Kentucky Derby Odds & Ends

Kentucky Derby Odds, Tiz The Law: Kentucky Derby Favorite

By Richard Rosenblatt

Standing in the winner’s circle at Saratoga, jotting down notes during the trophy presentation for the 2019 Funny Cide Stakes, a race for 2-year-olds named for the New York-bred gelding who won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, I chatted with Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, the owners of Funny Cide.

I asked him how the meet was going.

“Let me tell you this,’ he said with a sly grin. “I think we’ve got a pretty good 2-year-old who could get us to the Derby again.”

That was my introduction to Tiz the Law, who had broken his maiden in style less than a month earlier with a professional-looking 4 ½-length win at the Spa.

The colt, trained by Barclay Tagg, has been just about perfect ever since, and is the prohibitive 3-5 early favorite for Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1), at Churchill Downs.

“Never in the world did we expect there would be another opportunity,” Knowlton said recently.

A field of 16 is expected after 20-1 shot King Guillermo was scratched on Thursday with a fever, and the one-eyed gelding Finnick the Fierce (50-1) was scratched Friday.

RELATED: Field at 16 after Finnick the Fierce Scratched; Tiz the Law All Set; Baffert talks Derby Chances

Due to the COVID-10 pandemic, there will be no spectators at the track; only essential personnel will be admitted under strict health and safety protocols.

While Tiz the Law has been the 3-year-old star in 2020 – he won the Holy Bull (G3), Florida Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1), all with ease — the sport is undergoing a tumultuous year.

Disqualifications. Lawsuits. Drugs. Investigations. Indictments. And since March, coronavirus has scrambled the racing schedule, turned the Triple Crown upside down and brought life as we knew it to a halt.

With Derby Day upon us (who would have thought it would be the first Saturday in September instead of the first Saturday in May and it would be the second leg of the Triple Crown instead of the first?) longtime trainer Tagg is just hoping for peace and quiet, safety and good health, and, of course, a victory.

“I just want to win the race and I’m not trying to be a smart ass,’’ Tagg said when asked about the unusual circumstances surrounding Derby 146. “Quiet, too, can’t hurt because we’ve had quiet through all his races and he’s won them all. It doesn’t bother me to have it quiet. It’s nice when there’s fans, and it’s a great sport. But strange things happen sometimes and we’re in the middle of that. And it’s unfortunate. We had the pandemic and we had the riots, or we have the political stuff. And it’s just a sad time for America right now, unfortunately, but I’m sure we’ll come out of it. We’ve come out of worse.”

The Belmont Stakes became the first leg of the Triple Crown, and Tiz the Law won by a comfortable 3 ¾ lengths with Manny Franco aboard. The race was shortened to 1 ¼ miles from its traditional 1 ½ miles.

And then came the Travers, where Tiz the Law simply took off in the stretch and won by 5 ½ lengths. Tagg says ‘Tiz’ has done everything asked of him, and he’s been training superbly.

The only blemish on his record is a third-place in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last Nov. 30 over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.

Now he’s back at the scene of his lone defeat, and will start from unlucky post 17, where Derby starters are 0-for-41. At least the weather forecast is promising — sunny skies and temperatures in the low-80s on Saturday.

Tiz the Law, with a distinctive white blaze covering most of his face, and Franco, who at 25 is a rising young star, have become quite the Tagg team. The trainer had been questioned about coming up with a more experienced rider, but Tagg has only praise for the jockey from Puerto Rico.

 “He’s a very athletic kid and he’s smart,’’ Tagg said. “He’s quiet and listens to you. And Angel Cordero (Hall of Fame jockey, now Franco’s agent), who I’ve known for years … he’s a great instructor and a great teacher and a great agent for these kids. I just put all that together and I knew I wasn’t going to get one of the other boys to stay with him if he messed up or something like that. Manny stuck with him and we stuck with Manny and I’m glad we did.”

For his part, Franco sees improvement every day in Tiz the Law.

RELATED: Eddie Mac’s Book: Odds-on Tiz the Law a Derby Cinch, Hopefully

“He’s a different horse now,” Franco said. “He’s very mature and he’s improving race by race and I’m really happy with the way he’s doing it. His mind is growing and he’s doing everything the right way. He’s ready for whatever happens.”

A Kentucky Derby win by Tiz the Law would set him up for a Triple Crown try in the Preakness (G1) on Oct. 5. But with the Triple Crown spread over 15 weeks rather than its traditional five weeks, and run in a different order, how would  history record a sweep of the Belmont, Derby and Preakness?

Can’t wait to find out.

