Every year, handicappers, gamblers, and racing fans alike pore over the past performances for the Kentucky Derby hoping to see something in one of the contenders that almost nobody else sees.
We’re looking for the next Giacomo ($102.60 to win in 2005) or Mine That Bird ($103.20 to win in 2009) or Country House ($132.40 to win in 2019) or, at the least, a nice price to fill out the exacta or trifecta underneath one of the favorites.
This year’s path to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve has been unlike any other thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the run for the roses to be rescheduled from May 2 to Sept. 5 and the race to be run without fans in the stands. Oh yeah, the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (albeit at 1 1/8 miles) already has been run as has the 1 ¼-mile Runhappy Travers Stakes, and both were won by Tiz the Law, who projects to be the heaviest Derby favorite since at least 1989 at less than even-money odds.
The only horse I viewed as a serious threat to beat Tiz the Law was Art Collector, but he was forced to skip the race after he suffered a minor foot injury in training. So my plan is to try to hit the trifecta or superfecta using a group of longshots underneath. For this blog, I try to limit the candidates to runners I expect to go off at AT LEAST 20-1 odds
Below are my four longshots and at the very bottom is my betting strategy for the trifecta and superfecta in the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
#12. Sole Volante (30-1): Prior to the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, Sole Volante had been a consistent closer who always showed up while also capable of a big race against quality competition. But then, he did not fire – at all – in the Belmont Stakes. I believe there is a logical excuse for his sixth-place finish, beaten by 15 ¾ lengths by winner Tiz the Law, in the Belmont Stakes. Sole Volante was coming back on short rest, just 10 days after winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Park over a solid group. To say managing racehorses has been a juggling act during this pandemic is an understatement, and if you are willing to forgive the one poor effort on short rest, the other six races (two on grass) on Sole Volante’s résumé look promising. The Karakontie gelding had never run outside the top three before the Belmont and won the Sam F. Davis Stakes by 2 ½ lengths before a runner-up finish behind King Guillermo in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby in March. Unless there is an absolute pace meltdown, I don’t see Sole Volante winning the race, but there is a ton of stamina on the bottom half of this pedigree and he fired a monster workout on Aug. 28 that makes me think he’s ready. I could definitely see him rallying for a top three finish at a big price.
BEST EQUIBASE SPEED FIGURE: 109
BEST BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 96
BEST BRISNET SPEED RATING: 102
#15. Ny Traffic (20-1): This Cross Traffic colt has finished in the top three in all five races this year and comes into the Kentucky Derby off a career-best race when second by a nose to Authentic in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes on July 18. Authentic scooted away from him entering the stretch, but Ny Traffic is a grinder and he kept on coming at the winner with a determined late surge. He also has run second in the 1 3/16-mile Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby – only a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby – and second to highly regarded Maxfield in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes May 23 on this Churchill main track. With seven weeks of rest since the Haskell, Ny Traffic should be primed to run another big race. There are several key contenders with a similar running style to Ny Traffic, but he showed in the Haskell that even if they start to pull away he will keep on fighting in deep stretch.
BEST EQUIBASE SPEED FIGURE: 109
BEST BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 101
BEST BRISNET SPEED RATING: 107
#7. Money Moves (30-1): When analyzing a typical Kentucky Derby (or final Kentucky Derby prep) in this era of racing, bettors are essentially asked to speculate on lightly raced 3-year-olds often making only their fourth or fifth career start. This year, for most of the runners we have significantly more information thanks to four more months of racing. Money Moves, however, is much more like a typical untested sophomore you might see target one of the final Derby preps: high on potential but light on credentials. I like taking a shot on this Candy Ride colt here because I figure for most of the Derby entrants we sort of have a solid idea what the ceiling is, whereas Money Moves might be a true breakout candidate. He won his first two starts by open lengths in February going three-quarters of a mile and then on March 27 at one mile, both at Gulfstream Park. He did not race again util four months later when he stretched out to 1 1/8 miles to face older horses and finished second in a stalking trip that earned career-best Equibase, Beyer, and BrisNet speed figures. The fact that trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Robert LaPenta and Bortolazzo Stable felt confident enough to take a shot in here speaks volumes about what they think of this $975,000 auction purchase and also the quality of the Derby field behind overwhelming favorite Tiz the Law. With a bit of luck, Money Moves should be able to work out a stalking trip behind the pacesetters and pace-pressers and get a jump on the deep closers.
BEST EQUIBASE SPEED FIGURE: 109
BEST BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 98
BEST BRISNET SPEED RATING: 100
#8. South Bend (50-1): When I first heard about South Bend being a last-minute addition to the Kentucky Derby field, I thought, well, that never works out. But 2020 isn’t an ordinary Kentucky Derby and South Bend is no lightly raced colt being thrown to the wolves. The Algorithms colt has made 12 starts, including the last 10 against stakes competition, and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure and BrisNet speed rating when stretching out to 1 ¼ miles for the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes Aug. 8. He finished a well-beaten fourth in that race, but he passed several horses in the stretch and he’s won two of his three races on the main track at Churchill Downs. I don’t view the Ohio Derby runner-up as a win candidate by any stretch, but you could do worse filling out the trifecta with a 50-1 shot who has a history of success on the Churchill main track and the stamina to pass some horses in the stretch.
BEST EQUIBASE SPEED FIGURE: 103
BEST BEYER SPEED FIGURE: 97
BEST BRISNET SPEED RATING: 105
My betting strategy is to play against both Honor A. P. and Authentic and use Thousand Words and the four longshots above under Tiz the Law in the trifecta and superfecta.
A $1 trifecta using 17 with 7,8,10,12,15 with 7,8,10,12,15 will cost $20 or $10 if you play the 50-cent minimum (it would be $30 and $15, respectively, if you wanted to add Honor A. P. as a sixth horse underneath). A 10-cent superfecta using the same strategy (swapping Honor A. P. in for the scratched King Guillermo) would cost $12 for the minimum bet: 17 with 7,8,10,12,15, 16 with 7,8,10,12,15,16 with 7,8,10,12,15, 16 … or $60 for 50 cents if you have a bigger bankroll.
Best of luck!