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 after a historic start to the Triple Crown in the 152ndBelmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 20. Tiz the Law solidified his status as the leading Kentucky Derby contender by winning the first (still strange to type that) leg of the Triple Crown in dominant fashion. Several qualifying preps for the Kentucky Derby are on tap for July, starting on Independence Day with the Los Alamitos Derby, followed shortly by the Indiana Derby on July 8 and then the points-rich Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on July 11, which is part of another unprecedented racing event in 2020: Keeneland’s summer meet.
In addition to the Vegas futures, Churchill Downs conducted another Derby Future Wager pool from June 26-28. Tiz the Law led all individual horses at odds of 2-1 when the pool closed, with Honor A. P. second at 6-1. The mutuel field ranked third at odds of 8-1. Churchill Downs will offer two more Kentucky Derby future pools, from July 17-19 and from Aug. 7-9.
June 28 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:
1) Tiz the Law (5-2)
2) Honor A. P. (7-2)
3) Authentic (5-1)
4) Uncle Chuck (15-1)
5) Dr Post (16-1)
Notable Changes: Tiz the Law, tied with Honor A. P. atop the William Hill odds board at 4-1 when the most recent edition of this blog was published, now sits at 5-2 odds a week and a half after his Belmont Stakes rout. Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P. is a clear second, and his odds have dipped slightly as well to the current 7-2. Dr Post, who closed well to finish runner-up to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes, enters the top five future-book contenders rankings at 16-1, preceding a possible rematch with Tiz the Law in the Aug. 8 Runhappy Travers Stakes. And surprise Ohio Derby winner Dean Martini, who prior to last Saturday’s score only had a maiden claiming win to his credit, enters William Hill’s book at 125-1 odds. Trainer Tom Amoss told Daily Racing Form that the gelding would not be pointed to the Kentucky Derby however, as he is not Triple Crown nominated.
Three to Watch:
Several weeks ago, Kentucky Derby watchers were poring over the credentials of Bob Baffert-trained buzz horse Cezanne after he won by an impressive 2 ¼ lengths in his debut on June 6 at Santa Anita Park. Now, yet another Baffert charge has emerged to help reload the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer’s arsenal for the Kentucky Derby. Uncle Chuck made his first start on June 12 going a two-turn mile at Santa Anita and overpowering four opponents, taking command early in the first turn and drawing clear of the field in the second turn en route to a seven-length runaway. The son of champion Uncle Mo is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, who have had much success with Baffert in years past, McKinzie being a notable recent example. Uncle Chuck is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Forest Music, who won two graded stakes during her racing days and also placed in two Grade 1 stakes. She did her best running at sprint distances, but she’s also produced two graded stakes-winning foals – one of which, Electric Forest, took last year’s Hilliard Lyons-Baird Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles. Forest Music also produced Maclean’s Music, who only raced once (earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure) but has made some noise as a stallion, siring 2017 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing.
Uncle Chuck is nominated to Saturday’s Los Alamitos Derby – which offers 20 Kentucky Derby points to the winner – along with three other Baffert-trained 3-year-olds. None of them are Cezanne; that colt will make his second start in a two-turn, one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Los Al on Thursday, July 2. Uncle Chuck is offered at 15-1 odds on William Hill’s June 28 sheet, and Cezanne sits at 22-1 odds. Will they be suitable replacements for Nadal and Charlatan? I have my doubts… but to paraphrase D. Wayne Lukas, this pair will provide some facts very soon. (UPDATE: Cezanne won the allowance race on July 2 by 1 ¾ lengths and earned a 106 Equibase Speed Figure. Bob Baffert said afterward that Cezanne would next race in a stakes, but had not yet determined which one to target in the coming weeks. As for Uncle Chuck, he posted his second win in as may starts in the July 4 Los Alamitos Derby, outfinishing stablemate and multiple graded stakes winner Thousand Words despite still showing inexperience in the stretch and not changing leads.)
This Bernardini colt made his first three starts last fall on turf, winning at Kentucky Downs and running seventh in a Grade 3 at Keeneland for trainer Joe Sharp, but was then switched to dirt at the end of 2019. He made two starts to close out the year, and took the second of those – a six-furlong race – by an eye-catching 7 ½ lengths, only to be later disqualified due to a drug positive. Resurfacing this year and staying on dirt for trainer Tom Drury Jr., Art Collector shone during Churchill Downs’ truncated spring-summer meet, winning a seven-furlong allowance optional claiming race by 2 ¾ lengths and then a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer (his first two-turn dirt race) by 6 ½ lengths. Art Collector’s dam, the Distorted Humor mare Distorted Legacy, won a stakes race on dirt at 1 1/16 miles and finished second to top-class turf mare Stacelita on grass in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at 1 ¼ miles. There are several stakes-winning route horses deeper in this colt’s female bloodline, which may have an influence on his current 30-1 odds on William Hill’s sheet. Look for this intriguing runner to make his next start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland a week from Saturday.
The Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby series gained some respect last year when Master Fencer shipped stateside and ran a respectable sixth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Belmont Stakes. Cafe Pharoah is the leader among this year’s group of Japan-based contenders, having won all three of this starts including two Kentucky Derby qualifying races by open lengths and amassing 70 points. In his most recent start, the June 21 Unicorn Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse (view below), he ran like an even-money favorite in a 16-horse field should, breaking from the far outside and patiently moving up to sit just behind the leader through the far turn, and then drawing off in early stretch on his rider’s cue to win the nearly one-mile race by five lengths.
This Kentucky-bred is a son of 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah, and he has some oomph in his dam’s (mother’s) pedigree, too. He’s out of the More Than Ready mare Mary’s Follies, who won two graded stakes on turf going two turns. She’s produced two graded stakes winners in the U.S. to date, including current East Coast-based runner Regal Glory, who captured two turf graded stakes races last year at a mile or longer and was recently fourth in last week’s Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes.
As of this writing, Cafe Pharoah is not confirmed to start in the July 8 Japan Dirt Derby, the final points race in the Japanese series. He’s sitting at 35-1 odds on William Hill’s sheet, but interestingly closed at 14-1 odds in Churchill Downs’ recently completed Future Wager pool.