Kentucky Derby may struggle to fill 20 spots

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In February, Churchill Downs announced it had contracted with an Australian company to produce a custom 20-stall starting gate to be used for this year’s Kentucky Derby. But in the wake of Tiz the Law’s dominant victory in the Travers Stakes last Saturday, many are wondering will they need it?

Tiz the Law put to rest any doubts about his ability to handle 1 1/4 miles, as he simply sprinted clear at the top of the stretch before being geared down to win the 10-furlong Travers by nearly six lengths. Of those left in his wake, only runner-up Caracaro and third-place finisher Max Player are expected to take another run at Tiz the Law in the Derby.

From the West coast, Thousand Words and Honor A.P., the 1-2 finishers in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar, figure to be joined by Haskell winner Authentic at Churchill Downs. The Midwest contingent figures to be headed up by Art Collector, who remained undefeated in four 2020 starts with a handy victory in the Ellis Park Derby on Sunday. The 2-3 finishers from that race — Attachment Rate and Necker Island — could also be Derby bound.

Florida invader King Guillermo has already arrived at Churchill Downs to begin his training for the Derby.

It may be possible this year for horses with zero Kentucky Derby qualifying points to get into the race this year. Those who fit into that category include Shirl’s Speight, Happy Saver and Money Moves.

No matter who shows up, Tiz the Law figures to be shortest priced Kentucky Derby favorite in years. Spectacular Bid was the last odds-on favorite to win the Kentucky Derby when he was sent off at 3-5 in 1979. The last horse to start at odds-on in the Kentucky Derby — Arazi in 1992 — was well beaten.

Tiz the Law closed as the 11-10 favorite in the Kentucky Derby Future wagers last weekend, so it appears he could be less than even money come Derby day.

Oaks coming up tough

Gamine proved her 18-length victory in the Acorn Stakes in June was no fluke when she pulled away for a seven-length victory in the Test Stakes at Saratoga last Saturday. She followed up her lofty 110 Beyer Speed Rating in the Acorn by earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure in the Test.

The time for her winning effort in the seven furlong Test — 1:20.83 — was faster than the 1:21.63 it took for Serengeti Empress to gamely defeat older fillies and mares in the Ballerina Stakes earlier on the card at the same distance.

Gamine will be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks, where she figures to face off again with Speech, whom she defeated by a neck at Oaklawn Park in May (she was disqualified from that win due to a positive post-race medication test), and Swiss Skydiver, who comes off a runner-up finish behind Art Collector in the Blue Grass Stakes.

The Kentucky Oaks could be a tougher race than the Kentucky Derby. 

Santa Anita starts Sept. 19

Santa Anita announced last week its 2020 Autumn meet will open on Sept. 19 and run through Oct. 25. The opening date leaves a 12-day gap between closing day at Del Mar on Labor Day (Sept. 7) and the opening day in Arcadia.

When the racing dates were first assigned for 2020, Santa Anita was awarded the two weeks immediately after Del Mar that have in previous years been reserved for the L.A. County Fair meet at Los Alamitos.

No daytime thoroughbred racing in Southern California the weekend of Sept. 11-13 brings the total to nine weeks without daytime thoroughbred racing in 2020. Santa Anita was closed for seven weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic (March 27 — May 10), and Del Mar canceled the weekend of July 17-19 due to a rash of COVID-19 positive tests in the jockeys room.

The majority of race weeks in 2020 have been reduced from four days per week to three as well.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Del Mar Friday, Race 8: First Empress (No. 2). A big race over the Del Mar main track is a huge plus. First Empress shipped in from Oaklawn, dropped to this level and showed she can run with older fillies and mares finishing a clear runner-up July 26. Look for her to pay immediate dividends off the claim by trainer Dean Pederson. 

About the Author

Jon Lindo

Jon Lindo is a syndicated handicapper, long-time thoroughbred owner, and publisher of the Lindo Report. Jon is also a regular contributor to Race Day Las Vegas Radio show on KSHP 1400 in Las Vegas and Thoroughbred Los Angeles Radio show, heard in Las Vegas at thoroughbredla.com.

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