2020 Kentucky Derby Odds and Post Position

PP Horse Odds Trainer Jockey
1 Finnick the Fierce SCR Rey Hernandez Martin Garcia
2 Max Player 30-1 Steven M. Asmussen Ricardo Santana, Jr.
3 Enforceable 30-1 Mark Casse Adam Beschizza
4 Storm the Court 50-1 Peter Eurton Julien Leparoux
5 Major Fed 50-1 Greg Foley James Graham
6 King Guillermo SCR Juan Carlos Avila Samy Camacho
7 Money Moves 30-1 Todd Pletcher Javier Castellano
8 South Bend 50-1 Tyler Gaffalione Bill Mott
9 Mr. Big News 50-1 Bret Calhoun Gabriel Saez
10 Thousand Words 15-1 Bob Baffert Florent Geroux
11 Necker Island 50-1 Chris Hartman Miguel Mena
12 Sole Volante 30-1 Patrick Biancone Luca Panici
13 Attachment Rate 50-1 Dale Romans Joe Talamo
14 Winning Impression 50-1 Dallas Stewart Joe Rocco, Jr.
15 NY Traffic 20-1 Saffie Joseph, Jr. Paco Lopez
16 Honor A. P. 5-1 John A. Shirreffs Mike Smith
17 Tiz the Law 3-5 Barclay Tagg Manny Franco
18 Authentic 8-1 Bob Baffert John Velazquez


Kentucky Derby Odds & Ends: Pneumatic is Out (for now); Fans (not a lot) are In; Hold all Tickets (legal twist)

By Mike Farrell

With less than three weeks to go before the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Sept. 5 — four months later than its traditional first Saturday in May — here’s some thoughts and observations on this unusual Run for the Roses:

No Pneumatic

Must say we are sorry to hear that Pneumatic will bypass the Derby and wait for the Preakness (G1) on Oct. 3. He easily won the Pegasus Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth Park, the final race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The 20 additional points he picked up for the Pegasus victory clinched a spot in the Derby.

His connections, Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen, are leaning toward giving the colt additional time following his first stakes victory.


Pneumatic – Photo Courtesy of Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

We always want to see the horse’s best interests placed first but, from a selfish perspective, Pneumatic would have been an interesting Derby entrant.

He is lightly raced and only starting to scratch his potential. He would have offered intriguing Derby value as a medium-priced runner in the 8-1 to 12-1 range. Not that he’s ready to unseat Tiz the Law but Pneumatic could have filled a slot on a trifecta or superfecta ticket at a nice price.

If the odds were enticing enough, a few bucks on the nose to pull a Derby upset would have been in order.

It’s still possible the Pneumatic camp will catch a dose of Derby Fever (it’s been known to happen) but for now, we’ll see him in October.

Yes, there will be fans

The mainstream media seemed shocked and stunned by the announcement that Churchill Downs will admit fans on Derby Day. Just not the usual throng.

The event that usually attracts over 150,000 fans will be limited to somewhere around 23,000 to allow for social distancing.

For some folks, the idea that 23,000 will congregate in one location is inconceivable given the current coronavirus admonitions to shun thy neighbor. College football conferences are cancelling their seasons and gatherings are still limited to 50 or few people in many areas.

From a racing fan’s perspective, seeing only 23,000 in cavernous Churchill Downs will be equally shocking. The infield will be empty and spectators in their rose-colored masks will be well spaced.

What’s a Derby without massive traffic jams and wall-to-wall people?

Churchill will pull out all the stops to ensure a safe experience for all who attend. Let’s hope the day goes off without a hitch. If the plans work, Derby Day could be a baby step on the road back to normalcy for all sports.

Churchill has also installed protocols covering jockeys which will scramble the riding assignments on Derby weekend.

Stay tuned, as there will be developments on that front.

Hold all tickets takes legal turn

The first bit of advice given novice horseplayers is “hold all tickets until the race is declared official.”

Fair enough. You don’t want to discard a ticket that could become a winner if the order-of-finish is upended by a disqualification, or in other instances, refunds are issued when a horse is declared a non-starter.

Waiting for the “official” sign on the tote board or television monitor has always been the horseplayer’s best move.

Kentucky Derby Qualifiers: Fountain of Youth Favorites

Horse Racing – US Racing Photo

In our increasingly litigious world, bettors need to hold those tickets … forever, now that the courts have intervened.

A harness bettor recently received a $20,000 settlement after suing the connections of a horse that won a race at the Meadowlands in 2016 but ultimately tested positive for a banned drug.

Bettors usually have no recourse after the fact. Not this time

The bettor, located in Illinois, sued claiming interstate racketeering after he made a superfecta wager that did not include the winner. His horses finished second, third, fourth and fifth. By his calculation, his payoff should have been over $30,000 had the doped horse been disqualified or banned.

If the precedent stands, the impact will be far ranging.

For starters, It would help “clean up” racing. Cheaters would have less incentive if they faced potential lawsuits.

Trainers and owners might need malpractice insurance, similar to what doctors purchase, to shield them financially in the event of an intentional or accidental post-race positive in one of their horses.

That added expense would drive many honest horsemen out of the sport.

The bettors might not benefit, either. Racing has always operated on the “and now we move on” principle. After one race is posted official, we move to the next one in the program. Winners from the previous race cash the tickets at the track or off-track-betting parlor and on-line players see winnings immediately credited to their accounts.

That creates “the churn” that supports the game. The money returned as winnings is re-bet over and over again.

What would happen if nobody got paid until the race was truly official, when all the postrace blood and urine tests were cleared by the labs? Winners would wait days, possibly weeks, before cashing.

No churn equals no racing.

That would suit PETA just fine. The radical animal rights group dedicated to the destruction of horseracing provided the financial backing for the Illinois bettor to launch the lawsuit.

Unable to achieve its goals in the court of public opinion, PETA took a backdoor stab at employing the legal system to do its dirty work.

They chalked up a victory. Where it leads is a very uncertain path.