Derby Rankings – Aug. 31, 2020

I hope you enjoy reading my final 2020 Derby Rankings below. Later this week, I will be posting a bonus column handicapping analysis of the race they call the Labor Day Kentucky Derby. It doesn’t matter much this year whether you follow my analysis and overall betting selections or your pet parrot’s if he can read the past performances on the bottom of his cage and tell you who he likes. But at least you’ll have more fun losing with mine. And who knows, maybe we all will stumble upon the winner and cash some nice exotics tickets.

When we started Derby Dozen on that other website back in January, no one ever heard of Covid-19 and Corona was just a beer. It seems as if Tiz the Law has been ranked No. 1 for like eight months…Oh, wait, he has. But is he worth a bet as the big favorite? Is Art Collector and Honor A.P. his equal? Can anyone knock off all three of them? Who are the longshots who can fill the exotics and make you some money? That’s what we hope to discover in our September 2nd Derby Handicapping and Analysis column right here on ~ Steve Haskin

1—TIZ THE LAW (Barclay Tagg, Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow)
The big question with him is whether everything can continue to go perfect for him. No one has adjusted better to the crazy changes on the road to the Derby than Barclay Tagg, and he and his horse have flourished since back in February when everything was still right with the world. Tiz the Law would have been a solid Derby favorite on the first Saturday in May, as he will be on the first Saturday in September. That says a great deal about horse and trainer. His five-furlong work in :59 2/5 at Saratoga was a thing of beauty, as he came home his last quarter in :23 4/5 and then galloped out very strongly in 1:12 4/5, pulling up seven furlongs in a powerful 1:26, which is faster than most horses work. You would think he’d have just a maintenance drill as his final prep, but he came back with another bullet work in :59 1/5, which to this horse is a maintenance drill, although it was a bit faster than expected. You couldn’t see much of it in the dark, but you had to love the way he hugged the rail on both turns and how easily he did it, and how strongly he galloped out six furlongs. As I keep saying, he is a machine; you turn on the switch and he goes…all the time. Speed-wise, although his Thoro-Graph figures are only a bit faster than the other leading contenders, he is the only horse to run three negative numbers and his 115 Brisnet figure in the Travers towers over the other horses. The only flaws he has shown in the past were a tendency to drift out and to cock his head to the right, but so far they have not affected his performance or his dominance. However, if you’re looking for a reason to bet on someone else, he hasn’t been running against anything even close to Art Collector and Honor A. P.

2—ART COLLECTOR (Tom Drury, Bernardini – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor) OUT OF RACE
He turned in his final Derby work breezing five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 and was never asked to run. He hugged the rail beautifully turning for home and down the stretch with the rider never moving his hands. He did switch over to left lead at the sixteenth pole, but again hugged the rail on the gallop-out and continued strongly with his head still down into the bit. It sounds strange to say a Derby horse’s reputation was boosted by a filly, but after what he did to Swiss Skydiver in the Blue Grass Stakes, and what Swiss Skydiver did to her opponents in the subsequent Alabama Stakes, there is no doubting that Art Collector defeated a very serious horse at Keeneland whose 109 Brisnet speed figure in the Alabama is faster than any Derby horse has run other than Tiz the Law. In fact, there haven’t been many opponents tougher on the Derby trail than this brilliant filly, who has won major stakes all over the country. If Art Collector has any advantage over Tiz the Law and Honor A. P., it is that the Derby is being run over his home track, where he finished first in three consecutive races by an average margin of 5 1/2 lengths. Also, he has proven to be more versatile in that he can beat you from anywhere on the racetrack – on the lead, just off the pace or from midpack. All three of these horses have an exceptionally high cruising speed and never get tired. Unlike Tiz the Law and Honor A. P., Art Collector has taken advantage of the Derby date change and has burst on the scene much later than the other two, rattling off a series of impressive victories.

3—HONOR A. P. (John Shirreffs, Honor Code – Hollywood Story, by Wild Rush)
I admit I had some concerns about him going into the Derby off that effort in the Shared Belief Stakes, mainly whether he got enough out of it, with it being his only race in 13 weeks. But after watching his last three workouts those concerns are gone. Two works back he was so powerful and so smooth, and showed such great extension, I believe it was the best I’ve seen him work and that includes his previous work when he actually worked faster. Although he was credited with a five-furlong work in 1:00 1/5, he actually kept working past the wire with another eighth in :12 flat before galloping out seven furlongs in a sprightly 1:25 2/5 over a track that was not fast by any means. Shirreffs said he has learned to be cautious and not have him work too fast to the wire, but it is after the wire that he is asked for his best, as Shirreffs said, “To see what he’s made of.” Well, we sure saw what he’s made of. He then came back with a solid seven-furlong work in 1:27 starting on the clubhouse turn. This was a good foundation-building work with Smith keeping him three wide turning for home and nudging him along in the stretch, but this time he didn’t ask for much after the wire. Shirreffs said Honor A. P. is “very unique in that he hardly hits the ground. He has beautiful action and just floats over the track. He can rattle off :12 eighths and make it look effortless.” Shirreffs also is not concerned about the layoffs because the colt ran big in the San Felipe off a long layoff. So, with these three big works in him I am putting him right up there with the top two and am expecting a huge effort in the Derby. What makes Honor A. P. so special to Shirreffs and his wife Dottie is that his dam was Shirreffs’ first winner after they were married. As Dottie said, “It was a great way to start our honeymoon and marriage.”

4—ATTACHMENT RATE (Dale Romans, Hard Spun – Aristra, by Afleet Alex)
Obviously this ranking is outrageously high and I can’t take issue with anyone who thinks I’m out of my mind, but I like that Romans is keeping a lower profile than usual, as if he knows he has a live horse and wants to come in under the radar. I just liked his wake-up performance in the Ellis Park Derby and how much he has improved and what a huge turnaround he’s made. He certainly held his own against Art Collector, while finishing more than five lengths ahead of the third horse. Romans feels he has really matured over the summer after being a little behind earlier in the year, and we saw that when he demonstrated a huge turn of foot at Ellis Park that he had never shown before and when he changed leads on cue, something he had problems with all year. And add to that, you had to love how strongly he galloped out. In his final five-furlong breeze in 1:01 1/5, he did everything the right way, and when the rider asked him approaching the wire he really took off, showing that quick acceleration again, going a strong eighth of a mile past the wire before galloping out a long way. He is showing all indications of a horse ready to run a peak effort in the Derby. Now, whether that is good enough to be competitive with the big three is another matter. But when a horse runs five consecutive Thoro-Graph numbers ranging from “4” to “5” and then makes a gigantic leap to a “1/2,” you have to feel he is a changed horse and is sitting on big effort.

5—KING GUILLERMO (Juan Avila, Uncle Mo – Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band)
To win the Kentucky Derby off a four-month layoff is unfathomable. So, why in the world did I move him up? Because this is a crazy year where you can throw all the rules out and I believe this is a very gifted horse who turned in what I would call the quintessential Derby work, going five furlongs in :58 1/5 like it was nothing. He wanted to go galloping to the pole, throwing his around and pulling hard while under a tight hold. When the rider finally let him go he literally leaped in the air and quickly settled into a smooth fluid stride with the rider still pulling back on the reins and feet in the dashboard. Turning for home King Guillermo cut the corner beautifully, inches from the rail, showing off his athleticism, which I love to see. Down the stretch, the rider never moved his hands, allowing him to do everything on his own while on a loose rein. He then galloped out a long way. This work was reminiscent of Smarty Jones’ :58 1/5 work at Churchill, which I have always considered the best Derby work I have ever seen. This ranks right up there with that. Avila then wisely slowed him down considerably in his final work, which was somewhere between a work and an open gallop. I have tremendous respect for Venezuelan trainers, who I consider to be superior horsemen. This horse has an absolutely gorgeous head and carries himself with a great deal of class, and his Tampa Bay Derby victory was one of the most impressive Derby preps of the year. So I am going to throw out the history books and all logic and will consider him a very serious contender.

6—SOLE VOLANTE (Patrick Biancone, Karakontie – Light Blow, by Kingmambo)
Yes, I know, another totally bizarre and illogical ranking, but after the top three why not look for something wild, as none of these appear to be in the same class as the favorites. Not having run since the Belmont Stakes and performing so poorly in that race, it makes it difficult to profile him, especially with his unconventional training and not having run a meaningful race since June 10. And Biancone has said flat out that he is a turf horse who can run well on dirt. I still have confidence in him that he will run well, but you also have to take into consideration his jockey, Luca Panici, has no experience in races on this big a stage. With that said, I still can’t get his Sam F. Davis victory, his second in the Tampa Bay Derby, and his allowance score against a stakes quality field out of my head. And as I have always said, I love his quick-footed action, his European-like turn of foot, and his stamina-laden female family that has a European flair, but with plenty of classic American blood throughout his pedigree. And Biancone has proven on several occasions he can accomplish big things without going by the book, as he has done by working this horse on the grass, including two mile works. And if you’re still going gaga over Shirl’s Speight’s :57 work on the grass, what about his recent five-furlong work in :57 4/5. Biancone has been building this horse’s stamina and fitness with strong two-minute licks. The Belmont was a complete throw-out race, and it’s just a question if he is sharp enough to turn in that big move on the far turn. If he is within two or three lengths of the leaders turning for home he does have a powerful closing kick, and as Biancone says, if the pace is contentious enough and they go between :45 and :46 and change, then he might have a shot to run them down. From a physical standpoint, looking at photos of him in the spring and now, he has, as Biancone says, gone from a teenager to a grown man. That is what you want to see when you run the Kentucky Derby in September.

