It’s September, not May. It’s the second jewel of the Triple Crown, not the first. There will be no fans at Churchill Downs, not 160,000 or more. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely changed the nature of the 146th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, but some things will remain the same. With 17 talented 3-year-olds in the starting gate, Saturday’s race seems certain to produce two of the most exciting minutes of the year.
1. Finnick the Fierce (SCRATCHED): This one-eyed runner is surely a sentimental favorite and he did finish slightly ahead of Tiz the Law on a sloppy racetrack at Churchill Downs last year. But with just two wins in nine starts and a 10 ¾-length loss in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes last time out, he’ll need plenty of help to pull off an upset.
JOCKEY: Martin Garcia; TRAINER: Rey Hernandez
2. Max Player (30-1): He was third behind Tiz the Law in both the Runhappy Travers Stakes and the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. Though he was behind by a combined total of 12 3/4 lengths, in a top heavy field he has the kind of late kick that could net him a spot in the exotics. Making his third start after a layoff and moving to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn also weigh in his favor.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
3. Enforceable (30-1): As much as he’s a strong stretch runner, in his longest race, the 1 3/16-mile Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, he was a nonthreatening fifth, so the added distance may not help him. He’s lost three straight starts since opening the year with a win and this seems a tough spot to get back on a winning roll.
JOCKEY: Adam Beschizza; TRAINER: Mark Casse
4. Storm the Court (50-1): The way Tiz the Law has dominated the division lately, it’s easy to forget that Storm the Court was this crop’s 2-year-old champ. Five straight losses explain why and gives little hope to expect a huge effort here.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Peter Eurton
5. Major Fed (50-1): Like many of the horses in this field, he’s enjoyed some nice moments, such as a second in the Indiana Derby in his last start. A brutal pace and a ground-saving trip might help his cause, but overall, he seems to be treading in deep water in his first Grade 1 stakes.
JOCKEY: James Graham; TRAINER: Greg Foley
6. King Guillermo (SCRATCHED)
7. Money Moves (30-1): He’s making just his fourth start and first in a stakes, which can spell trouble in a race like this. But he turned in a nice effort against older horses last time, losing by a neck in quick time, and with Todd Pletcher training him, using a fresh face like this one in the superfecta might not be a bad idea.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
8. South Bend (50-1): He gets the Mr. Versatility Award for running seven times on dirt and five times on turf. He brushed the gate and rallied to be fourth in the Runhappy Travers Stakes, so he’s not a tossout. Expecting him to finish better than third, though, seems to be asking a lot of him.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Bill Mott
9. Mr. Big News (50-1): He had some excuses when he finished sixth in the Blue Grass, but considering he hasn’t been lower than 34-1 in his last three starts, the news of the day from us is that we’ll pass on him.
JOCKEY: Gabriel Saez; TRAINER: Bret Calhoun
10. Thousand Words (15-1): His Triple Crown hopes appeared over when he finished 11th in the Oaklawn Stakes in April. But trainer Bob Baffert has brought him back in top form, getting him to upset Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief Stakes Aug. 1. That was only a 1 1/16-mile test, but there were high hopes for him before his spring swoon and he certainly seems capable of landing a spot in the exotics. Based on his connections alone, you can’t ignore him.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
11. Necker Island (50-1): He’s one of eight horses at 50-1 in this race, which says that depth is not the strong suit of the 146th Kentucky Derby. He’s never been badly beaten, but, then again, he’s never faced a field like this.
JOCKEY: Miguel Mena; TRAINER: Chris Hartman
12. Sole Volante (30-1): His only poor race was a 15-length loss in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, but shipping up from Florida and running on 10 days rest probably worked against him. With some time off and some quick turf workouts to get ready, he’s another who could sneak into the picture for a piece of the purse.
JOCKEY: Luca Panici; TRAINER: Patrick Biancone
13. Attachment Rate (50-1): At 50-1, he’s definitely worth a look. He was only 3 ¼ lengths behind Art Collector – who would have been the second choice here if he stayed in the race – in the Runhappy Ellis Park Derby. He seems to be a magnet for bad racing luck but if he gets a clean trip, he just might have a surprise in him.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo; TRAINER: Dale Romans
14. Winning Impression (50-1): Part of the connections owned a piece of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and there has to be some dreaming going on to start this 3-year-old who lost by 13 ½ lengths in the Ellis Park Derby at 71-1 odds in his last start.
JOCKEY: Joe Rocco Jr.; TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
15. Ny Traffic (20-1): He always runs his heart out as illustrated by three-straight second-place finishes in his last three starts. He was only a nose behind Authentic in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes and is a main contender, but the added distance here might work against him.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
16. Honor A. P. (5-1): The loss in the Shared Belief tarnished his star a bit after winning the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, but off of nearly two months of rest at a 1 1/16-mile distance, that was no doubt just a tune-up to get him on edge for the big prize Saturday. He should the relish the distance and he looks like the main rival, especially if Tiz the Law and Authentic get into a tussle on the final turn.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: John Shirreffs
17. Tiz the Law (3-5): He has everything going for him. He’s unbeaten at three. He has a stalking running style. He’s won at a mile and a quarter. His trainer knows how to win this race. The price on the toteboard will be miniscule, but it’s based on nothing but respect for what he’s accomplished. He’s unquestionably the one to beat, and we’re not sure if anyone in this field is up to that task.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco; TRAINER: Barclay Tagg
18. Authentic (8-1): His lone loss came in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, so he’s a legitimate threat to beat the favorite. With Art Collector out, he will face less pressure on the front end and perhaps he can hang on and pull off an upset. With Baffert training him, don’t discount that possibility.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
THE PICK: Tiz the Law
LIVE LONGSHOT: Max Player