KENTUCKY DERBY HORSE-BY-HORSE ANALYSIS

Tiz the Law
Tiz the Law was much the best in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Photo by NYRA.

Unlike most years, this Kentucky Derby appears to be much more of a coronation than a competition. Tiz the Law, off dominant wins in the Travers Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and the Florida Derby, has been installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite. Should he go off at that price, he’d be the shortest Derby favorite since Spectacular Bid went off at that price in 1979.

The result of his dominant run is the smallest number of entries for the Derby since 2003. A field of eighteen will go postward in the fourteenth race at Churchill Downs on Saturday, with a scheduled post time of 7:02 PM EDT. Does any of the challengers have a chance at dethroning the superstar? We’ll take an in-depth look at each entrant here.

Note that all odds listed are the morning line odds, not the final prices.

1. FINNICK THE FIERCE (50/1)

  • TRAINER: REY HERNANDEZ
  • JOCKEY: MARTIN GARCIA
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 9-2-1-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 7TH, BLUE GRASS STAKES
  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)

His Blue Grass pretty much ended as soon as it began, when he was cut off at the start and lost crucial early position. Prior to that, he had hit the board three times against some pretty good horses, including a third-place finish in the second division of the Arkansas Derby. He could very well be rounding into form at the right time, and he’s been throwing down some fantastic workouts in preparation for this spot. Still, he’s never run a race good enough to go with these, and he’d have to take either a big step up, or everyone else would have to take a giant step down.

HORSEDATERACE (click for video)TRKFINISH
Finnick the Fierce7/11/2020Blue Grass StakesKEE7
5/2/2020Arkansas Derby Div. 2OP3
2/15/2020Risen Star Div. 2FG7
1/18/2020Lecomte S.FG4
11/30/2019Kentucky Jockey ClubCD2

2. MAX PLAYER (30/1)

  • TRAINER: STEVE ASMUSSEN
  • JOCKEY: RICARDO SANTANA JR.
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-2-1-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 3RD, TRAVERS STAKES

In a normal three-year-old race, he’d look like a prime contender. He ran on well in the Belmont, closing to get third with plenty of late kick. In the Travers, he closed well off a slow pace to once again finish third. His speed figures have improved significantly each time out. The only problem is, Tiz the Law beat him soundly in both of those races, and lo and behold, Tiz the Law is in this race as well. This horse is a must-use if you’re playing trifectas or superfectas, given his strong closing style, but he’d have to take yet another leap forward to even be competitive with Tiz the Law.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Max Player08-08-20Travers StakesSAR3
6/20/2020Belmont StakesBEL3
2/1/2020Withers S.AQU1

3. ENFORCEABLE (30/1)

  • TRAINER: MARK CASSE
  • JOCKEY: ADAM BESCHIZZA
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 10-2-2-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 4TH, BLUE GRASS STAKES

He has no early speed whatsoever; in fact, he’s an excellent bet to be in last place in the early stages of the race. He won the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds back in January with a plodding rally down their long stretch. That strategy didn’t work so well in his last three races, which have gotten less and less impressive. Not to mention, considering he’ll be coming from way out of it, he’ll have to weave his way through traffic in the gigantic field. That’s usually a tall task for even a high-quality closer. Further, he’s only raced once since April 1. It would’ve been nice to see him with at least one other race under his belt in that span.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Enforceable7/11/2020Blue Grass StakesKEE4
3/21/2020Louisiana DerbyFG5
2/15/2020Risen Star Div. 1FG2
1/18/2020Lecomte S.FG1
11/30/2019Kentucky Jockey ClubCD4
10/5/2019Breeders’ FuturityKEE3

4. STORM THE COURT (50/1)

  • TRAINER: PETER EURTON
  • JOCKEY: JULIEN LEPAROUX
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 9-2-1-3
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, LA JOLLA HANDICAP

He burst on the scene last fall in about the most dramatic way possible: with a 45/1 upset win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been nearly as good since then, with an 0-for-5 mark in his sophomore campaign. In his most recent dirt race, he was a decent-closing third in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown, after racing wide the entire way. Both horses who finished ahead of him, Dean Martini and South Bend, came back to lose their next races badly, so it’s fair to question the quality of that field. Storm the Court’s most recent race, which was on grass, suggests that his connections were kind of grasping at straws as to what to do with him, so to see him in a race like this is somewhat unusual. I’m not expecting him to be much of a factor.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Storm the Court6/27/2020Ohio DerbyTDN3
5/2/2020Arkansas Derby Div. 2OP6
3/7/2020San Felipe S.SA3
11/1/2019Breeders’ Cup JuvenileSA1
9/27/2019American PharoahSA3

