The 2020 Kentucky Derby is fast approaching and we’re finally ready to get a good luck at the field. Coming up on Saturday, September 5, the race will finally take place after being delayed from its original date in May. We’re here to take a look at all the top contenders in this 2020 Kentucky Derby Betting Preview.
It has, without a doubt, been one of the oddest of all horse racing seasons. While many sporting events fell by the wayside in 2020, the top thoroughbred races, for the most part, just got shuffled around a little bit. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Triple Crown races, which highlight the action for three-year-olds in the sport.
The normal sequence features the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in May, the Preakness Stakes two weeks after that, and then the Belmont Stakes three weeks later. But because of how things turned out, both the Derby and the Preakness had to be postponed. The Belmont became the first of the Triple Crown races, and Tiz The Law won in dominant fashion.
One other thing that makes the timing of the 146th Kentucky Derby so unique is the way horses qualified for the race. In most years, all the qualifying races, in which horses earn points to try to make the field, are scrunched into a relatively tight window from late in their 2-year-old season to right before the race in May of their three-year-old season.
Recent Changes to the 2020 Kentucky Derby
That schedule has changed, obviously, with the initial postponement of the race. The folks that run the Derby added more prep races in the summer months that also offered qualifying points. As a result, the field could look a little different in 2020 than it has in past years.
The late start to it might allow certain “late bloomer” horses to sneak into the field, where in other years they might not have had the chance. That, along with the elongated nature of the prep season, figures to make the 2020 Kentucky Derby a challenge like never before. And that’s before you even consider the caliber of the horse who figures to be the favorite.
Tiz The Law has been simple overwhelming for the entire of 2020. He was great in the races leading up to the Belmont, made the competition look defenseless in the Belmont, and then went on to win the Travers with no problems whatsoever. Barring some really disadvantageous post position, he figures to be one of the most prohibitive Kentucky Derby favorites in many years.
Can anyone beat Tiz The Law? In a year as unorthodox as this one has been, you can’t rule anything out. When it comes to the betting, it’s all about finding the right combinations for the right value, whether you’re playing the favorites or trying out some long shots.
We’re here to help with this 2020 Kentucky Derby betting preview. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 20 horses who figure to be contending in the Run for the Roses. And we’ll try to determine which horses have a real shot and which probably won’t be much of a factor when all is said and done in this most prestigious of races.
The Top 20 Kentucky Derby Contenders
These are the 20 horses that have earned the most qualifying points for the 146th Kentucky Derby. They have the right to be in the field, which is limited to 20 horses. Should any of them not be entered into the race for whatever reason, other horses will be called on as replacements, also based on their points totals.
At this point, there are no more prep races for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. As a result, this could very well be the 20-horse field, barring any horse not suiting up on Saturday, September 5 when the race takes place. We’ll count them down #20 to #1, Casey Kasem-style, with their trainers’ names in parentheses after them.
Keep in mind that, with still more than a week to go till race time, there is no guarantee these 20 horses will be in the field. But it’s a good estimation of who might be lining up once the final draw has been made.
#20 – Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone)
One of the factors recommending this colt is his favored running style. Sole Volante is one of the few horses in the projected field who likes to come from well off the pace. With 20 horses in the field, there is a much stronger possibility that the pace will be too fast than too slow, which is good for a deep closer.
Trainer Biancone has admitted that he might have asked too much of the horse to run in the Belmont so soon (10 days) after he had won an allowance in Florida. He has had a good three months to prepare for this one. Now, the worry might be that he is a little rusty, when he’ll need to be on his game to have any shot.
#19 – Anneau d’Or (Blaine Wright)
You can’t say that this horse has been ducking anybody, if nothing else. He has been in nothing but stakes races since winning his debut last November. But the problem is that he hasn’t won any of those races, still stuck on one career win.
In fact, lately Anneau d’Or has been finishing further up the track each time out. It’s seems like forever since he posted a surprising second-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That finish helped him to get into the Derby, but it’s looking very doubtful that he’ll be able to do anything special with his appearance.
#18 – Attachment Rate (Dale Romans)
This colt has proven to be a game battler since picking up his maiden victory at Gulfstream back in February. Since that point, he has been in five stakes races. And he has done no worse in fifth in that span, which should perk up the ears of exotic bettors.
Still, he hasn’t won any of those races, meaning that, as win bet, he’s a tough sell. On top of that, he hasn’t faced any better that Grade 2 competition in that time. As a result, it seems likely that Attachment Rare is headed for also-ran status, even with Romans, an excellent trainer, working his magic.
#17 – Storm The Court (Peter Eurton)
For a while it looked like Storm The Court might not even be in the mix for the Derby. He was ensured of a spot because of his stunning upset in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two-year-old. But his early results as a three-year-old must have had his connections wondering if it was all lightning in a bottle.
The good news is that Storm The Court has shown a little life in his last few starts after losing his blinkers. He even showed some versatility with a second in a turf face last time out. If nothing else, this horse has already risen to the occasion on a big stage once, so it might be worth a long-shot play to see if he can do it again.
