Welcome to a special EXTRA! version of Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes for Saturday’s 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
We know that a lot of people only bet one horse race a year -- the Derby -- or only pay attention to horse racing on the biggest days of the year like the Preakness and Belmont (when there’s a chance at a Triple Crown) or maybe the Breeders’ Cup. Even though we’ve been posting weekly Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes columns and updating them with daily picks (and we’ll continue to do that the rest of this week), we wanted a separate column for readers just looking for plays on Derby Day.
Saturday: Churchill Race No. 14 (7:01 p.m. ET/4:01 p.m. PT)
I’ll start with my analysis of the Derby and then will have my stable of handicapping friends give their picks and approaches to playing the Derby Day card and especially the main event (note: for those wanting to get as many opinions as possible, also check out VSiN’s dedicated horse racing page with plays from other analysts at vsin.com/horses
As for my “take” on this year’s Run for the Roses, I certainly understand why so many love Tiz the Law. He moved to the head of the 3-year-old class in March when the impressively won the Florida Derby to establish himself as the Derby favorite after other top contenders (Charlatan, Nadal, Maxfield, etc.) had fallen by the wayside, then romped in the first leg of this year’s scrambled Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, and followed that up with another easy win in the Travers.
But while the whole world is seemingly on Tiz the Law, I’m not convinced that he’s invincible and will be trying to beat him on the First Saturday in September. And that’s the first reason I’m willing to take a stand against him. Tiz the Law, as well as most of the contenders who developed early, were training their whole youngs lives to peak on the First Saturday in May. Now, obviously, owners and especially trainers were able to put their charges on a different timetable, but I still feel there’s a chance that Tiz the Law could have already peaked, but regardless, the change in schedule has allowed more late-developing 3-year-olds to close the gap.
It looks too easy to declare Tiz the Law as the next superhorse -- and, yes, I certainly admit that I bet against American Pharoah and Justify in their Triple Crown runs in 2015 and 2018 -- but this is a whole new world and I just can’t recommend betting this or any 3-year-old at less than even money in such a big field.
In addition, Tiz the Law drew post No. 17 in the 18-horse field (now down to 17 with the scratch of No. 6 King Guillermo) and no Derby winner has even come from No. 17. I’m sure that’s a fact you’ll hear many times this week, and Tiz the Law apologists will say that no colt as good as Tiz the Law has drawn No. 17 before and also point to Big Brown winning from the outside No. 20 post in 2008. I’ll grant those arguments (plus another that says with the scratch, he’s actually breaking from the 16th widest post) as I do agree that the best horse can win from anywhere, but where I believe the No. 17 post will doom Tiz the Law is that he’s used to running just off the pace and will have to be hustled up to get near the lead before the first turn. Now, there’s plenty of room to run-up while passing the Churchill Downs stands the first time, he also has the race’s top speed horse, No. 18 Authentic, drawn to his outside and plenty of other speed horses (primarily No. 4 Storm the Court, No. 6 King Guillermo, No. 10 Thousand Words and No. 16 Honor A.P.) battling to get to the same spots near the front. While this certainly compromises the chances of the front-runners who will be cooked on the front end, I believe it will also doom the stalkers to be eaten alive by the closers as they’re forced to go faster than they want to early.
In looking for the most likely upsetter, I keep going back to No. 2 Max Player (30-1 on the morning line). I lost on him as he was a well-beaten third to Tiz the Law in both the Belmont the Travers. There’s been many times in my years as a horseplayer where I’ve been on a horse too early and then he finally lives up to my expectations at a nice price, and I’m hoping that’s the case here. Max Player hasn’t closed as strong as he did earlier in his career, but he hasn’t been embarrassed either and this race should set up for him and hopefully he finds that extra gear.
I don’t expect Max Player go off at his morning-line price, especially with the scratch of #6 King Guillermo, but I’ll still be betting him to Win & Place. A lot of people would like to box a couple of horses they like in the Derby to try to catch a big payoff, but my recommended play is to key the horse you really like with the ALL button in case you don’t connect the dots with a smaller box or key. So, if I’m betting $20 to Win & Place on #2 Max Player, I would bet a $1 exacta wheel keying 2 w/ ALL, which would cost $16 if the field stays at 17 runners. If I want to make sure I hit something if Max Player runs second, I’d do a $1 exacta wheel ALL w/ 2 for another $16 (you could call out or punch in $1 exacta box on 2 w/ ALL would accomplish the same purpose. Then, if you want to protect against low payoffs with the top contenders, you could add a separate key/wheel or box with Max Player and#16 Honor A. P., #17 Tiz the Law and/or #18 Authentic so you have those tickets multiple times in case those lower-paying combinations come in.
