No, you haven’t imagined this. The famed Kentucky Derby, one of horse racing’s signature events, actually occurs this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
New Jersey online bettors — who can access the action via 4NJBets, powered by TVG — can be glad the COVID-19 pandemic only rescheduled the May 2 event rather than canceling it.
This 146th running is unique beyond the new date and the absence of spectators, a far cry from the customary screaming throng of more than 150,000 at Churchill Downs.
Because this race occurs later in the year, some mystery has been removed regarding the top horse. Tiz the Law already won the Belmont Stakes in June and the Travers Stakes in August. He will be the most heavily favored Derby entry in several decades, in the neighborhood of even money.
But what about the rest of the field? It won’t be official until Tuesday’s draw, but many of the top horses are confirmed, and some warrant a look.
Three horses not to be ignored in the Kentucky Derby
Honor A.P., Authentic and Thousand Words have taken turns beating each other during this campaign. None have looked dominant, but all have performed at the highest level of competition behind Tiz the Law and will gain significant wagering attention.
If you seek a tie-breaker within this group, Thousand Words put in the most recent top performance, beating Honor A.P. in the Shared Belief Stakes in August. His Kentucky Derby odds dwindled from 20-1 to 10-1 over the weekend, denoting strong betting support.
Thousand Words had been beaten soundly as a 5-2 choice by Authentic and Honor A.P. in the San Felipe Stakes in early March.
That’s why he was 9-1 for the Shared Belief Stakes. But Thousand Words got even that day. He gained the early advantage, and when Honor A.P. pulled even with him around the final turn, he dug in to prevail.
Skeptics point out that the race only had four participants. A larger field would have ensured that some other horses would have applied early pressure and hurt Thousand Words down the stretch. Nonetheless, this horse showed heart.
Authentic looked impressive winning the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March. He fought off a bid from Honor A.P. and stormed through the home stretch.
But in the Santa Anita Derby in June, Honor A.P. turned the tables. Authentic got off to a shaky start, rearing his head to the right at the outset, and that cost him a couple of lengths that made the difference in this race.
These three horses have equal ability. On any given day, any of them can run a big race.
Art Collector: A horse that could steal the show
Art Collector has two things to love heading into the 2020 Kentucky Derby. One is a pair of 2020 victories at Churchill Downs. That’s a significant handicapping variable.
And two, he’s undefeated this year.
Art Collector is painting portraits with four wins in four tries, including an impressive victory in the Ellis Park Derby in August.
The best part of the victory is that he pulled off and won going away. Odds have been drifting lower on him for more than a week, and he is now considered the solid second choice, at 5-1, to win the Derby. Art Collector also won the Blue Grass Stakes in July.
The question for bettors is whether they back Art Collector’s momentum or the competition strength found in Authentic, Honor A.P. and Thousand Words. Those three have run at a slightly higher level.
Lineup shuffle continues ahead of Derby Day
Caracaro suffered an injury on Aug. 28 and won’t run in the Derby. Dr. Post will now be entered in another race. Ny Traffic is expected to go and had odds of 20-1 on Sunday.
He was a game second to Authentic in the Haskell.
There could be a couple of late changes to the field, too. Owners who realize their horses have no chance may look for another place to run them.
2020 Kentucky Derby betting tips
Tiz the Law backers who want to make a big-win bet will eye the horse racing odds right up until post time. A successful $100 wager would return a $60 profit if the horse was 3-5, but $120 if Tiz the Law is 6-5.
Those odds will impact what type of bets are made. More than in any other sport, the timing of Kentucky Derby wagering is important.
A $1 superfecta key with Tiz the Law (or anyone you like) winning and any combination of four horses in the second to fourth position costs $24. It’s worth it if you believe a long shot can get in the picture, especially third or better. But be wary if Tiz the Law settles into a post-time price of 4-5 or 3-5.
That’s less than even money and often guarantees a paltry payout.
Taking any two horses in a $5 exacta box costs $10. It is always good to have a hedge in case the odds-on favorite does not win.
A three-horse exacta box of $2 costs 12. That means the bettor has three chances to hit the top two finishers in either of those spots, good if you think the favorite won’t run first or second.
It’s always smart to have at least one long shot on the ticket. This year’s field does not consist of dominant horses. They are good, but a little inconsistent. It would not be far-fetched for a big long shot to finish in the top four.
Expect Tiz the Law to break sharply and, if possible, settle right behind the leaders until the final turn. It’s always enjoyable to see the time at the half-mile mark.
The track announcer will usually make a comment about the pace at that point. Horses near the lead are in good shape if that time is close to 47 seconds or slower. A half-mile in under 46 seconds bodes well for the horses who need to rally.
Remember that none of the horses in this race have faced such a large field. Getting position will be quite important. Some will have traffic problems, and it will cost them.
One benefit to the new date? The Derby was run on a sloppy track last year. On Sept. 5, it’s expected to be dry.
AP Photo / Darron Cummings, File