Kentucky Derby Futures: Action Picks Up with Lucrative Points Preps

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Spring is around the corner, and Kentucky Derby season is in full swing with multiple prep races scheduled for nearly every weekend. 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.

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 are taking fixed-odds future wagers on Derby 146, which will be held May 2, 2020.

As in years past, in this blog we’ll take a periodic look at William Hill’s future-book odds for the Kentucky Derby and profile some of the contenders. Since the last update, five more Derby preps have taken place at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Tampa Bay Downs, resulting in a minor shuffling of top contenders and, more importantly, the emergence of some new ones.

Feb. 24 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:

1) Tiz the Law (6-1)

2) Dennis’ Moment (8-1)

3) Maxfield (10-1)

3) Nadal (10-1)

3) Thousand Words (10-1)

6) Authentic (12-1)

6) Charlatan (12-1)

6) Independence Hall (12-1)

6) Sole Volante (12-1)

Notable Changes: Mr. Monomoy, profiled in an earlier edition of this blog, saw his odds drop from 75-1 on William Hill’s Feb. 9 sheet to 20-1 in this latest edition after posting a visually impressive, front-running win in the first division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds on Feb. 15. Read more about him in Mike Curry’s latest Making the Grade Profile. Silver Prospector, already a graded stakes winner with 10 qualifying Kentucky Derby points earned last November, had his odds lowered from 75-1 to 30-1 after his professional win in the Southwest Stakes earned him 10 more on President’s Day at Oaklawn Park. And lastly, Sole Volante, victorious in the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, sits at 12-1 after dropping from 60-1 following his flashy upset win over Independence Hall. Read more about Sole Volante in Mike Curry’s Making the Grade.

Four to Watch:

Modernist (Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography)

Modernist and Major Fed: The 1-2 finishers of the second division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford sit at odds of 40-1 and 50-1, respectively, on William Hill’s Feb. 24 sheet. The speed figures for this second division came up markedly slower than Mr. Monomoy’s first division win, which also featured quality Derby contenders Enforceable (runner-up, 20-1) and Silver State (third, 35-1). In fact, both Modernist and Major Fed entered the Risen Star off of mere maiden victories. Still, there’s plenty to like about both and they bear watching as they attempt to follow up their efforts in the Risen Star with better performances in their next preps. Modernist has the stouter pedigree for stretching out from the Risen Star’s 1 1/8-mile distance to the Kentucky Derby’s mile and a quarter, as a son of Derby sire Uncle Mo and out of a dam who is a half-sister to three stakes winners, including champion Sweet Catomine and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (now Distaff) winner Life Is Sweet. Trainer Bill Mott told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that Modernist would target the March 21 Louisiana Derby for his final Kentucky Derby prep, with the April 4 Wood Memorial Stakes as a backup.

Charlatan: What would another week be on the Road to the Kentucky Derby without a new Bob Baffert-trained contender to break onto the scene? This son of champion sprinter Speightstown romped by 5 ¾ lengths in a six-furlong Santa Anita Park maiden race, his career debut, on Feb. 16, finishing up in 1:08.85 and earning an eye-popping 102 Equibase Speed Figure. Naturally, comparisons to Baffert’s 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify were mentioned as Charlatan’s debut came roughly at the same time – very late on the calendar – as did Justify’s two years ago. Of course, the same comparisons to Justify were made a couple of weeks ago about Baffert’s other late-blooming sizzler, San Vicente Stakes winner Nadal. The overall point is, of course, that Baffert is assembling his usual army of talented 3-year-old colts to invade the high-point March and April Derby preps with a real shot of making up at least 25% of the full starting gate come May 2. While Charlatan may have the longest real odds of Baffert’s bunch to make the Derby – much higher than the underlaid 12-1 he currently has on William Hill's book – he does get a good stamina foundation from his dam, Authenticity, a graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/16 miles who also hit the board five times in route graded stakes.

Azul Coast: This Bob Baffert-trained colt earned 10 qualifying Kentucky Derby points with a score in the El Camino Real Derby on the all-weather main track at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 15, rallying from a stalking spot to win by 1 ¼ lengths. He won like a 13-10 favorite should, but the overall field in the El Camino Real was suspect compared with the other Kentucky Derby preps to date, and he entered off of a distant runner-up effort behind stablemate Authentic (12-1 at William Hill) in the Sham Stakes. That makes his latest 25-1 odds on William Hill’s futures board an overlay, and he should face a sterner test if he shows up in the March 22 Sunland Derby on dirt, which Baffert mentioned to Daily Racing Form as a possibility. Still, this colt has a solid pedigree – by 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver out of a mare who won a one-mile Grade 2 stakes on the turf – and did rally from last of six to nab second in the Sham Stakes after bobbling at the start. His races to date may place him batting down the order in Baffert’s stacked lineup, but there’s untapped potential here.

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