An in-depth look at the horses in the field at the Kentucky Derby
This year’s running of the 146th Kentucky Derby is different in more ways than just its four-month delay. The old two separate combined starting gates that had a gap between posts 14-15 have been replaced by a single 20-horse gate that actually has slightly more room for the horse inside each gate.
Instead of the Derby being the first race of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, it is the second this year, as the Belmont was in June. The Kentucky Derby normally would have been the first time these 3-year-old thoroughbreds would have run at 1 1/4 miles, a distance longer than most any of these horses had run up to that point.
This year several competed in the G1 Travers on August 8 at the 1 1/4 mile Derby distance.
The Derby is usually a 20-horse field that is decided on qualifying points. This year the field has 18 entries, two of which had no qualifying points but got in due to spots being available. Art Collector would have made 19, but he had a very minor hoof issue that showed up the day before entries were taken.
On Thursday King Guillermo was scratched due to a minor fever and Friday, Finnick The Fierce — who only has one eye –was scratched because some veterinarians did not like how he was carrying himself due to the missing eye. As of this writing, only 16 will now enter the starting gate at approximately 7:01 p.m. tonight.
As a result of the extra gate space, the inside horse, Max Player, who wears saddle cloth No. 2, will actually exit the third gate from the rail.
Reviewing the 16 horse field, from most inside post position outward, I will start with Max Player. He typically runs near the back of the pack and comes with a late run. Max Player finished third in the Travers, and his pedigree suggests that the 1 1/4 mile distance will not be a problem. He has two wins, a second-place and two third-place finishes in five career starts.
At 30-1 on the morning line, he may coming running late to pick up a piece of the top three spots.
Enforceable wears cloth No. 3, has 30-1 odds and is closer like Max Player. He is one of several gray horses in this race, and should benefit from the long, 1,234.5 foot Churchill Downs stretch.
Storm The Court is No. 4, and at 50-1 is really not expected to be there at the end. Unlike Enforceable, who was a $775,000 RNA (reserve not achieved) at the 2018 yearling sale, Storm The Court was only a $5,000 yearling purchase. He was a G1 winner as a 2-year-old, but had shown very little this year at age three.
Major Fed is No. 5, is also 50-1 odds and has only one win to show in six career starts. His breeding reflects that the distance will help, but he continually seems to encounter troubled trips. He will need a lot of racing luck to finish in the top 3.
With King Guillermo’s scratch, No. 7 is Money Moves. He only has three starts with two wins and a second-place finish. He is talented, but this is his first try against Stakes company, and his 30-1 odds reflect that. Money Moves is intriguing because his Hall of Fame trainer, Todd Pletcher, chose him rather than several others in his stable to try the run for the roses.
South Bend is 50-1 odds and wears No. 8. He closed from off the pace to finish fourth in the Travers, so the 1 1/4 mile distance is in his favor. He has the most career starts of all the Derby entries with 12, but only three wins, all coming last year as a 2-year-old. Another 50-1 horse is Mr. Big News (No. 9), who would create huge news if he won. He is a closer and I do not see him being close.
Thousand Words is an interesting 15-1 shot wearing No. 10. He should be prominent early, but the question will be whether he can relax while surrounded by several other horses trying to be at or near the front end going into the Clubhouse turn and down the backstretch. He has won four of seven races, including beating Honor A.P. in his last start. If he relaxes he will make things interesting.
Necker Island is No. 11 and is also a 50-1 long shot. He has the pedigree but is not likely to be seen in the mix at the end. Since only 3-year-old thoroughbreds are eligible to race in the Derby, it is his once-in-a-lifetime chance to race in the Kentucky Derby.
Sole Volante wears No. 12 and is an interesting long shot at 30-1. He has been inconsistent, but does have four wins in seven starts and has been training exceptionally well lately. His most recent workout of 57.8 seconds going 5/8 of a mile on August 28 sets him up really well. Sole Volante may be in the mix at the end.
Attachment Rate also has 50-1 odds and has just one win in eight starts. He is improving at the right time and still has a ways to go, but the Derby distance may help No. 13.
Winning Impression is another long shot gray that is the slowest horse in the race when crunching speed figures. He has won only once in nice starts, cost just $17,000 as a yearling and it would be a huge surprise to see No. 14 winning despite his respectable pedigree.
For some reason this year’s post position draw appears to have the best horses in the four outside posts. Starting with 20-1odds and wearing No. 15 is the gorgeous gray, Ny Traffic. He was just a nose short of winning the G1 Haskell in late July, has tactical speed, is a fighter and could make it interesting at the end. Ny Traffic has only two wins, but also has two graded stakes second-place finishes and a G3 placing in his nine career starts.
Honor A.P. is listed at 5-1 odds and his wide white blaze is easy to spot when he comes charging from off the pace. He has raced only five times with two first-place finishes — including a G1 victory — and three times finished second. He cost $850,000 as a yearling based on his outstanding pedigree and impressive physical.
With a three million dollar total purse on the line, this is the type of race Honor A.P. was purchased for. He should add some spice to the finish if the favorite, Tiz The Law, has any type of troubled trip.
Heavy favorite Tiz The Law has already won four G1s in his six wins in seven career starts. He dominated an outstanding field in the 1 1/4 mile Travers and won the Belmont in June, giving him a shot at the Triple Crown.
He has tactical speed, is very responsive to his jockey’s cues and is trained by well-respected 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg. He is definitely the horse to beat.
Authentic is in the outside post hole and wears No. 18 in this 16-horse field. He is listed at 8-1 odds on the morning line and does have four wins and a second-place finish in five career starts. Authentic has already won two G1s and has a high cruising speed. He should be at or near the lead early, and should not encounter any early traffic trouble from his outside post.
Authentic is the real deal, but his breeding suggests that the Derby distance may be just a little too far. He also still acts immature at times during his races. He will need to be on his best behavior if he want to be in the winners’ circle and wear the garland of roses.
NBC will be televising the event beginning at 2:30 p.m. The Kentucky Derby begins at 7:01 p.m.
And down the stretch they come!