5. MAJOR FED (50/1)

  • TRAINER: GREG FOLEY
  • JOCKEY: JAMES GRAHAM
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 6-1-2-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, INDIANA DERBY

Despite finishing second in the Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand last out, he might have been the best horse in the race. He broke slowly and was relegated to last early on, then moved wide up the backstretch past the half-mile pole. On the turn, he was in the six-path, costing himself precious ground. Nevertheless, he was closing strongly while racing wide, and ended up a hard-fought second to Shared Sense, who raced several paths closer to the inside than Major Fed did. He ran a career-top speed figure in that race by several points, to boot. While he’s obviously far from impervious to trouble in a race like the Derby, he looks like the kind who can make a serious bid late, if he can manage to find the right trip. Breaking from towards the inside, he should be able to save more ground than last time; the key will be weaving his way through traffic. Looks like a live longshot.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Major Fed7/8/2020Indiana DerbyIND2
5/23/2020Matt Winn S.CD10
3/21/2020Louisiana DerbyFG4
2/15/2020Risen Star Div. 2FG2

6. KING GUILLERMO (20/1)

  • TRAINER: JUAN AVILA
  • JOCKEY: SAMY CAMACHO
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-2-1-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, ARKANSAS DERBY

His owners, who include former MLB star Victor Martinez, have been taking it very slow with him. He’s coming into the Derby off a 127-day layoff, which is the longest break anyone has taken before this race since Worldly Manner in 1999. That horse made a promising move entering the stretch, before flattening out and finishing seventh. There’s a reason for that: generally, horses don’t run up to their peak when making their first start off a long layoff. King Guillermo will attempt to buck history with that long rest, and I’d be surprised if it worked. He’s impressed many people with his workouts, but those are hardly substitutes for actual races. I think he’s up against it against more battle-ready foes.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
King Guillermo5/2/2020Arkansas Derby Div. 2OP2
3/7/2020Tampa Bay DerbyTB1

  • Fillies rule at MHBA Yearling Show
    A Street Sense filly was named Grand Champion while a Great Notion filly was tabbed reserve champion at the 2021 MHBA Yearling Show August 1.

7. MONEY MOVES (30/1)

  • TRAINER: TODD PLETCHER
  • JOCKEY: JAVIER CASTELLANO
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 3-2-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, NON-WINNERS OF TWO RACES OTHER THAN ALLOWANCE

He’s doing two things that you never see a Derby horse do: he’s coming into the race without having made a start in a stakes race, and he’s entering off a race against older horses. After starting his career 2-for-2 against sophs at Gulfstream Park, he stepped up to an allowance race at Saratoga last out. After racing wide most of the way, he battled on in the stretch to lose by a neck. Being lightly-raced is hardly a negative going into the Derby; Justify won it two years ago while making just his fourth career start. While he’s never run in a stake, that was a pretty good field he faced at Saratoga, and older horses are generally faster and tougher than three-year-olds. That race was also his first start in four months, and he still ran a career-top speed figure. He looks like he’s improving at the right time, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him run a big race.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (runner has no Derby points)
Money Moves7/25/20Alw/Opt. clm.SAR2
3/27/20Alw/Opt. clm.GP1

8. SOUTH BEND (50/1)

  • TRAINER: BILL MOTT
  • JOCKEY: TYLER GAFFALIONE
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 12-3-2-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 4TH, TRAVERS STAKES

A literal last-minute entry, he was put in the race Tuesday morning after the scratch of presumptive second choice Art Collector. He’s made two recent starts on dirt: a fast-closing second in the Ohio Derby, and a non-descript fourth in the Travers behind Tiz the Law. He got an honest pace to run at in the Ohio Derby, but got stuck behind a slow clip in the Travers. It’s clear that he’ll need to get some fast fractions early on for his closing kick to be effective, otherwise, he’ll just spin his wheels. There’s no cheap speed in this race, so he’s going to need to do it the hard way. 