7—AUTHENTIC (Bob Baffert, Into Mischief – Flawless, by Mr. Greeley)
Based on accomplishments and natural ability, I admit he should be ranked higher, but I just can’t envision a scenario where he can win the Derby on the front end with Tiz the Law, Art Collector, Honor A. P., King Guillermo, Ny Traffic and others within striking distance the whole way, especially with his pedigree that seems more geared to a mile to a mile and eighth. And he still has not shown he can win coming from off the pace. I will say, however, I liked his mile work in 1:38 3/5, in which he was flicking his ears back and forth down the backstretch and was just gliding down the stretch with those big gazelle-like strides. It wasn’t until he hit the wire that he was really asked to run. He cut the corner beautifully and was pushed along all the way down the backstretch in what was an excellent stamina workout. He followed that up with a sharp six-furlong work in 1:12 2/5, in which looked ever better, flicking his ears back and forth and again was striding out smoothly. He was taken four-wide turning for home to prevent him from working too fast and was being pushed along to the wire. He hugged the rail on the gallop-out and was flying around the turn. So there is no doubt Baffert has built a solid foundation under him since the Haskell. Baffert feels he has turned the corner since his nose victory at Monmouth and all I can say is that you can never dismiss the white-haired wonder, and this colt has a ton of ability. But there are just several others ranked ahead of him that I find more fascinating at a huge price, something he will not be as the likely fourth choice. We’ll just have to see how far he can take them and whether he will make me look foolish for doubting his ability to wire the field going a mile and a quarter or win it from off the pace.

8—NY TRAFFIC (Saffie Joseph Jr., Cross Traffic – Mamie Reilly, by Graeme Hall)
While I have great admiration for this horse for his consistency and competitiveness, and feel he will make his presence felt in the Derby, I haven’t ranked him higher for two reasons. First, he has the same running style as the three top choices, and I have always found if you’re trying to beat a heavy favorite, as well as the strong second and third choices, find a horse who has a different running style, either one who will be ignored on the lead and possibly steal the race or a closer who can take advantage of a contentious pace and possibly pick up the pieces. I just can’t see Ny Traffic eyeballing Tiz the Law, Art Collector, and Honor A. P, and putting all three away. And second, he has a pedigree more geared to a mile, with the ability to stretch it out to a mile and an eighth. But I don’t regard him as a horse who you know will relish a mile and a quarter. I also believe the Haskell was more of a case of Authentic coming back to him than him suddenly accelerating in the final 70 yards. But if you are looking for a reason to bet him, his last-out negative-3/4 Thoro-Graph figure is as fast any horse in the Derby, his 107 Brisnet figure in the Haskell was a significant jump from his previous races, and he definitely will make you work for everything you get. That makes him a serious exotics play. He showed his sharpness working five furlongs in :59 2/5 in company at Saratoga. He will give you a thrill a long way into the race.

9—THOUSAND WORDS (Bob Baffert, Pioneerof the Nile – Pomeroy’s Pistol, by Pomeroy)
There was a time earlier, back in early December to be exact, when Baffert felt Thousand Words was his next star and Derby horse, and commented that he moves and has a stride like Arrogate and never gets tired. Of course, things have changed a bit since then and he drifted off the Derby path, but seems to be finding his old self, knocking off Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief Stakes, winning wire to wire. I’m just not sure if he’s fast enough (on Thoro-Graph) to compete with the top horses and would have to improve a good three to four points, but he at least is heading in the right direction. In his five-furlong work in 1:00 flat in company with Cezanne, he sat three-quarters of a length behind his workmate, went wide turning home, and in typical fashion got up to finish a neck in front at the wire. He was ridden out strongly past the wire and had to cut to the inside to avoid two horses in front of him and was kept to his task a long way. He then came back with a similar work in :59 4/5, second fastest of 44 works at the distance. He is another horse who likes to run on or close to the pace and will be put to a test right from the start.

10—MAJOR FED (Greg Foley, Ghostzapper – Bobby’s Babe, by Smart Strike)
He is another coming into the Derby off a long layoff, which I am not crazy about, but once again you have to throw out the book this year. And he will be a monster price. He needs to make a significant jump on his speed ratings, but he has always shown ability and can rally from far back or sit in midpack. It’s a tall task, obviously expecting him to win, but I believe he has shown enough in top-class races to be competitive enough to possibly pick up some of the pieces, especially since his pedigree says he should relish the mile and a quarter. And if you’re looking for a horse who has been thriving at Churchill Downs, do not discount his bullet half-mile work in :46 4/5 and especially his most recent work, a five-furlong drill in a bullet :59 flat, fastest of 36 works at the distance, in which he came home his final eighth in :12 flat and galloped out a strong six furlongs in 1:12. Jimmy Graham popped him on the shoulder a little past the wire and he galloped out very strongly and cooled out quickly afterward. His connections feel they are bringing a happy horse over there and it’s just a matter of him getting a good position in midpack and keeping himself in striking position. I like the fact he has had seven works at Churchill Downs and has really taken to the track.

11—MAX PLAYER (Steve Asmussen, Honor Code – Fools in Love, by Not For Love)
He is now in the barn of Steve Asmussen and showed his sharpness by working five furlongs in :59 3/5. Breaking four lengths behind his workmate, he was being pushed along to get his neck in front at the finish and kept going strongly past the wire. He has run three straight Thoro-Graph figures of “3 1/2,” so he hasn’t improved on that front and would have to jump several points to be competitive in the Derby, and like a number of others would need a fast pace to make any kind of impact. But this will be his third start off a layoff, and that is often when a horse will run his best race. So, all in all, he has shown he has ability and can close, but whether he is fast enough to run with the others is another question. All these closers in the field look pretty much alike and it will be a question of who gets the best trip.

12—ENFORCEABLE (Mark Casse, Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
I still feel he is a sneaky one who can snatch a piece of it if he gets a contentious pace. He has had several wide trips and slow starts, but always seems to run strongly in the final eighth even though he hasn’t threatened the winners since his impressive score in the LeComte Stakes. I liked his six-furlong work in 1:12 1/5 in company even though you could only see the stretch run in the dark and fog. But he was striding out beautifully to wire, pulling away from his workmate with little urging. He came back with a half-mile work in :49 3/5, wearing blinkers and front bandages, and did it with enthusiasm. He is going to be a huge price and might be worth putting on the back end of the exotics. It looks like the big three and who can close faster than the others to get in the picture. And he is always coming in the stretch and should appreciate the mile and a quarter.

13—STORM THE COURT (Peter Eurton, Court Vision – My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run)
The main thing he has going for him is the grass to dirt angle, hoping that this and his five-furlong work in :59 flat are enough to wake him up. Although he couldn’t match strides with the winner in the La Jolla, his first start on grass, I did like the way he was striding out strongly in the stretch. His main problem has been that he doesn’t seem to have an identity, meaning he doesn’t have any particular strengths and he has been pretty much one-paced in his races this year. In his one shining moment last year he took advantage of a paceless Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was able to score a dogged wire-to-wire victory. In his :59 work, he was asked a long way out, cut the corner nicely and was pushed along in the stretch. He went wide on the gallop-out but kept going. As I said, by asking him throughout the work, perhaps it was to wake him up and keep him sharp. Then as a late stamina builder he worked a sharp six furlongs in 1:12 4/5. You don’t often see horses working that far a week before the Derby unless you’re John Shirreffs. Good move by Eurton.

14—FINNICK THE FIERCE (Rey Hernandez, Dialed In – Southern Classic, by Southern Image)
He gets the final sport because he is only one of two horses to finish in front of Tiz the Law, and he did it at Churchill Downs in the grade 1 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and subsequently managed a third in the tougher division of the Arkansas Derby this year. So, although he has been up and down, we do know he is capable of putting in a big effort against the top horses. And he has thrown in some good allowance efforts for good measure. But he will have to rebound off a well-beaten seventh-place finish in the Blue Grass, in which he made brief move before tiring in the stretch. He has a good deal of stamina in his pedigree, so the distance will not be a problem.

15—WINNING IMPRESSION (Dallas Stewart, Paynter – Unbridled Sonya, by Unbridled’s Song)
Although he is not coming into the race with good form, having been well beaten in his last two starts, I did like his five-furlong work in :59 1/5. He was all business and really stretching out with fluid strides around the turn. He was nudged along down the stretch and finished well before galloping out strongly. Watch for him to take a lot of place money based on Stewart’s record of sneaking in late-closing longshots to finish second in classic races. This horse was showing excellent progress and finished a decent fourth in a division of the Arkansas Derby, but was banged around at the start of the of the Indiana Derby and lost a ton of ground in the Ellis Park Derby, finishing seventh in both races. He does have a good closing kick and we’ll have to see if he can bounce back with a good trip this time. Definitely watch out for him on a sloppy track, on which he is two-for-two, especially with Unbridled’s Song as his broodmare sire.

