With January past the halfway mark, we're deep in the throes of horse racing's 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. Last Saturday, a handful of horses impressed in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, and this Friday brings the opening of Oaklawn Park’s thriving race meet and the first of its four Kentucky Derby points preps – the Smarty Jones Stakes.
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, 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.
Jan. 20 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:
1) Tiz the Law (8-1)
2) Independence Hall (10-1)
2) Maxfield (10-1)
4) Dennis’ Moment (12-1)
4) Storm the Court (12-1)
4) Thousand Words (12-1)
Notable Changes: The top-three finishers from the Jan. 18 Lecomte Stakes – Enforceable, Silver State, and Mr. Monomoy – acquitted themselves well by separating from the rest of the 13-horse field in midstretch. I profiled each of these contenders in earlier blogs (click here for Enforceable and Silver State, and here for Mr. Monomoy) and they all share two things in common: very strong pedigrees and untapped potential. Look for all three to remain on the Dixie circuit going forward on the road to the Kentucky Derby, racing either at Fair Grounds or at Oaklawn Park. ABR's Mike Curry digs deeper into Enforceable’s stamina-rich bloodline and top-class connections in his latest Making the Grade profile. The odds for each on William Hill’s latest Derby futures sheet stand at 30-1 for Enforceable, 35-1 for Silver State, and 75-1 for Mr. Monomoy.
Three to Watch:
Blackberry Wine: After winning one of five starts at age 2, with three losses coming on turf, this Calumet Farm homebred made his first 3-year-old start a memorable one Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds, taking a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race by a length over favored Digital. He set an unhurried pace through the backstretch and led into Fair Grounds’ lengthy homestretch, but was headed by pace-stalking Digital midway through the lane and dropped back a half-length. Impressively, Blackberry Wine responded with determination to rally late and forge ahead, and he kept running strong after the finish line. He’s getting odds of 75-1 at William Hill (Digital is at 100-1) and appears best-suited to two-turn races, as he first turned heads last fall with a sharp 5 ¾-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on a sloppy Churchill Downs main track. He’s by Calumet’s 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow and out of an A.P. Indy mare, with U.S. champion Tempera and Canadian champion Rainbows for Life in his female family tree along with some accomplished European horses. Trainer Joe Sharp told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh that the Feb. 15 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds is the next-race target for Blackberry Wine.
Nadal: Shades of Justify? This son of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Zenyatta vanquisher Blame won his career debut at Santa Anita Park last week, taking a Jan. 19 maiden special weight by a comfortable 3 ¾ lengths for Bob Baffert. After breaking slowly from the rail post, he assumed command before hitting the turn of the 6 ½-furlong race, and set a solid pace (:44.91 through a half-mile) before finishing up in 1:15.92, good for a debut Equibase Speed Figure of 102. He is a nice-looking, muscular colt who should relish stretching out in distance and has a good pedigree for doing so, being out of a Pulpit mare and from the family of 1991 champion 2-year-old filly Pleasant Stage. It will be interesting to see where Baffert, who was high on this charge’s talent last summer before an injury delayed his first start, will place him next – and remember, the “curse of Apollo” has been broken. Nadal is offered at odds of 20-1 on William Hill’s sheet.
No Parole: This Louisiana-bred has dominated both of his starts at Fair Grounds, taking a six-furlong maiden on Dec. 15 by 14 ½ lengths and a Jan. 11 allowance-optional claiming race by 13 ¼ lengths. Both of the starts came at six furlongs in races restricted to state-breds, so a distance test and class hike must both be conquered before he can establish a place among the top-tier Kentucky Derby contenders, but trainer Tom Amoss told Daily Racing Form that the Violence colt deserves that opportunity. He currently is listed at 50-1 odds for the Kentucky Derby by William Hill, and is out of a mare sired by 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Cat. Millionaire License Fee and Illinois Derby winner Greeley’s Galaxy are notable family members.
Upcoming Kentucky Derby Points Race: The $150,000, one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes is the featured race on Oaklawn Park’s Jan. 24 opening-day card, and the first of four preps at the popular Hot Springs, Ark., track that offer qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. The 2020 Smarty Jones, named after arguably the most popular North American racehorse of the 21st century, drew a field of nine, has a scheduled post time of 4:52 p.m. ET, and will be televised on TVG.
Jan. 20 William Hill Kentucky Derby Future Odds:
1) Lykan (not offered)
2) Silver Prospector (35-1)
3) Shared Sense (150-1)
4) Nucky (not offered)
5) Jungle Runner (not offered)
6) Gold Street (100-1)
7) Shoplifted (75-1)
8) Lynn’s Map (75-1)
9) Three Technique (35-1)