My Kentucky Derby Preview is going to be a lot less detailed than my Belmont Preview.
I really didn't want to go into detail on every horse in this 18-horse field. And did you really want to read about each and every one of them? With eight 50-1 shots, you have at least half a dozen horses that are going to be complete non-factors.
However, we are going to answer a few questions and hopefully help you to earn a little moolah this upcoming Saturday.
Grab your mint julep, settle in, and we'll try to answer all your questions as we get into the starting gate. And they're off!
2020 Kentucky Derby Preview
Q: Wait a second, isn't the Kentucky Derby run in May? What in the name of 2020 is going on?!?!?!?
A: Well, you nailed it. Due to the pandemic and the entire sports world being turned upside down, the Belmont was run back in June. The powers-that-be decided that what is usually the first jewel of the triple crown, the Kentucky Derby, is now being run this week.
The Preakness, which is usually sandwiched by the Derby and Belmont, will now be the final leg of the triple crown and will be run on Saturday, Oct. 3. So like the rest of 2020, things are a little helter-skelter. Just go with it.
Q: Okay, fine. So who is the favorite?
A: The favorite is, of course, Tiz the Law, who was also the pre-race favorite for the Belmont. Winning the Belmont did nothing to dampen the expectations for this horse for the Derby. He opened as a strong 3-5 favorite. Here are the opening odds:
Tiz the Law 3-5
Honor A. P. 5-1
Thousand Words 15-1
NY Traffic 20-1
King Guillermo 20-1*
Sole Volante 30-1
Money Moves 30-1
Max Player 30-1
Winning Impressions 50-1
Attachment Rate 50-1
Necker Island 50-1
Finnick the Fierce 50-1
Storm the Court 50-1
Major Fed 50-1
South Bend 50-1
Mr. Big News 50-1
*Scratched Friday afternoon due to a fever
Q: So you like Tiz the Law to win?
A: Spoiler alert, yes. In other years, Tiz the Law might only be the 2nd or 3rd favorite. But he is ahead of the rest of the 3-year olds this year by far more than a nose. You can read about him in my earlier preview, but he really is a phenomenal horse who should coast to a Derby victory.
However, I wouldn't bet him to win. There is very little value in that bet, and my guess is that his likely payout only gets worse between now and post time as the odds shift. In fact, there is an argument to be made to fade him and hope for the unlikely to happen in order to hit it big.
But I'm not betting on the unlikely happening. What I will do instead however is do a box trifecta, giving me a little "insurance" so to speak if Tiz the Law fails to win but still places or shows.
Q: So who do you have with Tiz the Law in the box trifecta?
A: I'm including Honor A. P., whose grandsire is A.P. Indy. A.P. Indy might be the best pedigree of all the horses in this year's race and goes back to Derby immortals like Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Furthermore, should Tiz the Law have a clean run, the only horse I think that can challenge him is Honor A. P. Apparently, I'm not alone in that thought:
Had this been the usual three-week break, I might have thought otherwise. However, Honor A. P. did not race in the Belmont. He comes in with fresh legs, having last raced in June when he won the Santa Anita Derby two weeks before the Belmont.
Q: Hold on. What's the Santa Anita Derby?
A: The Santa Anita Derby is an American Grade 1 thoroughbred horse race that is often viewed as the most important prep race on the West Coast. It offers the winner 100 points and assures a position at the starting gate of the Derby. But it's more than just a superb qualifier race. 10 Santa Anita Derby winners have then gone on to win the Derby at Churchill Downs. Even another seven horses that lost the Santa Anita Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. That's how good that race is.
Q: All right, all right. I got it. I'm putting Honor A. P. into my trifecta. I'm going to guess you are going with Authentic for the third leg of your box trifecta?
Tempting. But as a rule, I try to avoid to trifectas of horses with the top three odds. The value is rarely there, in my humble opinion. Should Authentic's odds drop, making him the fourth or even fifth favorite, I might bet him. He is one of two trainer Bob Baffert horses in this race.
Unfortunately, Authentic will be starting next to Tiz the Law. If Authentic beats Tiz the Law out of the gate into the first turn, Authentic has a good shot to finish above Tiz the Law. But I'm not banking on that happening.
Instead, I prefer the value currently presented by the other Bob Baffert horse, Thousand Words. The No. 5 slot has produced the most winners in Derby history (10), followed by the No. 10 slot with nine winners. That's far more of an advantage for Thousand Words, currently in the No. 10 slot, than it is for Major Fed, a 50-1 shot, currently in the No. 5 spot.
Thousand Words also has some strong pedigree. His grandsires include Empire Maker who was sired by Unbridled, who, oh yeah, happened to win the Kentucky Derby in 1990. Furthermore, Thousand Words has a strong record including four wins going back to October. The most recent of those wins include the Shared Belief Stakes in early August. Not only is that an impressive win, but you know Thousand Words beat out? Honor A. P.
However, a quick note of caution. Thousand Words has two races this year where he failed to finish in the top three. One of those was the San Felipe Stakes in March where he finished behind three other horses in this field — Authentic, Honor A. P., and Storm the Court. This is why handicapping is never easy!
Q: So does that make Storm the Court a great longshot bet?
A: Of all those that opened at 50-1, yes. However, my guess is his odds come down, and I just can't see him finishing any higher than third. I like Storm the Court enough to include him in a possible Superfecta bet (picking the fourth-place finish in addition to win, place, and show), but I can't see him winning or even finishing second.
However, my preferred long shot is NY Traffic. For one, like Thousand Words, NY Traffic's bloodline includes Unbridled as well. More importantly, NY Traffic is coming in on a heck of streak, having finished third or higher in all five of his last races. Furthermore, he is better rested than many of the horses trying to take down Tiz the Law. NY Traffic hasn't raced since early July. Even if he only places (i.e. finishes second), there should be enough value on him for a nice little payday.
Q: Any other horses that should be on my radar?
A: Yup, one more. Money Moves does not have the pedigree or as much experience as many of the other horses in this race. However, if you read my Belmont preview, you know that I also like to give weight to jockey and trainer. In his three races this year, this Todd Pletcher-trained horse has two wins and a place. He will be ridden by Javier Castellano. Castellano is already a Hall of Famer with multiple Breeders Cup victories, including a few Triple Crown race wins under his belt. He has yet to win the Derby, but last year's third-highest jockey by earnings could easily add to his long list of achievements.
Q: So is FanDuel or any other DFS site having a contest like last time?
A: Unfortunately, as of publication time, I have not seen anything. However, while DraftKings and FanDuel don't have anything on the daily fantasy sports side, they have plenty of betting options on the sportsbook side. Plus, as I always advise, look around to see what you can find. You might be surprised what other free contests that do pay cash for the winners are out there!
Good luck with your Kentucky Derby picks!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.