16—NECKER ISLAND (Chris Hartman, Hard Spun – Jenney’s Rocket, by Mr. Greeley)
Third in the Ellis Park Derby, he has been knocking off sharp half-mile works at Churchill Downs, including three sub :48 works, so Hartman obviously is keeping him sharp and not focusing much on stamina. In his last work, he came home his final quarter in a swift :23 2/5. He has already run seven times at a mile or farther, so he has plenty of foundation, and his back-to-back third-place finishes in the Indiana Derby and Ellis Derby were solid enough efforts. But he would really need to make a huge leap on his speed figures just to be competitive.

17—MONEY MOVES (Todd Pletcher, Candy Ride – Citizen Advocate, by Proud Citizen)
He is the last to join the show, and he’ll have to settle for the bottom spot, even though I believe he is going to be a top horse down the road. He just doesn’t look ready to tackle this assignment with only three career starts, no stakes appearances, and losing his two-turn debut as the 2-1 favorite. But he does have the pedigree to go long and I had him ranked in the Top 5 of new faces to watch a few months ago. He actually looked to be headed to the Pat Day Mile before his late detour to the Derby. After two workmanlike victories in a maiden and allowance race, he was beaten going a mile and an eighth in another allowance, losing by a neck. He did work a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 flat at Saratoga, and Pletcher said it’s once in a lifetime opportunity for “these guys” to take a shot with a horse who is training well, and he does get Javier Castellano, who just lost his mount on Caracaro. But also take notice that Pletcher will not be there to saddle him.

18—MR. BIG NEWS (Bret Callhoun, Giant’s Causeway – Unappeasable, by Galileo) LATE ADDITION
A last-minute entry, he certainly belongs as much as some of the other longshots, especially with his closing punch, as inconsistent as it may be, and a classic pedigree that will enable him to get the mile and a quarter for fun. His big moment came when he won the listed Oaklawn Stakes with a big wide rally at odds of 46-1. You can excuse his poor performance in the subsequent Blue Grass Stakes, in which he didn’t have the smoothest of trips and finished a well-beaten 10th at 34-1. He had been headed for the grass, with his grass-oriented pedigree, but with the expected rain in Kentucky this week, there is a good chance the course will be on the soft side, so why not take a chance and hope to pick up a piece of it in the Derby.

19—SOUTH BEND (Bill Mott, Algorithms – Sandra’s Rose, by Old Trieste) LATE ADDITION
Although this horse was entered at the last minute, I have always felt he was a Derby horse, despite his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Travers Stakes, in which he was beaten over nine lengths. He sure looked like Derby material when he won the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last year. But after a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over a deep sloppy track, he went to the grass for six races, racing well on occasion but never winning, Finally he was returned to the dirt and was flying at the end of the Ohio Derby, finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length. Then came the Travers, and if you’re willing to forgive that effort, even though he finished on the board, then he could be an enticing prospect trying a mile and a quarter for the second time. Yes, his broodmare sire, Old Trieste, was a speedball, but you won’t find a stronger pedigree. In his first four generations he has seven classic winners, two of them twice. So of the 15 sires in his first four generations, 9 of them were classic winners. And how about Bill Mott winning the Derby outright this year with another bomb? This horse is not really ranked No. 18. He is just here because of his extremely late entry.


Obviously, there is no one left to knock, and besides, the door has been wide open for quite a while for anyone to mosey on through. So we now have only 17 left who are willing to enter the cavernous halls of Churchill Downs and compete for the roses in dead silence. Yes, it will be eerie, and there will be no cheers for the winner resounding from the grandstand and infield, which will look like an empty cow pasture without the mass of humanity gathered there. But the race is still called the Kentucky Derby and trophy still is the same, and there is still a space in the history books reserved for the winner.

But what if Churchill Downs had left the Derby where it was and not used their own private crystal ball to foresee the future and force NYRA and the Maryland Jockey Club to have to scramble in order to find a spot for their classics? We would have had a normal Triple Crown and no mile and an eighth Belmont Stakes kicking off the Triple Crown and a Preakness left dangling out there in October when the world is already thinking Breeders’ Cup.

So, let’s assume the Derby was run on the first Saturday in May in front of the same size crowd they are going to get on the first Saturday in September. Here is what that field might have looked like:

Tiz the Law, Honor A.P., Nadal, Charlatan, Maxfield, Authentic, King Guillermo, Sole Volante, Ete Indien, Gouverneur Morris, Modernist, Major Fed, Wells Bayou, Attachment Rate, Storm the Court, Rushie, Anneau d’Or, Enforceable, Ny traffic, and Silver Prospector.

So, that’s 10 horses who have survived the extra months and 10 who did not. Imagine a Derby with Tiz the Law, Honor A.P., Nadal, Maxfield, Charlatan, and Authentic heading the list. And King Guillermo would have been a hotter commodity coming off his huge win in the Tampa Bay Derby.

We still have some star-quality horses on the top end, but it drops off quite a bit after the first half-dozen. But hope for the longshots lies in the fact that we have so many horses taking unconventional routes and long layoffs to get here, and even the big favorite will have to win back-to-back mile and a quarter races, and no horse has ever won the Derby off a mile and a quarter race.

This is what is left, and if everything falls into place we at least should have a big-time showdown among the best horse in New York, the best horse in Kentucky, and the best horse in California.

So sit back, relax in your favorite chair and enjoy the strangest Derby show ever.

126 Responses to “Derby Rankings – Aug. 31, 2020”

  1. Lidia Watson says:

    hello, your post is very good.Following your articles.

  2. perimeister says:

    I admit that Honor AP’s past performances don’t evidence an ability to overcome adversity in the form of traffic the way Tiz the Law and Art Collector have plainly proven themselves able. That said, I don’t think Honor AP has faced much adversity, so hasn’t been asked those questions. I suspect he’s more able than he’s shown, but there’s no proof until he does it. We’ll soon learn more about him.

    While Steve feels fewer constraints in this new home of his, I feel more. Otherwise I would be tempted to talk of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and Ghaiyyath and Red King. Am spending more time on PR and HRN lately, but with mixed feelings.

    • Betsy says:

      Peri, We don’t disagree much, but we disagree here. Art Collector has run a lot more than HAP, but in what races did he overcome adversity? As to HAP not facing adversity, he was slammed at the start by Cezanne and had a wide trip. He could have chucked it, but he didn’t. I know it didn’t have to do with traffic, but it was still significant.

      On another note, it’s annoying to hit “reply” and then have to scroll ALL the way up to the original post; our reply should be like it was in the BH, so we could easily refer to the OP. I wish there was a way to make this blog more user friendly.

      • perimeister says:

        Betsy, we do agree on much, and I don’t think we really disagree on the point I intended to make. This post of mine was actually intended to be a reply to Davids, below, but was orphaned by a stray touch on my phone screen that I didn’t notice before submitting it.

        Nevertheless, I am happy to clarify and glad that this site affords me the means to do so. This is a bit of a novel.

        As you see, I made a distinction between Honor AP’s race experiences and those of Tiz the Law and Art Collector, the later two of which I see as having more in common among themselves than they do HAP, in terms of proven ability to handle traffic. This is not to say that I hold Tiz and AC as proven equals, however. Briefly, here is the evidence I considered in my reasoning:

        Honor AP at no time has been boxed in and without racing room in any of his races. He’s always broken cleanly, without a stumble. At the start of the Shared Belief, he was squeezed between Cezanne and Thousand Words. He took two shortened strides before fully extending himself forward again, but was not knocked off balance, nor did Mike check him up. HAP has faced, in chronological order, 10, 9, 7, 7 and 4 opponents in his 5 respective races for a total of 37, being beaten in 3 races by 3 total horses, by a combined total of 6 1/2 lengths. (It was in his most crowed race, his debut where Trevor Denman unfortunately characterized him as having “no early speed”, thereby hanging the label on him that has become adopted by the less observant and discriminating.) In all races excepting the 2nd (10/13/19 SA), he has run with no horse outside of him, excepting briefly, when the flights are sorting themselves out on the way to the first turn. In the 2nd (10/13/19 SA), he went straight to the front from the 3 hole, moved to the rail and then stayed there, battling evenly with tenacious Tizamagician to the 3/16 pole, where HAP pulled away. Tizamagician stayed in the two path, causing no trouble.

