Kentucky Derby Futures: Movers and Shakers After Busy Prep Weekend

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

February is upon us, 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.

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. Since the last update, four more Derby preps have taken place at Oaklawn Park, Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, and Santa Anita Park, resulting in significant changes on the Derby future-bet odds board.

This upcoming weekend also brings the second of four Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools held by Churchill Downs. Wagering begins at noon ET on Friday, Feb. 7 and concludes at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 9. “All others” leads the morning-line wagering for Pool 2 at 5-2, while Tiz the Law heads the 23 individual horses at 8-1 odds.

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

1) Tiz the Law (6-1)

2) Dennis’ Moment (8-1)

3) Independence Hall (10-1)

3) Maxfield (10-1)

3) Nadal (10-1)

6) Storm the Court (12-1)

6) Thousand Words (12-1)

Notable Changes:

The results of recent preps – Tiz the Law’s rebound win in the Holy Bull Stakes, Thousand Word’s score in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Max Player’s breakthrough in the Withers Stakes, and Gold Street’s wire job in the Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24 – were reflected in William Hill’s Feb. 3 sheet. Tiz the Law cemented his spot as the future-book favorite for Derby 2020 by moving from 8-1 to 6-1 on the latest book. Gold Street saw his odds halved from 100-1 before the Smarty Jones to 50-1 currently. Thousand Words held steady at 12-1, and Max Player debuted on William Hill’s Feb. 3 book at 75-1 odds (see below). Read more about Tiz the Law’s win in the Holy Bull Stakes, which generated the best speed figures among all Derby contenders to date, in Mike Curry’s latest Making the Grade profile.

Three to Watch:

Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

Max Player: Flying a bit under the radar for last Saturday’s Withers Stakes after a pair of wins at Parx Racing, Max Player impressed with a 3 ¼-length score over Remsen Stakes winner Shotski and highly regarded Portos. Max Player debuted at 75-1 odds on William Hill’s sheet, as noted above. He earned a 103 Equibase Speed Figure and improved off of his 4 ¼-length maiden win going one mile in the slop at Parx last December, although visually it appeared that the top four finishers in the Withers were waffling a bit in deep stretch of the 1 1/8-mile race. This colt has only made three starts and has a lot of upside yet to be tapped, and it is a good show of confidence that trainer Linda Rice told Daily Racing Form’s Dave Grening following the Withers that she was strongly considering pointing Max Player to the April 4 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, giving him only one more start before the May 2 Kentucky Derby. The Wood is held at the same 1 1/8-mile distance at which Max Player just won the Withers, and his pedigree is solid, if not spectacular, for going even longer as a son of Honor Code on the elite A.P. Indy sire line and out of a dam (mother) by Not For Love who won at 1 1/16 miles and is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to 2015 Louisiana Derby winner International Star. (Shotski and Portos are offered at odds of 75-1 and 125-1, respectively, on William Hill’s latest sheet.)

Mischevious Alex: Another Mid-Atlantic-raced horse shined on the big stage last week as this son of 2019 leading general sire Into Mischief came out of a stakes win at Parx and dominated the seven-furlong Swale Stakes, scoring by a widening seven lengths. That was his second consecutive impressive win after taking the seven-furlong Parx Juvenile Stakes by 9 ¾ lengths, his first start with blinkers. Trainer John Servis told Daily Racing Form that the one-turn-mile Gotham Stakes on March 7 at Aqueduct is an option for Mischevious Alex’s next start, adding that he remains skeptical about this colt’s ability to handle two-turn races at longer distances. The Gotham does offer qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers, however, and based on his stellar recent outings this colt co-owned by Cash is King Stable of Afleet Alex fame shapes up as a major player in that race. Then again, his pedigree is largely sprint-oriented on his dam’s side, as reflected in Servis’ caution, and he’s 0-for-2 so far in his career racing at a mile or longer. Mischevious Alex debuted at 75-1 odds on William Hill’s latest book.

Rushie: Returning for only his second career start after a three-month break, this Florida-bred trained by Mike McCarthy led wire to wire in a one-mile maiden special weight race on Feb. 1 at Santa Anita Park, winning by one length over 4-5 favorite Divine Armor and earning a 102 Equibase Speed Figure. This late bloomer has a sneaky-good pedigree for racing at longer distances if his connections decide to try him in Santa Anita’s upcoming preps against the likes of Thousand Words, Storm the Court, and Nadal. He’s a son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Woodward Stakes winner Liam’s Map, who’s off to a good start at stud, and from a female family that includes 2019 champion 2-year-old female British Idiom, route graded stakes winners Peace and War and Miss Baja, and several other graded/group stakes winners. Rushie is worth considering as a value play after debuting at 125-1 odds via William Hill, but there’s a lot of work left to do.

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