The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2 and several horses have already pointed themselves out as contenders.
The Derby is still some 80-plus days away and a lot can happen in between now and then but here is a list of my top 10 Kentucky Derby prospects for 2020 at this time.
Note: The second pool (of 4) closed on Feb. 9 and provided 23 single betting entries. The odds listed below are the closing numbers from that pool. The “all other 3-year-olds” option closed as the public betting choice at 2/1.
Top 2020 Kentucky Derby prospects
TIZ THE LAW (8/1 odds)
Trainer: Barclay Tagg Starts (4): 3-0-1 Earnings: $498,900 Derby points: 22
Besides winning three out of four career outings, this fellow really impressed me in his last race in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 1. In that race, he encountered some early trouble while getting pinched on the rail and had to take up for a few strides after the 1/4-mile marker. Rider Manny Franco didn’t panic, eased the horse out and Tiz the Law moved up willingly and all on his own. He then went on to post a three-length victory, although he was slightly green in the stretch. A lot of young horses would’ve sulked and retreated after that early trouble but this fellow shrugged it off well. His rough trip turned into victory bodes extremely well for a possible 20-horse field in May and the traffic jams and chaos that accompany the big race.
THOUSAND WORDS (16/1 odds)
Trainer: Bob Baffert Starts (3): 3-0-0 Earnings: $211,000 Points: 20
His last outing in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita produced a very workmanlike win on Feb. 1. This fellow is now a perfect 3/3 in his career but hasn’t won any of those races by more than 3/4 of a length. That might be a good thing, as he doesn’t exert himself and puts in just enough effort to get the job done. He also has good tactical speed and a great stalk and pounce type running style for the Derby. This guy will be plenty scary if he makes it to the gate at Churchill in May.
NADAL (8/1 odds)
Trainer: Bob Baffert Starts (2): 2-0-0 Earnings: $153,000 Points: 0
His last outing on Feb. 9 produced a gritty 3/4-length win in the Grade-2, San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. That was his second time running on a racetrack and the jog was only 21 days from breaking his maiden at first asking by 3-3/4 lengths. He has useful early speed and he dug in very gamely while in a tussle in deep stretch in the San Vicente. He’s gotten quite a late start in hitting the Derby trail but I’m anxious to see how this fellow handles a two-turn race. He’ll likely be seen next in the March 14 rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and that will be the acid test for this fellow, as he needs some points.
ANNEAU d’OR (28/1 odds)
Trainer: Blaine Wright Starts (3): 1-2-0 Earnings: $399,000 Points: 12
The son of Medaglia d’Oro didn’t debut until late September when he broke his maiden by 8-lengths at first asking in a 1-mile event on the turf at Golden Gate. He was then tossed in the deep waters of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he ran a bang-up second at odds of 28/1, just missing by a head. He came back a month later to make his second start on the dirt in the Los Alamitos Futurity and just missed by a neck to Thousand Words.
He’s improved in every start, never ran a bad one in three races and proved he can run on turf or dirt. My concern is he looked like a sure winner in both of those big races and it seems he waits on horses and hangs a bit. He’ll sport blinkers in his next and maybe that’ll be the difference, The real test will be this Saturday in New Orleans, where Anneau d’Or will look to grab his first stakes victory in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes.
DENNIS’ MOMENT (10/1 odds)
Trainer: Dale Romans Starts (4): 2-0-0 Earnings: $167,000 Points: 10
This fellow has had four starts and two of them were disasters and two were clear wins. He clipped heels and lost the rider in his first attempt at racing on June 23 at Churchill and came back in July at Ellis Park and crushed a field of maidens by 19-lengths. He then took the Iroquois Stakes in September by 1-3/4 lengths as the favorite and showed up in Nov. for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and went off as the favorite. But he lost all chance when he stumbled badly at the start, and finished last of eight.
In the two races where he actually competed, he won them by a combined 20-3/4 lengths. He surely has the talent and if he can stay out of trouble and keep his head on straight he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. He’s been working very well for his return in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 29 at Gulfstream and that race will tell us how fit he really is.