        Tiz the Law, on the other hand, in his debut broke cleanly to the front and was carried over to the rail where he was tucked in and stalking the two leaders, and then was joined on the outside at the clubhouse turn by another. He shifted out several paths with that one on the far turn, and then passed between that one and the other two he’d been running behind and motored to the wire. Tiz then stumbled at the start of the Champagne, was pulled back and over to the two path behind “a wall of runners” and moved up in between the haunches of two of them, after which he was checked, held and settled between those two and behind the two front runners around the far turn, where he moved to the rail around the quarter pole. Around the 3/16 pole he again found a seam between the two front runners on the rail and the one to his outside and burst through to take the lead. Tiz bobbled slightly at the start and again stalked the pace under a hold, being “covered up” and “bottled up” on the rail in the Kentucky Jockey Club all the way until the 3/16 pole sixteenths when a narrow seam opened, after which he appeared to have been bumped and/or squeezed into a lead change near the 1/16th pole while battling between horses, then lost 2nd place by a nose after Silver Prospector took a clear lead. In the Holy Bull, after breaking to the lead, he moved inside and was taken back, steadied, lost more position at the 6f pole, before moving outside the pack and having “clear sailing” to the wire. The Florida Derby, the Belmont and the Travers all were essentially uneventful for Tiz, who avoided the rail, running wide and on the outside, with plenty of racing room in all directions. He has faced, in chronological order, 8, 6, 8, 7, 9, 10 and 7 opponents in his 7 respective races for a total of 55, being beaten in 1 race by 2 horses, by a sum total of 3/4 lengths.

        Art Collector, on the third hand, has faced, in chronological order, 9, 12, 14, 9, 7, 11, 4, 13 and 12 opponents in his 9 respective races for a total of 91, being beaten by 12 horses, by a combined total of, well, quite a few lengths. In his debut, Art Collector came out after the break second from last, he passed seven horses from the inside, running up the rail to place. In his maiden breaker, he pressed the pace on the outside and won with no trouble. Next, in the Dixiana Bourbon, AC had plenty of racing room throughout and another untroubled trip, but was seventh, just ahead of Ete Indian. In his fourth race he ran in the middle of the pack, and clipped heels midway around the far turn. The video doesn’t show the heel clip, but I think Drury and Lunsford both have referred to it in interviews as a telling moment for their assessment of the horse: Art Collector was checked by Hernandez and taken up wide, but re-engaged and passed a few horses to end up sixth, two behind Finnick the Fierce. His fifth race, he was behind the pace and then finished first, on a sloppy, sealed track, coming running on the outside, with no trouble. After months off, he came back in May to run in the middle of the pack early on, plenty of room, overtook the leaders from the outside for the win. In June he beat Finnick the Fierce again, and two others, running on the lead and on the rail, being lightly pressed by FtF until about the 3/16, when he pulled away. Next was the Blue Grass, where he broke to run 3rd, eventually overtaking Swiss Skydiver from the outside after Rushie challenged on his outside, reaching only his tail between about the 3/8 to about the quarter pole. In the Ellis, he set the pace on the rail, taking some pressure from the outside until he pulled away at the top of the stretch.

        1) In the simplest terms, Honor AP has eyeballed significant fewer numbers of adversaries on the track than has Tiz the Law, and Art Collector;
        2) Honor AP has not performed on a sloppy track; Tiz the Law, and Art Collector have.
        3a) Tiz the Law confronted more trouble in the Champagne alone than Honor AP has in his entire career;
        3b) Tiz the Law confronted more trouble in the Kentucky Jockey Club alone than Honor AP has in his entire career;
        3c) Tiz the Law confronted more trouble in the Holy Bull alone than Honor AP has in his entire career;
        4) Art Collector was pulled up and steered outside by his jockey after clipping heels in the middle of traffic on the far turn, but preferred to keep racing;
        5) Art Collector having been soundly beaten – running 6th and 7th in consecutive races – came back three weeks later (as a two year old) to launch his current streak of five races of hitting the wire first.
        6) Tiz the Law and Art Collector have each run several races where, on backstretches and far turns, they ran on the rail and inside of and/or on the heels of other horses. Honor AP has run on the rail once, to one horse, when on the lead, and never in a pack except in breaking from the gate.

        These are all reasons why I think it is fair to say that Tiz the Law and Art Collector have proven they possess racing abilities of which we don’t know that Honor AP is possessed. He may very well have them. It’s just we don’t have evidence.

        HAP getting squeezed out of the gate in the Shared Belief could have turned out badly, but even if contact was made it was body contact, not legs, and it was slight. I’ve only seen the pan view, not the head-on, and it’s not clear there was contact. HAP wasn’t knocked off balance or off his lead or even off his rhythm, really. He plainly shortened up for a couple of jumps; I have no doubt he could perceive the closing of his clear path happening before any of us do, and he collected himself to avoid charging into, over or through the other two. Mike didn’t move a muscle to pull him up, nor did he seem to be jarred and in any danger of losing his seat. It probably looks worse to us, from our camera angle and with the luxury of slow motion and replays, than it did to those who were there.

        Given the outside draws, it seems unlikely that traffic will pose significant problems for Honor AP on Saturday. I think he is strong enough and athletic enough that Tiz the Law would be able to force him into traffic trouble only by intimidation, and not by pushing him around. If Tiz can intimidate him like that, then I think Honor AP shouldn’t win anyway. If Authentic breaks to his left this time and plays bumper horses, barring catastrophic entanglement, I think Tiz and HAP both recover and run effectively from the back and off the rail, side by side or in single file.

        Disqus does afford a lot of useful functions that this site doesn’t, along with its occasional bugs and the features we wish that it has, but doesn’t. Technically, I expect this site could move to using Disqus, but perhaps the barrier of its absence has or will prevent the more antisocial commenters who spend more time on other sites from unpleasantly acting out here to the same extent. Appreciate how Steve moved to quash the couple of “barbed” replies to some of your earlier comments.

        • Betsy says:

          Peri, that was brilliant! I agree with pretty much everything except the beginning of the SB – I think Cezanne did slam HAP; fortunately that colt was balanced and athletic enough to not get knocked off his feet, but it was still bad. Nonetheless, your points are well taken! I have followed AC’s career, but somehow forgot that he did clip heels in that CD race…

          I liked your comparison of HAP to an ice berg, where most if it is beneath the surface of the ocean. I hope he will be the iceberg to Tiz’ Titanic, lol. There’s a lot more to this colt than we’ve seen. I think his cool temperament will benefit during the heat of the race, but ultimately we just need to watch it play out..

          • perimeister says:

            Brevity being soul of wit, Betsy, I am afraid it would better be described as witless. But thank you for your enthusiastic endorsement. f I was merely hoping for thorough and accurate.

            (With a little distance on it, I’ve spotted a systematic error: I described the total number of horses in each of the three’s races as their adversaries where I should have subtracted the subject horse from the total. So Honor AP has faced 32 total adversaries, Tiz the Law faced 48 and Art Collector 82. Doesn’t affect the conclusions, however.)

            We must credit Steve for the first iceberg simile in reference to our knowledge of Honor AP; I merely elaborated its application. Tiz the Law shouldn’t end up like the Titanic in any literal sense. (grin) I imagine we each of us hopes both survive to race another day, no matter what happens Saturday.

            Cheers to speaking the truth, to being in agreement, to soundness and good health. And many sympathies to King Guillermo’s connections.

    • Geoff says:

      Hi Steve, hope your doing great…Thanks for the continuation of your excellent work. Just of opinion, but with the scratch of the King, I think that Authentic is the controlling speed and will take a very good effort to beat him. Baffert said Authentic is still growing up, and that he will benefit from the Haskell. Also, Baffert said that Authentic during the Haskell was goofing around twice during the race. I don’t believe that TLL has beaten a Grade 1 horse yet? Please correct me if I am wrong.

      thanks again.

  3. Davids says:

    Steve, as much as the vicissitudes of the Derby trial this year frustrated most people I’ve enjoyed the ride. Especially, reading your columns, please don’t ever stop.

    From watching the daily workouts, I felt that Art Collector would be a formidable opponent for Tiz the Law to overcome. Perhaps, the racing gods were thinking the same thing? Everything appears to be falling into place for Tiz the Law so a win is not unexpected.

    The fun of the race appears to be deciding on who will fill the placings. Honor A. P., Enforceable, and Max Player interest more than most. Best of luck to everyone. Thanks Steve, as always.

  4. Steve Haskin says:

    Thanks, Nellie. I dont mind the outside post at all. So much better than if he had drawn 1 or 2. He should get a good outside position from there.

  5. Nelle White says:

    Another terrific piece! Unfortunately the missing Art Collector takes a lot of sparkle out….

    But (and I admit I’m probably prejudiced, as I like the connections and the story) I always thought this was Tiz the Law’s to lose. I’ve been high on the horse all year, as have you, and I’m not going to let a little thing like an outside post discourage me at all. Granted the race is probably unplayable…I’ll be rooting like crazy though!

  6. Deacon says:

    Living on the west coast I am a little late to this party. Thank you Steve for all the hard work in writing such a brilliant Derby synopsis. I truly appreciate the hard work you put into this. This Derby Dozen was incredible, maybe your best work yet.
    Sorry to hear about Art Collector, sure seems so unfair that this seems to happen every, we lose one of our stars.
    Imagine that if Tiz the Law bounces after his Travers win, it’s not easy winning back to back Grade 1 races at 10 furlongs.
    Someone will need a wheel barrel to haul out their exotic winnings if Tiz is off the board. Now reality, Tiz the Law is a standout here, I see no one beating him if he gets a good start and stays away from trouble. Yes Honor AP appears to be 2nd best here but its not like Shirreffs has a lot of Derby experience with horses he has trained.
    My picks
    1. Tiz the Law
    2. Enforceable
    3. Attachment Rate
    4. Honor AP

    maybe a couple exotics wrapped around NY Traffic, Authentic. I loved Authentic most of this Derby season but I don’t think he wants 10 furlongs.

