Kentucky Derby Futures: Major Shakeups Ahead of Historic Belmont

The field for the May 23 Matt Winn Stakes breaks from the starting gate, with eventual winner Maxfield exiting post 10. (Coady Photography)

The road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve has, due to a global public health crisis, stretched out through the summer and widened considerably. With the Derby rescheduled to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, the pool of potential contenders to make the 20-horse starting gate now welcomes late-developing types to join the horses that have already won major preps and earned qualifying points.

The bookmakers at William Hill continue to take fixed-odds future wagers on Kentucky Derby 146 and, as in years past in this blog, we’ll take a periodic look at William Hill’s future-book odds and profile some of the contenders.

The substantially revised Road to the Kentucky prep season is coming into focus as we march into June, and there’s been a major shakeup at the top of the leaderboard due to race results and injuries. In particular, Bob Baffert’s once-formidable lineup has been thinned out, after Arkansas Derby second division winner Nadal was retired due to a condylar fracture and Arkansas Derby first division winner Charlatan was sidelined due to a minor ankle issue. Furthermore, Baffert’s other leading contender Authentic saw his undefeated streak come to an end in the June 6 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. And in a late-breaking development occurring after William Hill’s latest odds were posted, top contender Maxfield suffered an injury during a workout that will take him off of the Kentucky Derby trail and possibly end his career (see below).

Vegas Derby future odds are sure to change even more after June 20, when the 152ndBelmont Stakes will be held. In this unprecedented year, the Belmont is the first leg of the Triple Crown, and it’s been added to the Kentucky Derby prep series offering qualifying points to the top four finishers on a 150-60-30-15 scale.

June 7 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:

1) Tiz the Law (4-1)

1) Honor A. P. (4-1)

3) Authentic (6-1)

4) Maxfield (7-1) (SEE UPDATE BELOW)

5) Sole Volante (10-1)

Notable Changes: Nadal, tied with Tiz the Law at the top of William Hill’s Derby Futures leaderboard in our last update on May 5, and Charlatan, ranked third at the time, are both out of the Derby picture (and Nadal is moving on to a stud career). The biggest move came from Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P., who jumped from 12-1 odds on May 5 to his current 4-1, placing him in a tie with probable Belmont Stakes starter Tiz the Law at the top of the list. Honor A. P. earned a 105 Equibase Speed Figure in the win, his third straight triple-digit figure in a row, and his sweeping move to the lead coming out of the far turn, where he put away Authentic, was visually impressive. It will be interesting to see if he can develop more versatility in his running style in his next (and possibly final) Kentucky Derby prep, which may come in either the Los Alamitos Derby on July 4 or the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 1. Read more about Honor A. P.'s rise in Mike Curry's latest Making the Grade profile.

Authentic saw his Derby future odds rise slightly from 5-1 on May 5 to the current 6-1. He broke slowly and ducked out from his outside post in the Santa Anita Derby, setting up a less than desirable trip, but Authentic was still a clear second over Rushie (who is listed at 85-1 odds by William Hill). Trainer Bob Baffert told Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that the July 18 Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park was being considered for Authentic’s next start, a race that Baffert has dominated over the past 20 years that’s on a main track which often favors front-running horses like Authentic.

Two weeks earlier on May 23, Maxfield made a stellar return to the track after a 7 ½-month absence, taking the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. He had remained in the top tier of Kentucky Derby future-book contenders over the winter and spring while recovering from injury and saw his odds drop from 12-1 on May 5 to 7-1 after the Matt Winn. UPDATE: Unfortunately, as reported by Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, Maxfield suffered a condylar fracture of his right front cannon bone during a workout on Wednesday, June 10, and will undergo surgery. Trainer Brendan Walsh told McGee that Maxfield is expected to make a full recovery.

Ny Traffic and Pneumatic, runner-up and third in the Matt Winn respectively, both gave good efforts and are sitting at odds of 60-1 and 75-1 in William Hill’s latest sheet. Pneumatic in particular is an intriguing choice at his current odds. The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred, profiled in this blog last month, has only made three career starts and has a good stamina pedigree.

Three to Watch:

Cezanne: As if by design, right after a pair of Bob Baffert-trained phenoms dropped off the Kentucky Derby trail, another one emerged. This son of Hall of Famer Curlin had been on the Thoroughbred industry’s radar since making a huge splash in spring 2019 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, when he sold for $3.65 million to Coolmore interests (the highest price for a 2-year-old horse sold in North America since The Green Monkey went for an astounding $16 million in 2006). Living up to his rep, he won his debut on June 6 at Santa Anita Park in workmanlike fashion that upon a few days’ reflection was a more impressive effort than it first appeared. What struck me most was how well Cezanne ran while bunched in between two other horses through the turn of the six-furlong race, and how patient he was while sitting just off the pace before moving out of that group in early stretch and forging ahead to a 2 ¼-length victory that earned a 101 Equibase Speed Figure.

All that said, Cezanne’s current odds of 20-1 on William Hill’s sheet are an underlay and he’ll have to improve a lot in his next starts (ideally two of them) before the Kentucky Derby to match up against horses such as Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. This colt has the physique of a mile-and-a-quarter horse, though, and the pedigree to match. Curlin, of course, excelled at classic distances, winning the Preakness, Jockey Club Gold Cup twice, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and Cezanne is from a female family highlighted by third dam (maternal great-grandmother) Better Than Honour, a Broodmare of the Year 13 years ago who produced Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, along with two other route stakes winners.

Collusion Illusion: This son of Twirling Candy turned heads last summer with two wins to start out his career at Del Mar – including the Best Pal Stakes – but was pulled up in the Sept. 27 American Pharoah Stakes and given a lengthy break by trainer Mark Glatt due to an unspecified ailment. He resurfaced at Santa Anita on May 17 in a six-furlong allowance and picked right back up with a professional three-length score, good for a 106 Equibase Speed Figure. He has a stalking/closing style that fits well for the Kentucky Derby and a pedigree on his dam’s (mother’s) side that includes several graded stakes winners, although most of them are sprinters-milers. It will be interesting to see where his connections place Collusion Illusion next and if they target the Kentucky Derby. He’s offered at enticing 150-1 odds by William Hill.

Tap It to Win (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

Tap It to Win: This Tapit ridgling is not currently offered on William Hill’s Kentucky Derby futures sheet, but he should be listed soon. He’s targeting the June 20 Belmont Stakes and shapes up as an interesting longshot, especially considering that the former “Test of the Champion” is a one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race this year. Tap It to Win first turned heads last summer at Saratoga when he won his career second start by 3 ½ lengths going six furlongs. Elevated to stakes company for his final two starts as a juvenile, he disappointed to say the least, running 10th in both races while defeated by a combined 63 ¾ lengths. Those sorts of efforts will make a horse disappear completely from the Kentucky Derby radar, and that’s what happened over the winter, but this Mark Casse trainee has built up some momentum in his 3-year-old season with two quality wins. Most recently, he took a one-turn, 1 1/16-mile allowance at Belmont Park by five lengths, earning a flashy 108 Equibase Speed Figure. A Live Oak Plantation homebred, Tap It to Win has a nice pedigree that includes close relatives who won graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/16 miles. Second dam (maternal grandmother), Beaties for Real, produced four stakes winners and is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire) to Grade 2 winner Ivanavinalot, the dam of two-time champion Songbird. Tap It to Win should be a major pace factor in this unique Belmont Stakes if nothing more, and has the long-term look of a prime contender in the Preakness Stakes, which closes out the 2020 Triple Crown on Oct. 3.

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