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Kentucky Derby 2020 Preview: A Goldilocks Scenario For The Preakness Stakes?

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Kentucky Derby 2020 Preview: A Goldilocks Scenario For The Preakness Stakes?

Similar to investing, when you wager on sports (especially horses), it's occasionally best to be on the sidelines. This caveat especially applies when risk/reward is not slanted in your favor. But even without any money on the line, games, races or markets can still be intriguing.

This is undoubtedly the case with the running of the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, a contest that is always populated primarily by 3-year-old colts. Moreover, as an added thrill, we’ll get to watch Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, which is exclusively for 3-year-old fillies.

These two stakes might have outcomes that set the stage for a monumental Preakness.

The Sheriff Is In Town: Tiz The Law

For a handicapper such as myself, the first instinct is to stay away from the favorite and scour the program for a suitable longshot, one who might win or at least provide the second half of a decent Exacta payout.

Although Honor AP, who has a good pedigree and was the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, may go off as the second choice, the lightly-raced colt could not even muster a win in his last race against a scarcely competitive field.

Betting on many of the other entries may be akin to liking the way they look, or perhaps their names, jockeys, trainers or owners. You may as well pay attention to whether a horse poops on the track before the start of the race or during the post parade.

Why Tiz The Law Is The Heavy Favorite

Not only has the colt won five of his six lifetime starts, the last two have been in the most impressive fashion.

In the reshuffled order of the Triple Crown, the colt was rated patiently off the pace in the Belmont Stakes and took control of the race in the stretch, to win by four lengths with plenty still in the tank. In his last race, the coveted Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 8 (which is the same distance as the Derby at 1 ¼ miles), he romped to a victory by 5 ½ lengths. His odds were even money.

In the Travers, after allowing Uncle Chuck to set an early and quick pace, he raced calmly on the outside and took control midway through; he was not even challenged in the stretch.

The Damsel Not In Distress: Gamine

A lesser known but important race for 3-year-old fillies is the Kentucky Oaks, which is always run on Friday, the day before the Derby. Once again, there is a clear favorite: the red-hot filly Gamine, who will likely go off at even money odds or less.

On the same day as Tiz The Law won the Belmont, Gamine also scored an impressive win in New York. In the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, she won by an astonishing 18 ¾ lengths, in a record time for the 90-year-old event. In fact, she barely fell short of the track record set by Najran in 2003.

At Saratoga, in the $300,000 Test stake for 3-year-old fillies, Gamine defeated Venetian Harbor by seven lengths. She ran the seven furlongs in 1:20.83, which equaled the stakes record set by Lady Tak in 2003.

The Villain, The Trainer Of Gamine: Bob Baffert

Although Bob Baffert has won two Triple Crowns in the past five years (American Pharoah 2015 and Justify 2019), he has been left at the altar on three other occasions, all occurring in a six-year span: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).

Due to injuries to his top colts this year, Charlatan, (an easy winner of Arkansas Derby), and Nadal, who fractured a leg and was retired early in the season, Baffert was never on the radar for the Triple Crown. He will saddle Authentic (8-1 in the early-morning line) for a potential upset of Tiz The Law. Stamina may be an issue for the colt, however, as his best race has come at nine furlongs.

The Goldilocks Scenario For The Preakness Stakes

Assuming Gamine takes care of business in the Oaks on Friday and Tiz The Law does the same in the Derby, the stage will be set for an exciting Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3, if Baffert opts to attempt the spoiler role this year, by entering his filly.

This encounter would have “Battle of the Sexes” overtones. It may not have the match-race scenario as in 1975, when Ruffian was tragically injured and euthanized after a match race versus Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure, but it will attract international attention. On the other hand, it could be more reminiscent of the 2009 Preakness, when the great filly Rachel Alexandra, became the fifth of her gender to win, and the first since 1924.

The Finish

A familiar saying in the financial markets is “the trend is your friend.” Certainly, the same could be said for sports wagering, and especially horse racing. The obvious trend is that two potential super horses need to continue their dominant form to result in a battle for supremacy in the Preakness.

If both do not live up to the hype and notch impressive victories to set up the potential showdown in the Preakness, I will be back to scouring the program for longshots who might pull the upset on Oct. 3.

Photo credit: Bill Brine

 

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