    Good fortune to everyone………. 🙂

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Great to hear from you, Deacon. Youre never too late to the party. Thanks for the kind words and for your selections. Watch out out for my handicapping and analysis column Wednesday morning.

  7. Laura Lanham says:

    Well the post draws are done. Should be an interesting race.

  8. Eddie F says:

    There’ll be a race within a race for the first quarter mile out of the gate. That will be between the horses in the last four stalls: Ny Traffic, Honor AP, Tiz the Law, and Authentic. All have good early speed, and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

  9. Lynda King says:

    Cannot say U am happy with the PP but I have had Tiz and HAP as my favorites since the beginning. I think that Tiz is just that strong and powerful that he can overcome the post. Cannot discount HAP with Mike up and Authentic with Johnny V though. Safe races for all.

  10. Jack Zaraya says:

    My pet parrot picks the Islanders tonight!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      They are on a roll, but they cant let down. The Flyers ar a good team. But the Isles do find a way to win. Like the old days

      • Betsy says:

        I’m not a hockey fan, but I’ve always kind of liked the Islanders (many of the 80’s teams lived near me on LI). They’re a good story, especially since the baseball teams have been a mess

  11. Delrene from Carlsbad, Ca says:

    Thanks Steve….. yes, the strangest Derby ever, the.strangest year in my lifetime as well. I wish all of them safe raci g and good luck and may the best horse on derby day in the Ky Derby win. No drama. Just good safe racing.

  12. arlingtonfan says:

    Steve, thanks for your in-depth descriptions of the contenders’ workouts. You spot so many things that I would never see. Very helpful!

  13. Caroline says:

    How do you think the race will be run with the three favorites posted to the far outside? I am a huge fan of both HAP and TIZ, but I believe the run for the first turn might be a real cavalry charge with so much speed to the outside.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I discuss that in great detail in tomorrow’s handicapping column and analysis. Stop back tomorrow. Hopefully you will find it interesting.

  14. Blake says:

    Of course….another Derby favorite scratch….Nadal, Charlatan, Maxfield and now Art Collector?! It’s never the 50-1 claimer! My interest which was low to begin with is now non-existent unfortunately! Wake me up in 02/21!

  15. Ethan says:

    Brutal draw for the favorites and a gut punch losing Art Collector. Definitely changes the dynamic of the raise and lifts the chances of several horses. Can TTL become the first horse to ever win out of the 17?

    • Dewey Hebert says:

      Absolutely. If Barkley is okay with the post, so am I. With the possible exception of Honor A.P., Tiz the Law hasn’t got much to beat. Authentic isn’t bred for 1 1/4 m. He can only carry his speed to maybe the 8th pole. In the Haskel he barely nosed out Ny Traffic.

      • Ethan says:

        I think there is a lot of talent in the race with HAP, Authentic and Thousand Words plus other horses that can run, but I do agree it will be a tall task to take down TTL from any post. Just seems like this is his year and he has been up to the task every time. But the Derby can really test you from out there so it will be interesting what happens.

  16. Betsy says:

    I just found out about Art Collector ..HAP is my boy, and Max is my second, but I love Art Collector; he deserved this chance to run. I feel so terrible for his connections. I still feel the gut punch that was AP Indy’s scratch on Derby Day. At least it’s not serious…

    As for HAP, I would have preferred a post towards the middle, but it’s better than being inside. Plus, PP doesn’t mean the horse has to race in that position for most of the race; the horses will end up stringing along naysay and Mike can get position further inside. I would have preferred an outside post for Max, but same thing applies – he’s going to drop back anyway.

  17. Matthew W says:

    Just a terrible loss of Art Collector! East/west/midwest would have been a terrific proposition! Very odd three faves drawn all outside–Authentic–no problem—Tiz and A P? both can have wide journeys from out there….methinks Tiz the Law will end up LOWER than 3/5….

    • Eddie F says:

      It’s a long way to the first turn, Matthew. Both should have enough speed out of the gate to eventually secure a good position. Tiz in particular has been excellent out of the gate. In fact, he could run with Authentic for the first 1/4 mile before he settles into a stalking position. As for odds, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tiz goes off at 4-5. Nearly all of Battaglia’s heavy ML favorites were at higher odds at post time. The favorite-longshot bias at work!

  18. Nelson Maan says:

    2020 Kentucky Derby

    Horse ML
    Finnick the Fierce50
    Max Player 30
    Enforceable 30
    Storm the Court 50
    Major Fed 50
    King Guillermo 20
    Money Moves 30
    South Bend 50
    Mr. Big News 50
    Thousand Words15
    Necker Island 50
    Sole Volante 30
    Attachment Rate 50
    Winning Impression 50
    Ny Traffic 20
    Honor A. P. 5
    Tiz the Law 3/5
    Authentic 8

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Horse ML
      1 Finnick the Fierce50
      2 Max Player 30
      3 Enforceable 30
      4 Storm the Court 50
      5 Major Fed 50
      6 King Guillermo 20
      7 Money Moves 30
      8 South Bend 50
      9 Mr. Big News 50
      10 Thousand Words 15
      11 Necker Island 50
      12 Sole Volante 30
      13 Attachment Rate 50
      14 Winning Impression 50
      15 Ny Traffic 20
      16 Honor A. P. 5
      17 Tiz the Law 3/5
      18 Authentic 8

  19. Jo Anne Y says:

    Losing Art Collector makes this an even more interesting race. Still a Tiz fan.

    • Eddie F says:

      Terrible news. For sure this will dramatically change the odds board.

    • perimeister says:

      It’s unfortunate for Art Collectors connections, but as it is not a serious injury they seem to have no trouble with being appropriately philosophical and remain sanguine about his future.

      As I see it, Art Collector’s absence removes the complexity of a likely threat to hit the board and substitutes the simplifying effects of an unlikely threat.

      • Davids says:

        Yes, I tend to agree. Art Collector appeared to me as the major threat to Tiz the Law in having the same push button stop/start acceleration needed to capture the roses. Honor A. P. would need a perfect trip to beat Tiz the Law while the others are relying mainly on hope and luck, but that’s what racing is all about. Lol.

        • perimeister says:

          (I am weighing my opinion of Disqus very carefully, in the light of recent experiences here.)

          Did you see my disclaimers, below, that my comment above, replied to by Betsy and prompting my monograph, was intended as a reply to this, of yours?

  20. Dewey Hebert says:

    Steve, great job analyzing the Derby with an abundance of detail to ponder. I’m conceding the victory to Tiz the Law as he seems to have devastated his victims, err, opponents, in each and every race this year. Now the task is to “round up the usual suspects” to identify his would be accomplices in the exotics. Of course, it would be bad police work not to include Storm the Court in the lineup. (Yea, I know it’s a stretch, Storm the Court is a basketball term). Anxiously awaiting your Derby Handicapping column tomorrow.

  21. Eddie F says:

    Honor AP is as perplexing a major contender as there’s been in recent years. The cutback to 8.5f in an ungraded 4-horse field offered more questions than answers. He checks, along with Tiz, all of my critical Derby boxes for what produces Derby winners. Yet he’s raced infrequently and only in California — as good as he is, he has not yet shown that he’s at the Justify/Chrome level. You wrote that Shirreffs said he isn’t “concerned about the layoffs because the colt ran big in the San Felipe off a long layoff.” How does running “big” in the San Felipe off a layoff relate to HAP’s 5-week return in the Derby?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Did you use the word perplexing? That has been my favorite word this year. For a strong second choice, there are a lot of questions regarding Honor A.P. But after having a long conversation with Shirreffs last week I am feeling more condident, especially after his last three works. I like him breaking from the outside but he is going to have to break well. I really dont think we know who this horse is yet. We may be seeing the tip of the iceberg, who knows? I do know that john absolutely loves him.

      • Betsy says:

        HAP’s last race has left many people with questions. I don’t personally have those because he’s still the same horse to me he was going in – tremendously talented, full of untapped potential- but because he didn’t look like himself, some fans (not generally the racing media) have pretty much abandoned him as being overrated. Shrug, what can you do? Aside from being lightly trained going into the race, nothing much went right for HAP, though I like that he didn’t give up. I think the question some have are : how good is he? Because people saw how good Tiz could be in the Travers, so they are wondering if HAP can be that good. The Santa Anita Derby was his best race up to that point, but clearly there was more there. Then, the Shared Belief …a race everyone expected to win even if he wasn’t cranked up. I thought so too, even though I didn’t love his pre-race works. I just think I underestimated just how UN-cranked he was for the race. So, i can see why people might be perplexed with HAP as regards to whether at this point he can challenge Tiz, but there are many of us who’ve never doubted his talent. It’s an intriguing race from a performance vs potential POV (not that HAP hasn’t performed, but the SB was a doozy). I can’t wait to see my boy finally get the 1 1/4..