STORM THE COURT (50/1 odds)
Trainer: Peter Eurton Starts (5): 2-0-1 Earnings: $1,184,951 Points: 23
Although he didn’t fire in his latest outing in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 9, I’m not giving up on this fellow just yet. He still ran a respectable fourth and showed some interest while finishing up even though he never really looked comfortable during the race. He broke his maiden at first asking at Del Mar in August and came back on Sep. 2 with high hopes for the Del Mar Futurity but got bumped early in the race and lost the jockey.
Three weeks later, he ran a credible third in the Grade 1, American Pharaoh Stakes at Santa Anita. And, we all might remember Storm the Court taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1-1/16 miles last Nov. at odds of 45/1. Although this guy has the odor of a dirt sprinter, I’ll be giving him one more shot in a route race and It’ll be interesting to see where he shows up next.
SHOTSKI (2/1 “Field” odds)
Trainer: Jeremiah O’Dwyer Starts (5): 2-1-0 Earnings: $217,222 Points: 14
He was very game in defeat in his last outing in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb.1. He showed good courage splitting horses to grab the lead and battled throughout the race. He got clear in the stretch and there’s a good chance he didn’t see Max Player flying on his outside and he fought on gamely to hold second. He won the Remsen Stakes at Churchill in his previous start in wire to wire fashion at odds of 8/1.
This guy seems to like a fight and his heart and determination can’t be questioned and that’s a very good thing while riding on the Triple Crown trail. Shotski seems like a horse that would be better suited at short or mid-distance races so he might be searching for something shorter than a 1-1/8 mile race. The obvious choice would be Aqueduct’s one mile Gotham Stakes on March 7 but Shotski still has the option of the 1-1/8 mile Wood Memorial in April as well.
THREE TECHNIQUE (36/1 odds)
Trainer: Jeremiah Englehart Starts (5): 2-3-0 Earnings: $154,750 Points: 4
He had a slow start in his latest outing in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on Jan. 24 but he closed well in the mud while racing wide for much of that journey to get second place. He was only 2-3/4 lengths behind the winner, Gold Street, that day and was clearly second best, as he was 2-3/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher, Shoplifted. He took his previous two races at Aqueduct and Saratoga by a combined 10-lengths. He’s never been out of the exacta in five starts and he might have even had an excuse for a couple of those losses. With normal improvement and a couple of uneventful races in his future, I could see this fellow being a player on the Derby circuit in May, provided he finds the points.
GOLD STREET (30/1 odds)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Starts (6): 3-2-0 Earnings: $225,218 Points: 10
This son of Street Boss found a nice trip in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on Jan. 24 and never saw the back of another horse. He won by 2-3/4 lengths that day in the two-turn mile event. He took the Sugar Bowl Stakes at the Fairgrounds in his previous race by 3-3/4 lengths and broke his maiden before that by 7-lengths. He’s on a three-race win streak and he’s won those races by a combined 16-1/4 lengths. The trouble is, those three wins have occurred on a wet track and he’s never run further than a mile. But you’d still have to think this guy is pretty serious and we’ll see what he has to offer next at Oaklawn on Feb. 17 for the Southwest Stakes.
MAX PLAYER (49/1 odds)
Trainer: Linda Rice Starts (3): 2-1-0 Earnings: $173,500 Points: 10
This son of Honor Code won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 1, beating Shotski by 3-1/4 decisive lengths. He circled horses and closed like a freight train with a perfectly timed move by Dylan Davis. He broke his maiden at second asking in his previous effort by 4-1/4 lengths at Parx in Dec. I love the way Rice started this horse off with two one mile events at Parx and moved him up to a grade-3, 1-1/8 mile event at Aqueduct. It was the perfect progression and this lady seems to know how to get this horse (and countless others) ready for a big one. Look for this fellow to target the Wood Memorial in April instead of the Gotham Stakes in March.
Note: Kentucky Derby future wagers resume March 6-8 for Pool 3 and Pool 4 runs from April 6-8.
Check back with us in March for an updated top-10 list including Derby point standings, future odds and Kentucky Derby news.