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
South Bend08-08-20Travers StakesSAR4
6/27/2020Ohio DerbyTDN2
11/30/2019Kentucky Jockey ClubCD6

9. MR BIG NEWS (50/1)

  • TRAINER: BRET CALHOUN
  • JOCKEY: GABRIEL SAEZ
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 7-2-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 6TH, BLUE GRASS STAKES

His only notable moment was a 46/1 upset win in the Oaklawn Stakes, in a race that looked weak on paper that day in April, and whose combatants have not gone on to distinguish themselves since. In his only race since then, he was sixth in the Blue Grass. His trouble wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the running line would indicate; even when he was clear, he had little punch. Looks like a non-factor to me.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Mr. Big News7/11/2020Blue Grass StakesKEE6
2/15/2020Risen Star Div. 2FG5

10. THOUSAND WORDS (15/1)

  • TRAINER: BOB BAFFERT
  • JOCKEY: FLORENT GEROUX
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 7-4-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1ST, SHARED BELIEF STAKES

Finally, we have a horse who poses a legitimate upset threat to Tiz the Law. After showing promise earlier in the year, he lost the spotlight to stablemates Nadal and Charlatan in the spring, after two dull efforts at Santa Anita Park and Oaklawn Park. Since a brief freshening in May and June, however, he’s regained his best form. He was a strong second in the Los Alamitos Derby, and followed it up with a gutsy win in the Shared Belief over Honor A.P. With Nadal and Charlatan both on the sidelines, along with Los Alamitos Derby-winning stablemate Uncle Chuck,Thousand Words enters the race as one of Baffert’s best Derby hopes. He has a running style similar to stablemate Authentic, so it’ll be interesting to see what style Geroux employs. The horse has won from off the pace in the past, but that big win in the Shared Belief was a gate-to-wire score. I can see him sitting second or third off his stablemate, being careful not to burn him out, while rating just off the rail.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Thousand Words08-01-20Shared Belief StakesDMR1
7/4/2020Los Alamitos DerbyLA2
3/7/2020San Felipe S.SA4
2/1/2020Robert B. Lewis S.SA1
12/7/2019Los Alamitos FuturityLRC1

11. NECKER ISLAND (50/1)

  • TRAINER: CHRIS HARTMAN
  • JOCKEY: MIGUEL MENA
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 10-2-0-3
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 3RD, ELLIS PARK DERBY

He’s been outkicked in his last few races by horses he faces here. In the Ellis Park Derby, it looked like he was making a move on the turn, but Art Collector and Attachment Rate both left him in the dust. Two races back, Major Fed outfinished him in the Indiana Derby. Three races ago, Finnick the Fierce finished ahead of him in a n/w3L allowance race. I’ve seen no indication that he’s going to pack more of a punch here, so he’s in a pretty rough spot.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Necker Island08-09-20Ellis Park DerbyEP3
7/8/2020Indiana DerbyIND3
5/23/2020Matt Winn S.CD5
3/7/2020Gotham S.AQU5

12. SOLE VOLANTE (30/1)

  • TRAINER: PAT BIANCONE
  • JOCKEY: LUCA PANICI
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 7-4-1-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 6TH, BELMONT STAKES

One of the wise guy horses going into the Belmont, he was a complete non-factor in that spot, finishing a non-threatening sixth. Prior to that, he had been in good form racing in Florida, including an allowance win against a tough field at Gulfstream Park just nine days prior to the Belmont. He ran his best speed figures over the winter, then declined sharply in the Belmont, so it’s entirely possible that he’s already peaked. He’s also coming in here off a long layoff: he hasn’t raced since the Belmont, which was 72 days ago. I’m treading lightly with him.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Sole Volante6/20/2020Belmont StakesBEL6
3/7/2020Tampa Bay DerbyTB2
2/8/2020Sam F. Davis S.TAM1

13. ATTACHMENT RATE (50/1)

  • TRAINER: DALE ROMANS
  • JOCKEY: JOE TALAMO
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 8-1-3-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, ELLIS PARK DERBY

He has the look and vibe of a popular wise guy horse. In five stakes tries this year, he hasn’t won, but he’s been coming close and getting better every time. His last start made the most waves; he chased Art Collector in the stretch of the Ellis Park Derby and got second, well clear of Necker Island in third. He’s improved in his last four races, and has shown good closing kick in each of those spots. Another type who I don’t think can win, but can certainly get in the trifecta or superfecta at decent odds.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Attachment Rate08-09-20Ellis Park DerbyEP2
7/11/2020Blue Grass StakesKEE5
5/23/2020Matt Winn S.CD4
3/7/2020Gotham S.AQU3

14. WINNING IMPRESSION (50/1)

  • TRAINER: DALLAS STEWART
  • JOCKEY: JOE ROCCO
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 9-1-1-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 7TH, ELLIS PARK DERBY