        About the start, HAP has generally been a good breaker if not incredibly sharp…I won’t be “oh no, he’s in traffic, he’s got no chance”, but I would rather be clear even if it means giving up a couple of lengths (not a lot, lol, though). That’s kind of how I feel in general having seen a few favorites recently been blocked. No one in the Derby is going to make room for you, lol

      • perimeister says:

        Steve, “tip of the iceberg” is an apt description of how I have been thinking about Honor AP (and talking about him with Betsy) this whole season. While we’ve seen more of the iceberg that is Tiz the Law by comparison, we haven’t seen it all, either. From bits and pieces dropped by Mike Smith and John Shireffs, I concluded I should have faith that Honor AP has all the inner characteristics a racehorse may need to display. Those are part of the berg, unseen under the water line. He’s got such an extraordinary stride, it’s hard not to believe it won’t result in extraordinary achievements on the track — which is that final part of the berg whose form has not yet been revealed to us. The Run for the Roses may or may not be where we see what he’s really got, but between his connections and his own self, it seems we have a good chance of getting to know him, sooner or later.

        • Betsy says:

          Good. I’m back to agreeing with you, lol.

          Mike has done several interviews over the last few days and boy, you can tell how high he is on HAP? Here’s a quote from the one he did with TDN Writer’s Room:

          *** “The Santa Anita Derby was a mile and an eighth, the Shared Belief was a mile and a sixteenth, so he shortened back up,” Smith said. “And he didn’t get a whole lot of serious training in between the two races. They certainly wanted him to be peaking at this time and not then. I think his best work going into that race was 1:02 something, so he kind of ran a bit sluggishly and finally came running at the end. And actually still ran really well. He ran a 102 Beyer. But since then, we’ve really stepped up his training and put some sharp works into him. So he’s coming into the Derby training extremely well, really fine-tuned and fit to run his best effort.”**

          • perimeister says:

            LOL. As I wrote above, in my novel, I don’t think we were really in much disagreement, if at all. Were you aware of the heel clipping incident in Art Collector’s fourth race (11/09/19 CD 9th)? I imagine you’ll explain up at the top.

  22. JASON VICKERS says:


    You won’t remember me, but we talked for quite a bit in the merchandise area after the Adena Springs tour (with Pat Day) in October 2018. Not too long after that, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in my lungs and spine. I spent most of 2019 battling it. After some intensive chemo, I am cancer free today and my prognosis is very good. So while many people are complaining about how bad 2020 has been, I’m just thankful to be here. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I’d ever see another Derby. I’m also thankful that you found a new writing home on I read your DD on “the other site” for many years. I was never a big commenter. I simply enjoyed your “behind the scenes” stories about breeders, owners, horses, trainers, etc. This year, we have some old friends coming to visit us here in Versailles, KY. We will watch the Derby together, as we have many times before. And we will be thankful for the horses, for the tradition of the Derby, for friendship, and most of all for life.

    All the best,


  23. Betsy says:

    Steve, who do I contact – or is it you- about being harassed? See above posts from Barb who has attacked me for no reason.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      You can certainly contact me. I did reply to her and told her that her remarks were uncalled for. You can read what I wrote on both counts. Hopefully she understands and will refrain from that in the future. If I miss it, let me know if she does that again. I’m glad you didnt go back at her.

      • Betsy says:

        Steve, thank you! I’m sorry you have to deal with this all over again – I was hoping we could both escape this, lol. I’ll be honest, I was going to say something, but I also am glad I decided not to. She’s just a troll – why let her get me upset?

        Back to our regularly scheduled program, lol….it was nice to see the CA horses arrive and get their first glimpse of CD. HAP hasn’t shipped before, but judging by videos and photos, he appears to have handled it well. He galloped this morning – I’m getting so excited already!

        • Eddie F says:

          Betsy, don’t assume the troll is female just because of the screen name. Trolls are like some villains in superhero comics who change their identity to blend in and deceive.

        • Mary Lou says:

          Betsy, try not to let rude or mean people bother you. You’re right not to reply; it would be like rewarding negative behavior in a child by responding or reacting to it. You cannot control a rude person’s comments, but you can control your reactions to them. I admire your passion and, while I do like Honor A P, I am rooting for Tiz the Law. Now with Art Collector out of the race, it might just come down to those 2 throwing it down in the stretch in what would be a nice rivalry – the Beast from the East versus the Best in the West. Then, when Art Collector recovers, I’m looking forward to an interesting racing season in 2021. Good luck on Saturday.

          • Betsy says:

            Exactly..these people want their targets to get upset; forget it – I’m not giving them that pleasure!

          • Betsy says:

            Oops, I meant to add…brutal about AC. I’ll post more in a separate post.

            I’ve been looking forward to HAP/Tiz showdown for months; here’s hoping we get that! Good luck to you!

        • Steve Haskin says:

          She didnt reply to any of my comments, so maybe she’ll disappear or change her attitude. Yes. glad to see the Californians on the track. Mike better get him out of the gate sharply from post 16 and get good outside position.

  24. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this nicely articulated ranking.

    The bright side of this Derby is that it will be run under a beautiful sunny day for a change. Thanks to the ensuing fast track the most famous mile and a quarter on dirt might be run in less than two minutes.

    It is a very difficult task to scrabble at the past performance in order to uncover any credible longshot so I am resorting to the angle of successful Classic trainers for my bets.

    The four trainers who have won the Derby seem to be well represented this year: Bob Baffert (Authentic, Thousand Words), Todd Pletcher (Money Moves), Barclay Tagg (TIZ THE LAW) and John Shirreffs (HONOR A.P.).

    The other big names are Steven Asmussen (Max Player), Mark Casse (Enforceable) and Dale Romans (Attachment Rate)… but It appears that these fine trainers will have to wait for another chance to hold the coveted Derby Trophy.

    Patrick Biancone (Sole Volante) did a great job with Lion Heart against the reigning Smarty Jones in 2004. Sole Volante seems to be responding very well to the atypical training regime (on the turf).

    John Velazquez and Mike Smith are the only Jockeys who have held the precious Trophy in the past.

    Tiz the Law’s tactical speed and explosive acceleration when asked makes him almost undefeatable. These traits in my view are the key to overpower the amazing strides of Honor A.P.

    I foresee a thrilling battle between Tiz the Law and Honor A.P. … one worthy of the history books.
    Under that assumption my $26-Trifecta will be:

    TIZ THE LAW/HONOR A.P./Art Collector
    Art Collector/Authentic/Thousand Words/Sole Volante/Attachment Rate/Enforceable/Max Player

    I will certainly enjoy the strangest Derby show ever and will hopefully witness greatness courtesy of the magnificent Tiz the Law …

  25. Eddie F says:

    Well, Steve, you’ve done it again! Just when I thought I’d figured what to do for Saturday, you come out with your final rankings and get me to thinking again. You brought out so many points I hadn’t considered that I thought I fell on a porcupine. King G, for one, is back in the exotics mix due to your analysis. If he had a recent race and it had been a very good effort, I may have considered him for a Derby win. The Tampa race was, as you said, a superb effort. His Ark Derby performance was less than satisfying in my view, with late pace and speed figures that don’t match up well with others. On the other hand, his division of the Ark Derby had perhaps the strongest field of all the preps–and the winning colt may have been Tiz’s rival for Derby favoritism.

    I can’t find a serious flaw in Tiz the Law. I’m going all in on Tiz for the top spot on my tickets. It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll use any of the closers as I’m seeing a kind of replay of 2015. The top four betting choices in ’15 had good early speed, and three of them made the trifecta. Looking forward to your betting selections.

    One question for now: What percentages would you give each of the top three to win the Derby?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks, Eddie. As you know I will be having my handicapping and analysis column on Wednesday where I will try to sort all this out, Perhaps I can confuse you even more. Right now I would probably give Tiz the Law a 50% chance to win, with Art Collector and Honor A. P. at 25% each. Or maybe 30-20 Art Collector. But that may change by Saturday. Tiz might wind up closer to 60%

  26. Steve T says:

    I realize the draw is critical. But with 6 of you top 10 picks having similar running styles, how do you see the pace play out?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I will discuss that in my Wedneday handicapping column and analysis after I see post positions, especially the ones way on the inside and way on the outside.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        I was trying to ponder all the scenarios if Tiz the Law gets the PP 1… I hope Franco does not apply the “Holy Bull handbrake”… that would make the race a very interesting one!

      • Mary Lou says:

        Thank you again for sharing your insight and observations. I’d like to see Tiz the Law win; I can’t get over how he improved in the Travers and that he seems to have maintained his conditioning in these last few weeks. However, I wonder if Authentic and King Guillermo will contest a quick pace and if the stalkers will be too close to that; isn’t that what ruined Point Given’s chances?

  27. Laura Lanham says:

    This year upside down and back but here finally. Our long waited for Kentucky Derby. Completely out of sync with the past. The one thing that stays true are the horses and those that train, ride and care for them. No fans and no distractions. Hopes and dreams about to become true. May God bless all of them for doing this and come home safely. The winner will celebrate but for the rest always another chance. Best to all of them and hope we can get back to a normal soon.

