Kentucky Derby Futures: Early Vegas Trends on 2020 Hopefuls

Eclipse Sportswire

With the Breeders’ Cup World Championships finished, the horse racing calendar flips back to day one to start its most anticipated season: Kentucky Derby season. The road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will, as it always does, take plenty of unexpected twists and turns as contenders rise and fall with each passing prep race. The official Road to the Kentucky Derby series of races offering qualifying points began Sept. 14 with the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Forecasting the 20-horse field – and even taking an early stand on a potential winner backed by a future wager – is an annual highlight of Derby season, and the bookmakers at William Hill have already released future odds on Derby 146, which will be held May 2, 2020.

Starting this week, we’ll take a periodic look at William Hill’s future-book odds for the Kentucky Derby and profile some of the contenders. Churchill Downs will also offer four Kentucky Derby future wager pools through prep season, with the first set to take bets from Nov. 28-Dec. 1 during the track’s closing weekend of its fall meet. 

Nov. 3 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:

1) Maxfield (12-1)

1) Storm the Court (12-1)

3) Tiz the Law (15-1)

4) Dennis’ Moment (25-1)

4) Eight Rings (25-1)

4) Honor A.P. (25-1)

Early Leaders:

Storm the Court (Eclipse Sportswire)

Storm the Court: The 45.90-1 winner of last Friday’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is tied with Maxfield as the odds leader in William Hill’s Nov. 3 Derby futures sheet, which is somewhat surprising. His effort at Santa Anita Park was impressive as he gamely fought off Anneau d’Or (30-1 odds from William Hill) to win by a neck, but the expected race shape of the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile was definitely altered when 9-10 favorite Dennis’ Moment stumbled at the start and never moved into contention (not to mention second betting choice Eight Rings failing to fire). Taking that into consideration, 12-1 Kentucky Derby future odds seem awfully short for this son of Court Vision. On the other hand, he’s done little wrong through four starts, winning his debut, having his own bad luck when being bumped and losing his jockey in the Del Mar Futurity, and then finishing a decent third behind runaway winner Eight Rings in the American Pharoah Stakes prior to his Breeders’ Cup win. His pedigree may be modest, but his fighting spirit is not, and it will be interesting to see where his connections place him next on the Derby trail.

Maxfield: This Godolphin homebred probably would have vied for favoritism in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Dennis’ Moment had he not been withdrawn due to a foot issue. He had won his first two starts at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, the latter coming in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 15. In that 1 1/16-mile race, he swept past the field coming out of the far turn and won going away by 5 ½ lengths, looking every bit like a horse that craves more real estate. He’s tied with Storm the Court at 12-1 odds in William Hill’s Nov. 3 book, and has a typically strong Godolphin pedigree for the classic, mile-and-a-quarter distance, as a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and from a female family replete with graded stakes winners over a route of ground, including good sire Sky Mesa and current turf performer Lucullan. Expect trainer Brendan Walsh to be very patient with this colt’s recovery, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his connections hold him off until the early 2020 Kentucky Derby preps at Gulfstream Park for his return.

Tiz the Law (Joe Labozzetta/NYRA)

Tiz the Law: A feel-good flashback story is being written as this physically striking colt continues to impress, since he’s owned by the Sackatoga Stable of 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide fame. He was last seen posting a four-length win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes Oct. 5 at Belmont Park, his second career start following a 4 ¼ length-score back in August at Saratoga. He still raced greenly in the stretch of the Champagne as he drew away from the field, and Sackatoga and trainer Barclay Tagg have targeted the Nov. 30 Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs – a Derby points race – for his next (highly anticipated) start. A son of Constitution, Tiz the Law’s currently getting 15-1 odds via William Hill and is out of the $400,000-plus earning graded stakes router Tizfiz, by Tiznow. Favorite Trick, who won the 1997 Horse of the Year award as a 2-year-old, is a notable family member.

Dennis' Moment (Coady Photography)

Dennis’ Moment: His last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile qualifies as a racing “mulligan” if there exists such a thing. After losing his jockey in his career debut back in June, this Albaugh Family Stables-owned son of the great Tiznow won his next two starts easily, including the Sept. 14 Iroquois Stakes, only to stumble badly at the start of the Juvenile and trail throughout, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. saying after the race that he just wanted to keep Dennis’ Moment safe and out of trouble. He’s sitting at 25-1 on William Hill’s sheet and those odds should hold steady (or maybe even drop a little based on workouts) until he resurfaces in Florida on the Derby trail, as announced this week by Albaugh racing manager Jason Loutsch.

