Honor A. P. is A. N(ew) Derby favorite

By Ron Flatter  (VSiN.com) 

Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Honor A. P. won Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and was made the co-favorite in futures betting at William Hill Nevada for the Kentucky Derby. (Benoit photo courtesy of Santa Anita Park)

Las Vegas


Even before his Santa Anita Derby victory was rewarded with a trophy, Honor A. P. went through an important transformation. He went from being just a highly regarded maiden winner to the new co-favorite in one Nevada sportsbook’s Kentucky Derby futures.


After beating Authentic by 2¾ lengths on Saturday afternoon, Honor A. P. was cut by William Hill from 10-1 to 4-1 in its fixed-odds market for America’s biggest race.


Florida Derby winner Tiz The Law, the likely post-time favorite for this month’s Belmont Stakes, briefly drifted to 9-2 before being restored to 4-1. Now 1-for-2 against Honor A. P., the previously undefeated Authentic went from 5-1 to 7-1 before settling Saturday night at 6-1.


But the wave of recency bias did not hit Circa Sports, which kept Tiz The Law as its favorite, even shortening him from nearly 5-1 ( 495) to 4-1. Honor A. P. went from 10-1 to 6-1, making him a co-second choice with Authentic and Maxfield.


“All things being equal we really feel that Tiz The Law is the favorite right now,” said risk supervisor Paul Zilm, who writes Circa’s futures with sportsbook director Matt Metcalf. “The discussion for us is who’s next? We really struggled with Authentic, Honor A. P. and Maxfield. We found a lot of pros for all three of them. So we decided that if they’re all pretty even, let’s put them all in the same spot and see where the action takes it.”


Honor A. P. was clearly healthier Saturday than he was in March. Now the winner of three consecutive runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, jockey Mike Smith had said that the colt by Honor Code carried a foot injury into the San Felipe Stakes, which he lost to Authentic by 2¼ lengths.


In addition to being fully fit this time, Honor A. P. stood to benefit from his off-the-pace style because of the longer distance of Saturday’s race – nine furlongs vs. the 8½ of the San Felipe.


“On the back side we hoped he would get comfortable and to have a nice kick in the end,” Honor A. P.’s trainer John Shirreffs said after Saturday’s victory, his third in the Santa Anita Derby. “It all worked out.”


The Santa Anita Derby, a Grade 1 prep with a reduced purse of $400,000, was not the only race on the card showcasing Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Cézanne, the $3.65 million Coolmore buy, may have replaced Authentic as trainer Bob Baffert’s best chance to win the roses Sept. 5. The Curlin colt out of a Bernardini mare won a maiden sprint by 2¼ lengths in a long-awaited debut that was professional but less than eye-popping.


William Hill opened Cézanne at 50-1 on Saturday. By sundown he was 20-1. As the book’s director of trading Nick Bogdanovich put it, “We did take some bets on him.”


Circa, which posted Cézanne at 55-1 on May 19, got two Saturday morning futures bets and cut him from 18-1 to 15-1 before the race. That is where he stayed afterward.


“We were low with him to begin,” Zilm said. “I don’t know how you can go any lower right now.”


In global Derby futures, Honor A. P. went from 14-1 to 7-1. But he was no better than the third choice Saturday night behind Tiz The Law (3-1) and Matt Winn Stakes winner Maxfield (5-1). Cézanne went from 18-1 to 12-1.


European bookmakers monitored by Oddschecker.com showed mixed movement, which was understandable since the Santa Anita Derby did not start until after midnight in England. Tiz The Law was best-priced at 6-1 and a co-favorite with Charlatan, even though Baffert told Paulick Report on Saturday that Charlatan will miss both the Belmont and the Derby “with a filling in a front ankle.”


Influenced by Charlatan’s removal from consideration, Circa Sports revised its futures for the June 20 Belmont Stakes, cutting Tiz The Law to 3-2 ( 150) and Maxfield to not quite 3-1 ( 325).


“If we knew for certain that Maxfield was going into the Belmont, he would be lower,” Zilm said. “But not a ton lower. I think he’d be closer to  2½-1. Tiz The Law is a deserving a favorite, but it’s not a walkover at any moment.”


After her triumph against only three others in Saturday’s $200,000 Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks ran her winning streak to three, Swiss Skydiver held her ground as the foreign favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. She went from 6-1 to 4-1 in the global odds and from 5-1 to 7-2 at Oddschecker.


Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning – more frequently for big races – at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. It is available via Apple, Google, iHeart, Spotify, Stitcher and at VSiN.com/podcasts and is sponsored by 1/ST BET.

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