Must-know facts on 2020 Kentucky Derby contenders

Aug 17, 2020 Kellie Reilly/

The longest Road to the Kentucky Derby is finally nearing its destination, the “Run for the Roses” held on its latest date ever on the first Saturday in September. Despite the prolonged trail, the clear favorite was also one of the earliest to distinguish himself – Tiz the Law. 

Here’s an overview of the likely cast for Derby 146. Ranked in order of points earned in Derby scoring races, each contender can be summed up by one word.
1. Tiz the Law (372 points): Dominance. As a New York-bred trained by Barclay Tagg for Sackatoga Stable, Tiz the Law shares connections with 2003 Derby champion Funny Cide. But Tiz the Law arrives at Churchill Downs with a far more commanding resume than Funny Cide. He’s won 6 of 7 career starts, by a combined margin of 24 3/4 lengths, including such major races as the Champagne (G1), Florida Derby (G1), Belmont S. (G1), and Travers (G1). Tiz the Law’s only loss came at Churchill last fall in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), where he had a tough trip bottled up in the slop. That was a long time ago, and the well-named son of the Tapit stallion Constitution will be one of the hottest Derby favorites in years. 
2. Authentic (200 points): Brilliance. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert goes for a record-equaling sixth Derby victory, and Authentic’s high cruising speed makes him a threat. The son of leading sire Into Mischief brings a 4-for-5 resume, highlighted by big wins in the San Felipe (G2) and Sham (G3) and a much narrower decision last out in the Haskell (G1). By just hanging on, Authentic renewed the stamina questions raised by his lone loss in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). 
3. Art Collector (150 points): Versatility. Dirt or turf, sprint or route, on the lead or rating off the pace, Art Collector has proven that he can do it all. The blueblood by Bernardini sports a four-race winning streak capped by the Blue Grass (G2) and Ellis Park Derby, making him the leading hometown contender for trainer Tom Drury. 
4. Honor A. P. (140 points): Development. Trainer John Shirreffs is best known for nurturing Hall of Famer Zenyatta and bringing Giacomo to his peak as a 50-1 upsetter in the 2005 Derby. So it’s no surprise that he’s brought Honor A. P. along methodically to this target. With his runner-up efforts in the San Felipe and Shared Belief serving their purpose as preps, the well-bred sophomore is best judged by what he can do when primed – toppling Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby.
5. Ny Traffic (110 points): Dependability. By almost catching Authentic in the Haskell, the New York-bred gray built upon a series of rock-solid efforts for trainer Saffie Joseph. Ny Traffic was previously third in a division of the Risen Star (G2) and second in both the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill, where he beat all but the undefeated Maxfield. 
6. King Guillermo (90 points): Surprise. A 49-1 romper in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) after racing well on turf, he backed it up with a fine second to Nadal in an Arkansas Derby (G1) division. Now King Guillermo is defying expectations again for the way he’s coming into the Derby – without a recent prep. The son of champion Uncle Mo is entering the Derby off a four-month layoff, by design, for trainer Juan Avila.
7. Thousand Words (83 points): Renaissance. Once a leading Derby hopeful early on when taking the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert B. Lewis (G3), the Baffert trainee went off form just as the trail heated up in the spring. But Thousand Words was reinvigorated by a freshening, and he got back in the game with a front-running upset of Honor A. P. in the Shared Belief. The question now is whether the Pioneerof the Nile colt can duplicate that performance in a big field, and on the big stage.
8. Dr Post (80 points): Potential. Second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont and third to Authentic in the Haskell, Dr Post has to improve for two-time Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. Yet the Quality Road colt gives the impression of one capable of more, and he’d previously shown spunk to win the Unbridled S. despite a difficult trip.
9. Max Player (60 points): Closer. The Withers (G3) winner rolled past lesser foes at Aqueduct in wintertime, but had to settle for belated thirds in both the Belmont and Travers. Now he’s changed barns to join Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for his final Derby preparations. Like Honor A. P., Max Player is from the first crop of A.P. Indy’s champion son Honor Code. 
10. Caracaro (60 points): Comebacker. One of the flashiest maiden winners at Gulfstream Park over the winter, Caracaro was sidelined before he could join the trail. The Uncle Mo colt resurfaced at Saratoga, however, and stamped his Derby ticket with a pair of bang-up seconds – a game near-miss in the Peter Pan (G3) and a best-of-the-rest behind Tiz the Law in the Travers.
Among the next 10 on the points list are Pneumatic, who’s reportedly bound for the Preakness (G1), and Swiss Skydiver, tops on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) leaderboard who’s expected to run versus fellow fillies there. So we’ll continue with the remaining contenders likelier to go in the Derby.