Good luck and enjoy Derby Day!
Our other handicappers’ Derby Day bets:
Hey, I know everyone doesn’t like to play long shots like yours truly, and that’s why I include plays from my stable of handicapping friends. In fact, our TTT members Ed Sehon, Duane Colucci and John Lauro all pick Tiz the Law to win the Derby. However, they do have different approaches in how to find value with other horses and tying them to Tiz the Law to boost their payoffs. Sehon offers an Oaks-Derby Double that actually starts on Friday for those reading this preview early. He also has a Late Pick 4 on Derby Day at Churchill Downs leading up to singling Tiz the Law in the last leg. Colucci is keying Tiz the Law on top in exactas and trifectas (and reversing to put Tiz the Law in the second spot in case he gets beat by one of his other picks) while Lauro also has an exacta box.
After offering up our team’s picks linked to the Derby, Sehon also has two earlier selections for Saturday to help build our bankrolls leading up to the big race.
Friday: Churchill Race No. 12 (5:45 p.m. ET/2:45 p.m. PT)
Ed Sehon likes the following $2 Oaks-Derby Double (cost $8, adjust for your budget)
Friday Race 12 (Kentucky Oaks): #4 Speech & #5 Gamine
Saturday Race 14 (Kentucky Derby): #10 Thousand Words & #17 Tiz the Law
Churchill Race No. 11 (4:39 p.m. ET/1:39 p.m. PT)
Ed Sehon likes the following $.50 Pick 4 (cost $40)
Race 11: 2, 3, 4, 6
Race 12: 1, 8, 9, 10
Race 13: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9
Race 14 (Kentucky Derby): 17 (Tiz the Law)
Churchill Race No. 14 (7:01 p.m. ET/4:01 p.m. PT)
Duane Colucci likes #17 Tiz the Law (3-5 morning-line favorite. “No secret my Kentucky Derby pick is #17 Tiz the Law. This Belmont/Travers winner now attempts to add the Derby to his ongoing resume. He’s been working fabulously and is conditioned by Barclay Tagg. This colt should coast to victory barring a rough trip. Look for #15 Ny Traffic to pick up the pieces for second at a price. Key #17 Tiz the Law over #10 Thousand Words & #15 Ny Traffic in exactas and then key #17 Tiz the Law over #5 Major Fed, #7 Money Moves, #15 Ny Traffic & #16 Honor A. P. in trifectas and reverse.”
John Lauro also likes #17 Tiz the Law. His approach is to bet a 16-17 exacta box with Tiz the Law & #16 Honor A. P. Lauro also mentioned #10 Thousand Words as a colt he would use in exotics.
Earlier Saturday races:
Churchill Race No. 6 (1:45 p.m. ET/10:45 a.m. PT)
Ed Sehon likes #11 Cowboy Diplomacy (7-2 morning line). “Expensive, once-promising son of Tapizar began his career last year at Oaklawn Park, posting modest results as a 3-year-old. Then, last Spring, in his third lifetime start something went wrong in a Maiden Special Weights event at 1 1/16-mile in the slop. Sent off as the odds-on choice, he ended up a disappointing 4th - and unexpectedly went on the shelf for 15 months. The maiden returned in July, and going off at 5-1, romped home by 4 1/2 and earned an impressive 90 Beyer Speed figure. Sharp Ky-circuit trainer Brad Cox, who deserves all the credit for resurrecting this guy’s career, sends him out today in a high-priced first-level allowance 7-furlongs sprint. Gelded since his return, ‘Cowboy’ retains services of journeyman Shawn Bridgmohan. Solid recent works, including one in the mud, attest to fitness. Wager: Win & Place.”
Saratoga Race No. 10 (4:57 p.m. ET/1:57 p.m. PT)
Ed Sehon likes #7 Center Aisle (4-1 morning line). “OXO Equine, one of several deep-pocketed owners for Chad Brown’s prodigious stable, has waited long enough for a return on its $1.5 million equine investment in this 3-year-old filly. Brown adds blinkers today while retaining jockey Joel Rosario, who is chasing the Ortiz brothers for the meet’s leading rider title. Away for 60 days, Center Aisle’s steady works indicate she’s ready to cash in for OXO & Brown in the 6-furlongs G2 $200,000 Prioress Stakes. Wager: Win and box in exactas with 1&5.“