Honor A.P. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Honor A.P.: One of the top early West coast contenders, Honor A.P. has yet to compete in a stakes race but has done enough in his two starts to get some betting support at William Hill to the tune of 25-1 odds. In his debut at Del Mar Aug. 17, he broke last and raced well back of the field before making a five-wide run through the turn of the six-furlong race. He then ralied through the stretch to nab second by a neck while 2 ½ lengths behind winner Ginobili (175-1 at William Hill). But in his next start Oct. 13 at Santa Anita, jockey Mike Smith put Honor A.P. on the early lead and rated out his speed through the two-turn, one-mile distance, as he pulled away in the stretch to win by 5 ¼ lengths. That running style seemed to suit him well, and he has continued to train steadily at Santa Anita for owner C R K Stable (Lee and Susan Searing) and trainer John Shirreffs, who are also the connections for Express Train (see below). The Searings purchased Honor A.P., a ridgling from the first crop of Honor Code, for $850,000 as a yearling, and his dam is millionaire and multiple Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story. Shirreffs told Horse Racing Nation this week that he is considering either an allowance race or possibly the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 7 for Honor A.P.’s next start.

Four to Watch:

Ajaaweed (Susie Raisher/NYRA)

Ajaaweed: This Shadwell Stable homebred underachieved somewhat in his stakes debut, running fourth at 3.60-1 odds in last month’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity won by Maxfield. He broke his maiden one start prior by 4 ¼ lengths at Belmont in September and, despite generating a modest 78 Equibase Speed Figure, was a trendy pick for the Breeders’ Futurity on the road to the TVG Juvenile at Santa Anita. Those plans were derailed, but it’s too soon to give up on this Curlin colt given trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s penchant for patient handling, especially at the 125-1 odds currently offered by William Hill. He recently returned to the worktab with an Oct. 26 breeze at Greentree Training Center in Saratoga and could resurface either in New York or Florida, where he’ll have to boost his speed figures and on-track performance to get back among the upper echelon of Derby future-bet choices.

Express Train: Like Honor A.P., this promising colt is owned by C R K Stable and trained by John Shirreffs. Express Train made his debut back in early August at Del Mar and finished 6 ¼ lengths behind Eight Rings, the “buzz” juvenile of Del Mar’s meet, in a 5 ½-furlong contest. He improved greatly when stretched out to a mile on Aug. 28 at the seaside track, pouring it on in a 14 ¼-length runaway. That made him the 2.90-1 second betting choice at post time in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, but Express Train was jostled a bit at the start and never really threatened, finishing fourth behind Eight Rings and yielding third late by a neck to Storm the Court. Like Ajaaweed, he’s eligible for a turnaround and a re-appearance on the Kentucky Derby trail, and he’s sitting at 80-1 odds on William Hill’s most recent update. This colt’s pedigree is very encouraging for longer-distance races, as he’s a son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags and his second dam (maternal grandmother) is November Snow, who won the mile-and-a-quarter Alabama Stakes in 1992. Another notable family member is this year’s English Derby winner and Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf third-place finisher Anthony Van Dyck.

South Bend (Coady Photography)

South Bend: A colt that’s still somewhat under the radar on the Derby trail, South Bend is 3-for-3 in his career and has won twice already under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. He has an exciting, come-from-behind running style that has worked well so far in one-turn races but may hinder him when he stretches out. Trained by Stanley Hough for Sagamore Farm, he debuted on Sept. 14 with a nose win in a six-furlong sprint at Churchill and then shipped to Keeneland and rallied late again to win by a neck at about seven furlongs. Back at Churchill for the one-turn mile Street Sense Stakes on Oct. 27, he got off to a better start but still tracked the pace. He lost some ground through the far turn before splitting horses in midstretch and finishing as much the best in a one-length score. South Bend has got a decent, but not outstanding, pedigree for stretching out as a son of Holy Bull Stakes winner Algorithms (top 2-year-old filly Bast is a member of his dam’s family tree). He could make his next start going 1 1/16 miles against (potentially) Tiz the Law in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which will be an important stamina test. South Bend is currently being offered at 90-1 odds for the 2020 Derby by William Hill.

Independence Hall (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

Independence Hall: This son of freshman sire Constitution (also the sire of Tiz the Law) started in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 3, the same day William Hill’s latest sheet was issued. He’s therefore not offered currently as a Derby 2020 future bet, but most likely will be on their next update after he rolled to a 12 ¼-length win in the Nashua, his second without a loss following a 4 ¾-length maiden score at Parx Racing on Sept. 21. He was involved in the one-turn mile Nashua from the start, stalking the pace and then making an impressive move for the lead entering the far turn before opening up on the field. He still raced greenly in the stretch, shying from his rider’s corrective use of the whip once or twice, but evened out and looked to have plenty left in reserve, earning an impressive 104 Equibase Speed Figure. This Mike Trombetta-trained colt is a half-sibling to Grade 3 winner Black Onyx, stakes winner Francois, and 2010 Nashua Stakes third-place finisher Quality Council. English Group 1 winner White Moonstone, $700,000 turf earner and multiple graded stakes winner Homerique, and 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer are notable extended family members. Look for odds of 50-1, or maybe even lower, on this colt when the next William Hill Derby futures sheet is released.

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