  28. I truly believe Tiz the Law will win the Derby. That being said I think King Guillermo is the next best horse in the race. We had American Pharoah, then Justify (winning the TC) Tiz the Law follows in the theme. I believe the Lord is sending us subtle messages. Laugh if you will, we’ll see. Safe trips for all!

  29. Karen Estis says:

    I’m not sure Tiz the Law can be beaten. I think he is the best horse and coming up to this race perfectly. However, Honor A P…. I’m looking for a big race from him. I’m hoping for these two hooking up at the top of the stretch and may the best horse win. I’m hoping for Tiz the Law, though, because we really need a super star. This year more than any other in the past.

  30. Cynthia Holt says:

    It bends my mind how much work goes into these selections, Steve. You must be extremely mentally fit! Reading the run-downs is like preparing for a final exam on each horse, with you supplying the Cliff Notes. For me, it was love at first sight when I saw Honor A.P. in a workout prior to his first start. I even wrote “Derby Horse” beneath his photo on twitter at the time. And now, in the midst of all of the facts and figures and last-minute equations which come flying at one faster than Secretariat down the stretch, are the final sentences in Honor A.P.’s synopsis. “What makes Honor A. P. so special to Shirreffs and his wife Dottie is that his dam was Shirreffs’ first winner after they were married. As Dottie said, ‘It was a great way to start our honeymoon and marriage.'” Sprinkle that with stardust and get ready to write a genuine Hollywood story with a happy ending.

  31. Jul Boyd says:

    Steve, Your wisdom continues wherever you post! On personal note, I can’t comment on your Facebook page. I believe it’s because I sent you a “friend request” which was never accepted. I follow you & read everything you write/post! I’d appreciate being your friend, whether you accept my request or send me a request of your own! Either way I’ll be following you to enjoy all your horse scripture!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you very much, Jul. I hate Facebook’s policy of limiting you to 5,000 friends. I have to keep deleting friends I never hear from to make room for certain others. I literally get hundreds of friend requests and try to pick out the ones who are into racing. Please send me another request and I will glady accept. I just made room for about 6 or 7 more friends.

  32. Ella says:

    Tiz the Law, of course, is one of my big picks. But honestly, as impressive as he is, I’m not super confident in him to win. It’s still the KY Derby after all, and the field is still large with some pretty classy horses who could really give him a run for his money. Speaking of giving someone a run for their money, NY Traffic really interests me. He nearly ran down Authentic in the Haskell, which in turn made me lose confidence in Authentic. (Sorry, but to my inexperienced opinion, Into Mischief is says sprint and that’s what Authentic should be doing. Of course, anyone feel free to correct me, because when Derby Day comes I could be eating my words.) I’ll definitely look for him while the Derby’s running.
    Art Collector also interests me, but not quite as much (as NY Traffic). I wish Swiss Skydiver would have won the Blue Grass and we would be seeing her in the KY Derby.
    What happened with Thousand Words, Max Player, Enforceable, and Storm the Court that no one is really talking about them? I remember when they were getting way more attention. It would be great (or not, depending on your viewpoint) if one of them won the KY Derby and threw another twist in this crazy year.
    One last thing then I’ll stop rambling: Why isn’t Charlatan in the Derby? I know he got DQ’d from the Arkansas Derby, but didn’t he have any other points? Or did he get hurt?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Charlatan was sidelined after the Arkansas Derby. The horses you mentioned really havent done much lately to warrant a great deal of attention, even with Thousand Words’ victory in the Shared Belief, which had only 4 horses and Honor A. P. will improve many lengths off that race. Thousand Words is not very fast on the Sheets and just stole that race.

  33. Richard Gross says:

    Wonderful in-depth analysis, much deeper I think than the ones you did at your former “home.” Seems your writing has also become looser and more fun. That’s great. One question: It seems it shouldn’t matter, but does the 20-horse gate seem more favorable at the break to horses on the outside than was the auxiliary gate?

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you very much, Richard. I appreciate that and agree, I do feel looser and more whinsical in my comments. Having more fun with no space restrictions. Its hard to tell how the 20-horse gate will affect the horses compared to the two gates. You no longer have that space between 14 and 15, but that space has often caused problems. There could be more jostling, but all in all it should be fairer, especially for the horses on the far outside.

      • Paula Higgins says:

        I think the new gate is potentially a real game changer for horses
        on the inside and outside positions. It gives them a real chance.

        • Davids says:

          Yes Paula, the new gate configuration really intrigues me. Will the ‘new’ inside posts actually turn out to be quite advantageous instead of being ‘no chancers.’ Apart from that, Tiz the Law not winning would be the biggest surprise.

          • perimeister says:

            My earlier, orphan comment, above, was intended as a reply to yours, here. I see now what went wrong, but no editing tools are ready to hand.

          • perimeister says:

            Ad hoc editing tool:
            Correction. The orphan comment was a reply to your reply to me elsewhere. No idea why this clarification got attached here. Sigh.

  34. JanBer says:

    I love the ranking this week! King Guillermo scares me just because we don’t know how his boffo works are gong to translate to a race. The Kentucky Derby is a crazy race, 18 horses now and there may be a couple more yet that throw their hats into the ring, so anything can happen in this race. I’m hoping Tiz’s ability to break clean and get position quickly can come into play and he gets to run his race. To me, he is special but his competition this time will indeed be fierce. Attachment Rate, that guy never stops running. With his new professionalism, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run a breakout race. The distance should be good for him.

    It’s hard to believe the race is almost here. Thank you for your insights over the last eight month, Steve! May it be a true-run race and may the best horse win!

  35. Sarah McCarthy says:

    It is pretty much up to the horses, and Lady Luck. Let us have a clean, safe, and uncontroversial 2020 Kentucky Derby.

  36. Steve Haskin says:

    Just to remind everyone, my Derby handicapping column with betting strategies will appear on Wednesday after the post position draw puts the final lid on everything and I watch the training on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

  37. Paula Higgins says:

    One of the best Derby Dozens ever! Really brilliant analysis. I agree that Tiz’s only negative is his tendency to drift out, which so far has not cost him a race. Based on his work, his last race, doesn’t seem to have tired him out. As you said, he is a machine. I think HAP is due for a big one. With Mike aboard, I would never count him out. Art Collector is capable of ruining Tiz’s day too. King Guillermo is the great unknown but I think he could possibly be #2 or #3. I would be surprised if he won. Ditto NY Traffic. I have a lot of respect for this horse but I don’t see him winning. I like Authentic at a shorter distance. I never count out a Bob Baffert horse but I do not see him winning. Having said all that, if Tiz the Law gets pinned in, I think there are several who could pull this off. My list is :
    Tiz the Law, Honor A. P., Art Collector, King,Guillermo, N Y Traffic

  38. Eileen Aiken says:

    Thank you Steve! Always devour your knowledgeable rankings, spot on. This alternate universe we’ve been forced to live in has presented us with an upside down Triple Crown. It’s all so different and so be the competitive talent from which to choose. TIZ, everyone wants a TC winner. He has the fractions. I really like the way Honor A P covers the ground, smooth and efficient. I also have this feeling about KG. That explosive response when asked reminded me of American Pharoah’s breeze when he almost left that girl in the dirt. Make me pick? Honor A P, King Guillermo, Tiz the Law.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you, Eileen. What makes it so frustrating is that it didnt have to be upside down if Churchiill had run the Derby when scheduled. They postponed it for nothing.

      • Eileen Aiken says:

        I totally agree! All money driven. They thought this Covid crap would be done to allow the stands to fill. I do not care about what freaking hat someone wore! I care about the horses and the heart it take to win! Thanks again for the passion you show and share with all of us. You never let us down. So pleased you are connected to the Secretariat Tribe! Coney are so lucky to have your expertise!❤️

        • Eileen Aiken says:

          Do not know how that ended up as “comey”‍♀️ They are so lucky to have your expertise!!☺️

          • Steve Haskin says:

            LOL. I get it. BTW I’m pretty sure it wasnt the Covid-19 that eliminated the crowds it was the fear of the protestors and what they would do, such as blocking traffic on Central Ave.. 64 protesters were arrested last week, Who could tell what would have happened on Derby Day with people coming in.