#16 – Major Fed (Gregory Foley)
Here is another horse who might be makes more sense as a choice for second of third than as a possible win candidate. The reason being that he might give up too much ground to the field early to hope to rally past everybody. But he could pick off enough horses to end up with some kind of minor award.
The handlers of Major Fed decided against a tune-up race in the month of August. As a result, Major Fed will not have raced in about a two-month span, since a second in the Indiana Derby, when he suits up at Churchill Downs. Whether he’ll be ready or rusty remains to be seen.
#15 – Shivaree (Ralph Nicks)
At the start of the year, this colt seemed to be one of the horses who could, with a little improvement, step forward into Derby contention. After all, he tucked away three consecutive wins in the Florida sunshine for November through January. He also made a sold move into racing around two turns with a 2nd in the Florida Derby behind Tiz the Law.
But it has gone south since, starting with a disappointing third in a layup allowance at Gulfstream. He then finished well up the track in his last two graded stakes races, never showing any kind of life. It looks like all the campaigning may have caught up with him, to the point where it seems iffy if Shivaree will even suit up for the Derby, despite having enough qualifying points.
#14 – Swiss Skydiver (Ken McPeek)
Swiss Skydiver is a talented filly who would have had the points for the Derby. But, as of right now, it’s very possible that her connections will decide to enter her instead in the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby’s sister race for female horses. And that’s too bad, because it would have been interesting to see what she might have done.
Her handlers do have the opportunity to flip flop and put Swiss Skydiver in against the boys. But it’s probably better to go in as a heavy favorite to the Oaks than as a quasi-long shot trying to beat Tiz the Law in the Derby. Most likely, Swiss Skydiver won’t be in the field, qualifying point total notwithstanding.
#13 – Enforceable (Mark Casse)
Trainer Mark Casse has sent seven horses to the gate over the years to win the Kentucky Derby, but none have hit the board. Speaking of not hitting the board, Enforceable hasn’t been able to do that in his last two starts. Casse has raced him lightly the last few months, perhaps trying to replenish his seemingly waning energy.
But there are some positives for this colt, mainly the fact that his off-the-pace style could come in handy in the midst of a hot pace. He’ll need to make sure he isn’t so far back that the late kick doesn’t do much damage. Enforceable is one of several in the potential field that seem like second or third-place possibilities.
#12 – Pneumatic (Steven Asmussen)
Needing a good performance to vault him into Kentucky Derby contention, Pneumatic got one a few weeks back. He scored a convincing victory in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Not only did it put him into the spot he needed to be points-wise, but it also seems to have convinced his connections that he is ready for the Run for the Roses.
Remember that this was a horse who was very green heading into the Belmont Stakes and still ended up with a respectable fourth. Unraced as a two-year-old, he could be one of the late bloomers who ends up thriving in the unusual circumstances for the Kentucky Derby this year. And that makes Pneumatic an interesting choice for those looking for value.
#11 – Country Grammer (Chad Brown)
This colt made a name for himself with an impressive win in the Grade 3 Peter Pan stakes. That put him on the Derby map and seemed to stamp him as an up-and-comer. A lot of that momentum slowed down with a fifth-place finish in the Travers Stakes, as Country Grammer was one of the many watching Tiz the Law from a distance at the end.
At this point, he is another iffy one in terms of entering into the Derby. If he does choose to be a part of the action, he is going to need a form reversal from what he showed last time out. But that Peter Pan win does show that there is a decent peak for Country Grammer, if he can reach back and find it again.
#10 – Caracaro (Gustavo Delgado)
When you start looking for Derby horses, you should immediately hone in on those that are improving. And Caracaro, who will be making just his fifth career start when he lines up at Churchill, is one of those horses for sure. In four career races, he has never done worse than second.
He took a long layoff in the early part of this year, but came back strong with back-to-back seconds in the Peter Pan and the Travers. In the latter race, Caracaro was best of the rest behind Tiz The Law, which immediately puts him into the conversation for exacta betting if you are going with the favorite. Handicappers also love the angle of a horse making his third start off a layoff, which this colt will be doing.
#9 – Max Player (Steve Asmussen)
Asmussen has only a pair of second-place finishes to show for 20 Derby starters over the years. For Max Player to break that string, he has to somehow improve past Tiz the Law. In the last two races, he has finished third behind the winner Tiz the Law.
It’s important to note that Asmussen only recently took over trainer’s duties from Linda Rice, so it might be a tall ask for him to somehow connect with the horse so quickly. Still, there is a lot of talent here, as he showed in winning the Grade 3 Withers this year in just his third career race. Watch out for Max Player as a decent value play, depending on how his post position shakes out.
#8 – Dr Post (Todd Pletcher)
Dr Post has been one of the more solid and consistent players on the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail. He didn’t get the second start of his career (and his maiden win) until March of this year. But since then, his fortunes have risen with a stakes win and then a second and a third in two graded events.