I mean, I guess there’s the possibility that everyone else except him falls down. Other than that, there’s really no case for him to win this race. His recent speed figures haven’t been close to what he needs to avoid running last, let alone win. In fact, the highest figure he’s ever earned on the brisnet scale, 91, is lower than the number earned by all of his rivals in just their last race. He was a non-threatening seventh at 71/1 in the Ellis Park Derby, a race that followed a dull effort in the Indiana Derby. If he manages to finish in the top half of the field, his people should throw a party.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Winning Impression08-09-20Ellis Park DerbyEP7
7/8/2020Indiana DerbyIND7
5/2/2020Arkansas Derby Div. 1OP4

15. NY TRAFFIC (20/1)

  • TRAINER: SAFFIE JOSEPH
  • JOCKEY: PACO LOPEZ
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 9-2-3-2
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, HASKELL STAKES

The “other” New York bred in the race, he’s been knocking on the door all year, without a stakes win to his credit. It’s not for lack of trying, though: he was second in the Louisiana Derby, a game second in the Matt Winn behind the classy Maxfield, and a fast-closing second in the Haskell behind the speedy, but tiring, Authentic. He has great tactical speed, and should get a trip sitting on or near the pace on the outside. From there, he can pounce on the leaders and get first run on his rivals turning for home.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Ny Traffic7/18/2020Haskell StakesMTH2
5/23/2020Matt Winn S.CD2
3/21/2020Louisiana DerbyFG2
2/15/2020Risen Star Div. 2FG3

16. HONOR A.P. (5/1)

  • TRAINER: JOHN SHIRREFFS
  • JOCKEY: MIKE SMITH
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-2-3-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 2ND, SHARED BELIEF STAKES

Going into the Shared Belief, there was some conversation over who was going to be the favorite: Honor A.P. or Tiz the Law. The former was coming off an impressive win in the Santa Anita Derby, and was 2-5 in what looked like a tune-up race. However, he couldn’t make up ground off early leader Thousand Words, and lost to him by ¾ of a length. In spite of that, he’s still got a pretty impressive resume: he’s one of four in here to run back-to-back figures above 100 on the brisnet scale, and all reports are that he’s working well going in here. That Shared Belief was a four-horse field, and those races can sometimes get wacky. When there’s that few horses, sometimes the paces aren’t fast enough for horses to make good moves. With a bigger field here, Honor A.P. should get his trip. 

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Honor A. P.08-01-20Shared Belief StakesDMR2
6/6/2020Santa Anita DerbySA1
3/7/2020San Felipe S.SA2

17. TIZ THE LAW (3-5)

  • TRAINER: BARCLAY TAGG
  • JOCKEY: MANNY FRANCO
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 7-6-0-1
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1ST, TRAVERS STAKES

What else is there to say about him? He’s won all four of his races this year with breathtaking ease. He’s become the first horse to win the Travers and the Belmont in the same year since Summer Bird in 2009, and the first to win the Florida Derby along with those two races since Thunder Gulch in 1995. He’s already got a win at 1 ¼ miles, and an impressive one at that. His most recent brisnet figure is the best last-out number in the race by eight points. He has push-button acceleration and a dominant late kick. The only question about this race seems to be not so much if he’ll win, but rather, but how much he’ll win by.

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Tiz the Law08-08-20Travers StakesSAR1
6/20/2020Belmont StakesBEL1
3/28/2020Florida DerbyGP1
2/1/2020Holy Bull S.GP1
11/30/2019Kentucky Jockey ClubCD3
10/5/2019Champagne S.BEL1

18. AUTHENTIC (8/1)

  • TRAINER: BOB BAFFERT
  • JOCKEY: JOHN VELAZQUEZ
  • LIFETIME RECORD: 5-4-1-0
  • MOST RECENT RACE: 1ST, HASKELL STAKES

The primary speed of the race. Turning for home in his last start, the Haskell, it looked like he was home free, with a four-length lead. He got leg-weary in the last eighth, and NY Traffic came within a nose of catching him. That was at 1 ⅛ miles, and with a relatively easy lead. There are horses who could press him on the pace here, and high-quality horses who could roll by him if he gets tired. His best hope is for Velazquez to get clear from the far outside post, and try to slow things down as much as possible. That might be a tough ask. 

  • VIDEO PAST PERFORMANCES (includes all North American Derby points races)
Authentic7/18/2020Haskell StakesMTH1
6/6/2020Santa Anita DerbySA2
3/7/2020San Felipe S.SA1
1/4/2020Sham S.SA1

LATEST NEWS