Enforceable (43 points): Dependent. As a late runner who tends to come from even farther back than Max Player, Enforceable is a hostage to fortune twice over. If he gets a fast pace and a clean trip, the Mark Casse runner can make his presence felt, as when capturing the Lecomte (G3) and placing in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and a Risen Star division. His recent fourth in the Blue Grass should set him up well physically, but the Tapit blueblood hasn’t been able to make his own luck. 
Rushie (40 points): Cutback. While Rushie deserves credit for his thirds in the Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass, he’s looked more like a hard trier than a horse on the upgrade. And having lost ground late at Keeneland, the son of Liam’s Map might prefer a little less distance. Indeed, trainer Michael McCarthy is reportedly considering the Pat Day Mile (G3) instead for a colt who wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown. 
Major Fed (38 points): Unlucky. When rallying for second to collar Ny Traffic in the Risen Star, in circumstances that didn’t favor him, Major Fed stamped himself as one to watch. Since then the Greg Foley pupil has endured worse trips. A slow start proved costly in the Louisiana Derby, where he did well to close for fourth. Major Fed gave up in the Matt Winn after being hung out wide, but his Indiana Derby (G3) trouble wasn’t his fault, and he regrouped for second. By Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, and named for tennis great Roger Federer, he might be one good trip away from a big performance.
Storm the Court (36 points): Plateau. Voted champion after shocking a less-than-vintage Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Storm the Court hasn’t moved forward this season for Peter Eurton. His third to Authentic and Honor A. P. in the San Felipe pretty much reflects where he stands. The one potential shake-up is the turf-to-dirt angle, as he exits a second in the La Jolla H. (G3) on the Del Mar turf.
Attachment Rate (35 points): Wide. That characterizes three of his four trips in two-turn stakes, including his second to Dr Post in the Unbridled, his fourth in the Matt Winn, and most recently his runner-up effort to Art Collector in the Ellis Park Derby. When Attachment Rate did save ground in the Blue Grass, he’d been hampered at the start, which put him farther back than ideal, and he gained late in a sneaky fifth. The son of Derby runner-up Hard Spun from the Dale Romans barn could be better than he’s shown thus far. 
Sole Volante (30 points): Sleeper. Until his sixth in the Belmont, Sole Volante had never run a bad race. The Patrick Biancone runner burst onto the Derby radar with his rallying upset in the Sam F. Davis (G3). He didn’t get such a beneficial pace when second to King Guillermo in the Tampa Bay Derby, but bounced right back in an allowance over stakes performers Shivaree and Jesus’ Team. That was his prep for the Belmont, only the one-week turnaround didn’t pan out for him, and Sole Volante ran well below his best. The Niarchos-bred son of turf star Karakontie could be poised to rebound at Churchill.
Finnick the Fierce (25 points): Longshot. Not that he’s the only one sure to go off at big odds, but Finnick the Fierce has been an outsider for most of his life. The one-eyed gelding was second at odds of 87-1 in last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club, heading the compromised Tiz the Law, and he hasn’t gotten that close in a points race since. Third to Nadal and King Guillermo at Oaklawn Park, Finnick the Fierce was most recently seventh in the Blue Grass.
Winning Impression (20 points): Fortunate. Disqualification put him here, since he initially had just 10 points from his fourth in the Arkansas Derby division won by Charlatan. After Charlatan was demoted, however, Winning Impression found himself elevated to third – and saw his point haul increased to 20. He’s been disappointing in his two subsequent preps, so his best hope now is trainer Dallas Stewart, who’s known for overachieving with unheralded runners in big races.
If Pneumatic and Swiss Skydiver come out as planned, these are the two next in line to make the field:
Jesus’ Team (18 points): Reformed. Running in claiming races as recently as May, Jesus’ Team has improved markedly since switching to trainer Jose D’Angelo. He’s earned his way with a fourth in the Haskell and a game second in the Pegasus.
Necker Island (14 points): Investment. After failing to hit the board in several stakes, he was claimed for $100,000, and has already furnished dividends. For new trainer Chris Hartman, Necker Island garnered that elusive black-type with thirds in the Indiana Derby and Ellis Park Derby. Now he’s on the cusp of bringing his new owners to the Derby. 
And don’t overlook this talented hopeful who needs defections to get in:
Shirl’s Speight (0 points): Wildcard. Charles Fipke’s homebred didn’t contest any points races, but the late bloomer is 2-for-2 after a victory in the Marine (G3) at Woodbine. Although the Derby would be a big challenge for such an inexperienced colt, and his first start on dirt, the blueblood son of Breeders’ Cup winners Speightstown and Perfect Shirl has massive upside for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield. 
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