This colt is boosted by having Pletcher in his corner, as the venerable trainer can boast of a pair of Kentucky Derby victories. Dr Post hasn’t yet proven he can topple either Authentic or Tiz the Law, generally considered to be the two biggest threats in the race. But he is certainly capable of doing better in the Derby, especially considering his relatively late start.
#7 – Thousand Words (Bob Baffert)
Three starts ago, this colt who started his career so promisingly looked as if his Derby train had derailed. An 11th-place finish in an ungraded stakes at Oaklawn seemed to indicate that Thousand Words, who had won the first three starts of his career, was out of the running. But a three-month layoff seemed to work wonders for him.
He is now coming off a second in a Grade 3 and win in the ungraded Shared Belief at the start of August. Granted, those races aren’t exactly the toughest on the Kentucky Derby trail. But, with Baffert pulling the strings, you can’t look away when you see Thousand Words’ name on the program.
#6 – King Guillermo (Juan Carlos Avila)
It’s hard to call any path to the 146th Kentucky Derbyunorthodox when this season has been so topsy-turvy. But it is odd to see this colt getting so much attention, considering that he only raced twice this year and has been off since May. Maybe those two starts were enough, especially when you look at the outstanding workouts King Guillermo has managed at Churchill Downs leading up to the race.
In March, he opened eyes by winning the Tampa Bay Derby over some more highly touted competitors. He then finished second in the Arkansas Derby to Nadal, Bob Baffert’s stud who was considered to be a legitimate Triple Crown contender before injury knocked him out of the race. If King Guillermo can be as sharp as the workouts suggest, he’s an interestingly fresh competitor for Tiz the Law.
#5 – Ny Traffic (Saffie Joseph Jr.)
When you look at his record, this colt seems to scream out that you should be using him underneath somewhere on your Kentucky Derby ticket. He comes into the race with four straight in-the-money finishes in a variety of Derby prep races spread all over the country. That kind of consistency makes for a relatively safe bet.
The next question you have to ask is whether he has a case of what horse racing handicappers called second-itis, which means that he is somewhat allergic to winning. That’s probably too harsh an assessment of this impressive colt. But it does seem fair to say that Ny Traffic making that leap from contender to winner might not be in the cards in such a competitive race as the Derby.
#4 – Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs)
It has certainly been a bit of an up-and-down campaign for this colt trained by John Shirreffs. On the one hand, he won one of the most prestigious of all Derby preps, capturing the Santa Anita Derby in June over Authentic. But then he was knocked off surprisingly by Bob Baffert’s other Derby contender, Thousand Words, in his tune-up in August.
You could say that the loss in his last start was due to the shorter distance at 1 1/16. Honor A.P. certainly projects better at the Kentucky Derby’s distance of 1 ¼ miles. His excellent workouts since the loss suggest that Honor A.P. could be an excellent bounce-back candidate and one of the horses that could throw a scare into Tiz the Law.
#3 – Art Collector (Tommy Drury Jr.)
If you like to bet the hot horse in the field, you could make a case that this colt comes up short of only Tiz the Law in that department. He has won his last start as a two-year-old before sitting out until may off this year, when he began a streak of two allowance victories. Art Collector then moved up seamlessly into stakes competition with wins in the Bluegrass Stakes and Ellis Park Derby.
He has shown his ability to grab a lead and leave the pursuit behind, which makes him a little unusual as a front-running horse in the Kentucky Derby. For the most part, he hasn’t faced up with some of the top competitors in this race, which is a bit worrisome. That means his point total might be a bit misleading and that he could be overmatched against the ones he’ll be facing.
#2 – Authentic (Bob Baffert)
If not for one blip on his record, Authentic might be mentioned on a par with Tiz the Law. But that one loss to Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby, which was his biggest stage to that point, certainly might give one some pause. To the horse’s credit, he did bounce right back to score in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes, which should give him some confidence coming into the race.
Trainer Bob Baffert was recently quoted as saying that Authentic was a “forgotten horse.” Maybe it’s just part of Baffert’s natural showmanship and his way of trying to drum up respect for his trainee. Or maybe it’s his way of warning that those who forget about Authentic at the Derby will live to regret it.
#1 – Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg)
If you’re looking for reasons to bet against Tiz the Law, the location of the Kentucky Derby might be the only one. The lone loss in his illustrious career to this point came at Churchill Downs, albeit a long time ago when he was still two and in the middle of sloppy conditions. Other than, you might be searching for a while.
What stands out with Tiz the Law is how convincing he has been in dominating the three-year-old circuit to this point. The dominating win in the Travers proved that there was no residual effect from the Belmont. Trainer Barclay Tagg and company have done a marvelous job navigating the demands of this unusual season, meaning that Tiz the Law seems to be coming into the Kentucky Derby in peak form and ready to dominate once again.
We hope that this 2020 Kentucky Derby betting preview gives you all the information you need to make your bets on the Kentucky Derby this year. This figures to be an unforgettable edition of the race. It will be an upset if Tiz the Law doesn’t win the second leg of this Triple Crown, but upsets are a big part of the history of this amazing event.
Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog.
For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h …