baffert to contend with after the trainer was suspended for 15 days by the Arkansas Racing Commission after Charlatan and Gamine both tested positive for banned substances

Between now and then

There are still more than seven weeks until the Kentucky Derby and when the race gets underway it will be two-and-a-half months after the Belmont Stakes. It is therefore no surprise that many horses are getting a run out before heading for Louisville. 

Tagg confirmed that he is aiming Tiz the Law at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on August 29 and the colt is the odds-on 10/11 favorite for victory in New York. In a rehearsal for the Derby, Uncle Chuck (4-1) is also named in the Travers. 

Meanwhile, Honor AP trainer John Shirreffs said he plans to enter his Derby horse in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar in California on August 1, while Baffert is expected to transport Authentic across the country to race in the July 18 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. 

Pharoah legend lives on

As Tiz the Law bids to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive, the presence of one of the most recent horses to capture that achievement could be felt in the starting gates. 

American Pharoah captured the Triple Crown in 2015 and later that year became the first horse in history to complete the Grand Slam when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Retired at the end of the 2015 season and put out to stud, American Pharoah has sired a colt that could take his place in the starting gates of the Kentucky Derby.

Café Pharoah won his first three starts to earn enough points on the Japanese circuit to represent Japan in Louisville. His bright start even at one point saw his Kentucky Derby odds halved from 20-1 to 10-1. 

However, most of the latest markets have pushed Café Pharoah back out to around 20-1 after his seventh-placed finish in the Japan Dirt Derby. The horse that won that race? Danon Pharoah, another colt sired by American Pharoah who is second in line for the Kentucky Derby should Café Pharoah’s connections opt against taking him Stateside. 

There is therefore a good chance American Pharoah’s legend will live on at Churchill Downs this year, and while it’s doubtful either colt will replicate his historic achievement, their presence adds an interesting additional narrative.

Here you have our top picks for the Kentucky Derby. If you fancy putting your money on either of them check out the live odds for the race here: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/odds

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