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 started taking fixed-odds future wagers on Derby 146, which will be held May 2, 2020.
As in years past, 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. The first pool was released on Nov. 25 and Independence Hall and Storm the Court are the two future book morning-line favorites at 12-1 odds. The "all others" mutuel field is set at 6-5 when the pool opens on Nov. 28.
Nov. 24 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:
1) Independence Hall (8-1)
1) Tiz the Law (8-1)
3) Maxfield (12-1)
3) Storm the Court (12-1)
5) Dennis’ Moment (16-1)
5) Honor A.P. (16-1)
Six to Watch:
High Velocity: This son of Quality Road improved to 2-for-2 in his career with a solid 1 ¼-length win in the Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 16. That followed a two-length score in his career debut going 5 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita Park in mid-October. In the seven-furlong Bob Hope, High Velocity took pressure from a 9-10 favorite through the turn after setting the early pace, but showed grit at the top of the stretch and was able to move ahead after switching leads, displaying a fluid stride in the late going and appearing well-suited to handling added distance. He’s still very inexperienced but has a good pedigree by a leading, young sire and races for successful connections in owners Gary and Mary West and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He’s offered at 30-1 odds on William Hill’s sheet; read more about this colt in Mike Curry’s Making the Grade profile.
Thousand Words: Another Bob Baffert trainee, this colt was the morning-line favorite for the Bob Hope Stakes but was scratched. In his career debut, he posted a half-length win racing 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita on Oct. 26. In that race he broke from the far outside post, settled off the pace through the backstretch, moved into contention through the turn, and outfinished favorite Thunder Code in the final strides to wrap up a very professional first start. He returned to the Santa Anita worktab on Nov. 18 for Baffert and owners Albaugh Family Stable and Spendthrift Farm and posted a bullet five-furlong work in :59.20 on Nov. 25. Thousand Words is currently getting 25-1 odds from William Hill. A $1 million yearling purchase, his pedigree mixes stamina and speed as his late sire Pioneerofthe Nile fathered Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and his dam (mother), Pomeroys Pistol, was a multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter. Albaugh Family Stable racing manager Jason Loutsch told Churchill Downs' press office on Nov. 23 that there is a "50-50" chance Thousand Words will ship to Louisville and run in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes; if he doesn't, expect to see him match up with High Velocity and/or Baffert’s Eight Rings at Santa Anita or Los Alamitos in the coming months.
Enforceable: This John Oxley-owned, Mark Casse-trained Tapit colt is slated to make his next start in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. He’s offered at 100-1 odds for the 2020 Derby on William Hill’s latest sheet and looms as an upset threat to Tiz the Law in the Kentucky Jockey Club if he can move forward off of his third-place effort in the 1 1/16-mile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. In that race, which followed a maiden win going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga, he flattened out late behind Maxfield and Gouverneur Morris but finished five lengths clear of the fourth-place finisher. Enforceable has a top-notch pedigree for racing long; his dam, Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union, was a Grade 2 winner at 1 1/8 miles and has already produced three graded stakes winners at route distances: 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day (the sire of Maximum Security); 2016 Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull Stakes winner Mohaymen; and recent turf Grade 3 winner Kingly.
Relentless Dancer and Silver State: A Sept. 27 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Churchill could be a crucial influence on the Triple Crown trail as 2019 turns to 2020, depending on how things shake out over the next few weeks. Relentless Dancer, trained by Mike Maker, took an early lead in the race and held it to the wire while extending 9 ¾ lengths clear of all other horses – save for 8-5 favorite Silver State, a Steve Asmussen trainee who broke slowly but rallied strongly through the stretch to finish in a dead heat with the pacesetter. Louisiana-bred Relentless Dancer then shipped to his native state and blew away the competition in the Louisiana Legacy Stakes Oct. 19 at Delta Downs, winning by 10 ½ lengths. Meanwhile, Silver State has continued to train well at Churchill Downs and could resurface in an allowance race under the Twin Spires before the fall meet ends. Silver State is offered at 60-1 odds on William Hill’s Kentucky Derby futures sheet, while Relentless Dancer is at 75-1 odds. The former has a more attractive pedigree for route races, as a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun and from a female family that includes 2001 Derby winner Monarchos. Relentless Dancer, a colt by 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman, has not conducted an official workout since his eye-catching win at Delta Downs, and it will be interesting to see if Maker keeps him in Louisiana for the upcoming Fair Grounds meet to make his next start.
Chance It: After excelling against fellow Florida-breds over the past five months, this son of Currency Swap was set to make the class jump and square off with Tiz the Law, Enforceable, and others in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, but trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. told Daily Racing Form that he would miss the race due to a cough. Chance It has raced exclusively at Gulfstream Park through five starts, posting three open-length wins and two solid runner-up finishes. In his most recent start, he romped by 7 ¼ lengths in the 1 1/16-mile FTBOA Florida Sire In Reality Stakes on Sept. 28, his first two-turn race. His sire was a Grade 1 winner at age 2 in the Hopeful Stakes, but disappointed in his only stakes route attempt at age 3 and was generally kept at sprint distances during his 10-race career. The bottom half of Chance It’s pedigree also is light on stamina, and it remains to be seen whether he can take his impressive form to another track, but his current 85-1 Derby future odds at William Hill make him a horse worth keeping tabs on this winter. Joseph told DRF that the Remington Springboard Mile on Dec. 15, a Derby points race at Remington Park, is an option for his next start.