While I was watching yet another NFL halftime show precede and perhaps trigger a stadium power outage, I went back to my computer window that was locked Thanksgiving morning into the very early betting on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.
Four times a year I am thankful for the a-ha, teaching moment that the KDFW provides. And it happened like clockwork Thursday. It was as sure a thing as every local TV newscast pitching Black Friday as breaking news.
Roughly 2½ hours into the KDFW, $1,684 had been wagered on Tiz The Law and $255 on South Bend. The problem was that those two colts were still two days from racing in the $300,000 Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. And it was three days from the close of the KDFW’s first pari-mutuel pool.
Never mind betting at odds shorter than 100-1 on a current 2-year-old winning a race in five months let alone just getting to the gate. Instead, these particular bets on these particular horses pull the pin on my timeless question. Unless someone desperately seeking action has no further access to a betting window, why would he or she put a single penny on any horse in the KDFW before it has run its race that particular weekend?
The story is far different when wagering with a bookmaker like William Hill here in Nevada or Bovada off shore, because the odds you see when you bet are the odds you get if you win. It is the rudimentary difference between fixed odds and pari-mutuels. If I have to keep explaining how the will-pays will not be determined in the KDFW until the first pool closes Sunday at 6 p.m. EST, then as Jack Paar used to say on black-and-white TV, we have nothing.
So what happens to the KDFW odds after they run the Kentucky Jockey Club? At that point we truly have something. It is namely vital information that is so critical in betting on a bunch of young horses that in some cases will be adding 50 percent to their data haul that we like to call past performances. That information will give us a far better idea of the closing KDFW odds for Tiz The Law and South Bend.
In the case of this weekend’s points prep, just add water. That is an ingredient that we have been prone to seeing in recent years at the Kentucky Derby itself. The National Weather Service says there is a 90 percent chance of wet weather at Churchill Downs on Saturday with rain before 1 p.m. EST and showers after that. The Kentucky Jockey Club has a scheduled post time of 5:56 p.m. EST.
“If it turns out to be sloppy I’m not sure we’ll learn as much as we otherwise would on a fast track,” said Jack Knowlton, founder of Sackatoga Stable and lead owner of Tiz The Law (7-5), Saturday’s morning-line favorite. “I would be a lot happier if I had a forecast that had sunny and mid-50s for three days while we’re in Kentucky.”
Tiz The Law’s favoritism not only in this race but also in futures markets was built on impressive albeit green wins of four or more lengths in his first two races, both around one turn on dry, New York tracks. Now this colt by the impressive freshman sire Constitution will literally test the water around two turns. He will do so with little more for bettors to go on than the thinnest of algorithms.
“It’s a young sire, but Tiz’s Tomlinson mud number is 402 with an asterisk,” Knowlton told VSiN this week. “The way he handles things in the morning on an off track when he’s just galloping on it, he seems to handle it. So far all the comments from the people that ride him in the morning, nothing seems to faze him. I’m hoping a wet track won’t faze him.”
Actually, if Tiz The Law were to run well Saturday, it would only add to a top-of-the-stack breeding résumé being written by Constitution. The 2014 Florida Derby winner is now a WinStar stallion that also produced Nashua winner Independence Hall, another heavily backed colt in the futures market.
“He surprises us every day with what he has,” said trainer Barclay Tagg, who also saddled 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide for Sackatoga. “It’s what we look for and hope for.”
South Bend (9-5) is also undefeated, most recently winning last month’s black-type Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. The top four finishers from that race are back for this one, including Fighting Seabee (8-1), Silver Prospector (8-1) and Shotski (12-1), second through fourth, respectively.
A closer trained by Stanley Hough, South Bend has three wins that have been by just a nose, a neck and a length, the margins growing incrementally with the distance of each race. This time he graduates to 8½ furlongs, 110 yards longer than the Street Sense. “He appears to be growing up and maturing,” Hough said.
