The only certainty for the Kentucky Derby is that Tiz the Law is going to be the overwhelming favorite when the long-delayed race finally happens Saturday.
If all goes right, he’ll win for fun.
Thing is, 15 other horses are arriving with connections that have spent weeks strategizing how to beat the Belmont and Travers winner.
Bettors aren’t scared off, nor should they be. Tiz the Law was installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite; his odds rose to even money by Friday afternoon and might uptick a bit more before the race begins. If anyone is saying he can’t win, it’s likely because he’ll be starting fairly close to the far outside of the 16-horse field.
It’s something to think about, for certain, but it’s also not as much of a problem as people think.
This notion that an outside post is some huge hurdle has been disproven plenty of times in recent years. Even taking Country House — which won the Derby last year from the No. 18 post, but only after Maximum Security was disqualified — out of the equation, five of the eight other winners since 2011 started from the No. 13 post or wider.
Yes, there will be traffic going to that first turn. But having only 16 horses in the field, instead of the usual 20, will make life a bit easier.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Tiz the Law isn’t the only contender starting out wide — in fact, all four of the widest-starting horses in the field have legitimate chances with Ny Traffic, Honor A. P., Tiz the Law and Authentic out there.
Authentic is probably going to come out flying; trainer Bob Baffert will want jockey John Velazquez to get him as close to the front as possible quickly. That would pretty much guarantee there’s going to be action getting into that first turn. Most of the horses in this field seem to favor the same style, that being one where they try to be near the pace but not setting the pace.
If Tiz the Law breaks cleanly and settles in even a few lengths from the lead early, he should be fine.
What to like about him in this race is simple: He’s the best horse.
What not to like is also simple: He’s never had to beat this many good horses in a race before.
Honor A. P. definitely is good enough to win, as is Authentic, as is Max Player — who was a 30-1 morning line choice and might get bet down to 10-1 or even shorter by post time. Max Player was flying at the end of the Travers; thing is, Tiz the Law was so good that day, few probably noticed anyone else.
There are horses in this field that have won as longshots.
Storm the Court won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year at 46-1 odds; he’s 0 for 5 since. Mr. Big News won at 47-1 in the slop at Oaklawn back in April; he was beaten by 10 lengths in his only outing after that. Sole Volante has won twice at 14-1; he hasn’t really impressed since and was a disaster in the Belmont. Ny Traffic broke his maiden at 15-1.
But for any of them — or any of the 15 challengers — to get there, Tiz the Law either would have to break poorly or simply have a bad day.
It just doesn’t seem likely. Tiz the Law has been beaten only once. It happened at Churchill Downs, yes, but happened on a wet track. He’s 6 for 6 on fast tracks, and his speed figures this year are better than any other horse in this field.
Still, it’s a good betting race. Tiz the Law offers players a chance to double their money in two minutes with a win bet; that’s never a bad thing. The exotics could lead to serious payouts, especially if Tiz the Law doesn’t get to the line first.
The picks: Tiz the Law, over Max Player, Honor A. P. and Authentic.