  39. EL Kabong says:

    Unlike any other Derby, these guys have had plenty of time to mature. Love to hear that Romans is laying low about Attachment Rate’s chances, but as you point out, his Thoro-Graphs don’t lie. This is starting to feel like the Derby again. Thank you Steve for this great piece. I’m finally feeling the fever!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Great to see you again. Attachment Rate, who I had given up on becaise of his refusal to change leads, I am now high on again because of the change in his last race

  40. Matthew W says:

    I’ve been around for the Kentucky Derby since 1971 (age 12)…..some of the more notable ones include: `1971 Canonero II from the clouds, winning by many lengths—from Venezuela, having started out at Del Mar the previous year—ran in the filly June Darling’s Del Mar Futurity….1973 Secretariat, every 1/4 faster than the one before–collared Sham like it was nothing!….1979 Spectacular Bid—same 2 1/2 lengths to 2nd 8 more to 3rd as Secretariat’s Derby—much slower but track was extremely cuppy and slow….1985 Spend A Buck complete domination, fast splits and fast final time….Alysheba’s clipping heels and still winning….Unbridled’s big stretch run, what a powerful move–and of course the touching moment where trainer Carl Nafzinger is telling the owner Mrs Genter about her horse winning….by far the most interesting Derby of the 2000’s has been Mine That Bird—I wouldn’t have bet him at 200-1 with YOUR money—and he wins by EIGHT…..we’re due for a memorable Derby—perhaps this year will be another great one, there are certainly more questions than answers, I do not expect a blow out win by Tiz the Law–if only because of the upcoming Preakness, and perhaps a meeting with the most impressive three year old this year—Gamine.

  41. Laura Lanham says:

    Thank you for these insights. Been getting off work in the morning and have been able to watch some of the works on the Facebook feed I get. I was so tired the other morning but Tiz The Law just had to wait and watch. Kind of like the Seabiscuit movie working in the dark but this time they were out there watching and filming. Post draws too tired to stay up that long so check that out later for the Oaks. Horse racing has probably done better then the rest during this mess.

  42. Betsy says:

    Yay, I looked forward to this column – great stuff!

    Right after the Shared Belief, I was concerned about HAP and whether he got enough out of it. I was also really disappointed before the race that John didn’t give him a stiff drill……….In a recent Mike Smith interview, Mike essentially said that they deliberately under trained HAP for the SB. I think if he’d trained similarly to the San Felip, HAP would have won nicely, but obviously that was not the goal for this race.

    HAP is coming into the Derby as good as I’ve ever seen him. I can’t predict that he’ll win as there are too many variables, and I respect Tiz hugely (and I do love Art Collector as well)……but I think he will run huge. I thought he was special all along and the SB didn’t do anything to dissuade me.

    Aww, that’s such a sweet story about John and Dottie….and HAP, lol. Now THAT is a “Hollywood Story” !

    About Max – I think his Travers effort was ok, but not as good as his Belmont. I chalk that up to his not having been trained hard enough for the race; Linda admitted she didn’t ask much from him due to the heat in NY. I would have shipped him to the Spa earlier, but …..that’s in the past. He’s a reliable, consistent, talented colt, and I think he’s going to run well.

    • Paula Higgins says:

      I think HAP is Tiz’s biggest obstacle in this race. HAP looks like
      he is primed for this race. Tiz has never raced against a horse of the caliber
      of HAP. It is going to be interesting.

      • Betsy says:

        Paula, I admit, he’s looking fabulous. I think Mike has to walk a fine line between moving HAP too soon and not letting Tiz get away. Tiz breaks his races open and then it’s usually too late for the closers. Of course HAP won’t be that far out of it (unlike Dr. Post or Max Player), so that helps, but he won’t want Tiz to get away from him. The strategy will be fascinating – but, it all depends on a good break.

        Obviously I have a rooting interest, but I would love to see a great race between these two…….There aren’t many things more exciting than a great horse race, and when it’s the Derby.

    • barb says:

      You keep questioning Shirreffs … I think you are a Baffert fan

      • Steve Haskin says:

        She didnt question Shirreffs. She is allowed to express concerns just like all of us. Your comment really wasn’t called for, and the Baffert remark was just to get a rise out of her. Opinions are what these forums are based on. I hope you have more to offer than just that one comment. Feel free to express your own comments about the Derby.

        • pro vet says:

          Not a strong field…….How can anyone but 4 horses win?……HAP,AUTHENTIC,TIZ THE LAW, THOUSAND WORDS WIN?

          If TIZ runs bad, yes, the chances of many being in play, can happen……but i will be shocked if one of those 4 dont win………i bet HAP AT 8-1 AND AUTHENTIC AT 11-1 WITH AN HOUR LEFT IN POOL………so i get way more odds than race day

  43. Lizzie Bennett says:

    Hi Steve – pretty much lined up with your top 10. Have to admit I’m intrigued by your focus on Attachment Rate – I have had a very hard time looking past my natural aversion to Romans as a successful Derby trainer but the breeding calls to me. Hard Spun, who ran like every stride was pure joy and never threw a cluncker combined with an Afleet Alex mare? That is a recipe for something special. That said – the “big three” at the top have no reason to do anything but win or complete the trifecta.

    But….I’m all in on King Guillermo. He is bursting out of his skin and he is working – as you said – like a quinnessential Derby winner. He has the breeding, the training and a jockey who knows him. I think he’ll be an underlay on a lot of exotics – but I’m in for the whole enchilada. I think he brings home the roses. Time will tell! Thanks for the great work, as always.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Remember, Lizzie, Romans did finish third in the Derby with two longshots who were grass horses. And he is a Derby Gods candidate having grown up a couple of mile from Churchill downs and stabled in the same barn for 40 years, same barn his father had.

      • Lizzie Bennett says:

        I’ll defer to your endorsement and the stars’ alignment for Romans, then, especially with Art Collector out and everyone moving up one notch. That said – I’m still on King Guillermo as my pick. And like you said, the Derby gods love a good story, and I’d wager this colt’s story, with a MLB owner who adores him, a struggling country standing behind him and cheering for him and the diminutive stature containing a powder keg of talent is a tale to qualify in their eyes.

        I love Tiz the Law – another great story. But King G is my pick to win it all. Hope I’m right! LOL

        So…..does AC being pulled really change up the way the race is run? Thoughts?

  44. Matthew W says:

    Your old employer only keeps it’s (one) blog open for three days now! Honor A P, Tiz the Law, Thousand Words and Sole Volante compose my Derby ex/tri box—I do like Attatchment Rate also, thought his race was comparable to Art Collectors”s, as he went very wide–he also stayed on, the bounce factor is in play, though, as that was by far his best race—I am bullish on Honor A P—he just might love Churchill, with his “gliding” way he runs–he looks like a turfer and turfers do well here—he’s coming there fit—Del Mar is deep!

    • Matthew W says:

      RE Art Collector—and my leaving him off my picks—I cannot fault Art—but you can’t have them all, in an 18 horse field (I heard 18 on Sat), I don’t mind using four, maybe five but as my old friend Mel used to say—bet a little/win a lot is why we handicap them!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Yes, Matthew, the bounce factor is in play. But I am hoping it is a jump to where he belongs and with his maturity he can either pair that up or improve off it. Just looking for some longshots angles.

    • Betsy says:

      My friend, who also loves HAP, would love to see him on the turf. I could easily see him liking it as HC has had some success and the dam side is a bit turfy with Dynaformer. Unless he starts to disappoint, however, I don’t see that happening.

  45. 1JoeP says:

    Great Analysis Steve! I completely agree with your top 6. The only difference in my rankings is AC at #1 and TIZ at #2. Also I have KG at #4 and Attatchment Rate at #5. I also have Sole Volante at #6. I have Major Fed at #7. Those are the 7 I will use in the exotics, with the top 3 IMO having the best chance to win. Art Collector I will key in the TRI and has to finish in the top 3 to win, I will box him with TIZ,HAP, and use the other four with those. I really want to hit my KDFW5 Exacta with Art Collector, I got him at 20-1 and boxed him with TIZ, HAP, and KG, and the field. If AC can finish in the top 2 I have a good chance to hit the KDFW exacta and have a winning derby day. Thanks for the in depth analysis of all the horses, you are the best Steve!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Wow, Joe, I didnt think anyone but me would rank Attachment Rate, Sole Volante, and Major Fed in the top 10. I cant argue with you having Art Collector #1. I think he is right up there with Tiz, but after having Tiz #1 since early February, I cant drop him now.

  46. Ethan says:

    Thank you Steve! What a weird year but I am still very excited about the Derby. Just seems like it is going to be a favorites year to me and I think the cream will rise to top and will see a very similar finish to your rankings. The only wild card for me is Authentic, but I agree with you, he just doesn’t seem like he is fast enough. I guess another wild card could be Thousand Words, but I just don’t know that he has it in him either. Will be curious what the public sends TTL off at.

  47. Michele R says:

    Steve, Thanks for your rankings- always fun and informative. One thing though-I believe Bob said it was Uncle Chuck who reminded him of Arrogate’s stride, not Thousand Words.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I was quoting right from Bob’s email to me about Thousand Words last December, well before Uncle Chuck.

      • Michele R says:

        Thanks -I had not read that in the media -interesting that he repeated the same exact thing about Uncle Chuck too. I guess several horses remind him of Arrogate.

        • Steve Haskin says:

          It wasnt in the media. As I mentioned, Bob said that in a private email to me back in December. Knowing Bob I can see him repeating that about Uncle Chuck. He often talks about his horses reminding him of his previous horses.

          • Matthew W says:

            Steve, I went out to Santa Anita–twice late last year (or early Jan…) and I saw Thousand Words both times—he was THE buzz horse, and a clocker told me about Bob’s comparing him to Arrogate—

    • Greg says:

      Authentic. He runs in a straight line. …18-17 eexacta

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