But like Tiz The Law, South Bend has never raced on an off track. Of the nine horses in the Kentucky Jockey Club field, only Mark Casse’s maiden winner Enforceable (8-1) and Indiana Downs stakes winner Two Last Words (20-1) have raced on wet main tracks, both in their debuts last May. Enforceable finished second in the five-furlong slop of a May 2 sprint at Churchill Downs; Two Last Words won at Indiana Downs in a sprint that was moved from the turf to a course rated good.
Trained by Mike Maker, maiden winner New Eagle (20-1) represents the only true, early speed in Saturday’s race. A well-received workout last week at Turfway Park looked encouraging, so despite the class jump, this colt by Street Boss might be worth more than a passing glance if only because he will churn mud into the face of these inexperienced 2-year-olds.
Tiz The Law brings the quality. South Bend carries the course-horse angle. Two Last Words has the slop success. New Eagle has the early speed. Together they will be in my exacta and trifecta boxes Saturday.
As for the futures? I am waiting this one out, and I will keep my eyes peeled for value on a horse that closes from just off the pace to finish an impressive second or third in a prep that goes under the radar. The better to find something at 100-1 or longer.
So no, I will not get my holiday shopping done early.
Racing notes and opinions
Independence Hall (10-1) and Tiz The Law (10-1) were the individual betting favorites Thursday at 7 p.m. EST in this weekend’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager. With $46,606 in the first pool, they were shorter priced than Dennis’ Moment (12-1) and Maxfield (12-1). The overall favorite among the 24 betting choices was “all other 2-year-old colts and geldings” (6-5) that are not among the 22 horses listed individually. The stallion that produced Independence Hall and Tiz The Law – Constitution (5-1) – was the early favorite in the only Kentucky Derby Sire Wager, which, like the KDFW, closes Sunday at 6 p.m. EST.
Last month’s winner of the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes in the slop at Keeneland, Tom’s d’Etat (8-5) is the clear, morning-line favorite for the $600,000 Clark Stakes (formerly the Clark Handicap) on Friday at 5:56 p.m. EST. The biggest difference between this race and Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club will be the Churchill Downs weather, which is forecast to be cloudy but dry Friday. The 2017 Clark winner Seeking The Soul (5-1) drew post 11 in the open company of 11 rivals; his last win was in June at Churchill in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. Mr Freeze (8-1), winner of the Grade 3 Ack Ack on the same track, and the heavily raced Bravazo (8-1), coming off a 10-month break, are the only others with a single-digit, morning-line odds. I am leaning hard to Owendale (10-1). A three-time Grade 3 winner this year, he failed badly in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But like the Travers – another failure – that was a 1¼-mile race. This one is 1⅛, a distance at which Owendale is 2-for-2. Add the fact that trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux won this race last year with Leofric. They all add up to my across-the-board bet on Owendale.
Unable to come back from the back injuries he suffered in a spill 15 months ago at Del Mar, jockey Corey Nakatani announced his retirement. Winner of 3,909 races, Nakatani, 49, earned $234,554,534 in purse money, 12th-most in North American history. The top 11 are all in the Hall of Fame. He also had 119 Grade 1 wins, 10 in the Breeders’ Cup and 10 riding championships. Nakatani never won a classic; he was 0-for-18 in the Kentucky Derby. And there was more than one time when he went unplugged because of a short fuse. But three decades of steady success in southern California make Nakatani more than deserving of his place in the Hall of Fame.
Ron Flatter’s weekly racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. Owner Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable talks about Tiz The Law’s rise to being the favorite in Kentucky Derby futures. The Blood-Horse’s Byron King handicaps Friday’s Clark Stakes and Tiz The Law’s run Saturday in the Kentucky Jockey Club. There is also a comment on the timing of next week’s Hong Kong International Races. The Ron Flatter Racing Pod is also available via Apple, Google, Spotify and Stitcher, and it is sponsored by Xpressbet.