2020 Kentucky Derby Betting Guide
Earlier this week, I went in-depth about how to find the Kentucky Derby winner, but now it's time to make actual picks.
As I mentioned in the previous piece, favorites tend to have plenty of success at the Derby. The Kentucky Derby favorite has won 5 of the last 7 and 9 of the last 20 races. That doesn't mean that placing win bets on other horses is a hopeless task -- out of the last 20 races, the 11 non-favorite winners have had odds ranging anywhere from 5-1 to 50-1 -- the average odds of those 11 victors has been 22-1.
While focusing on finding a winning bet can pay off at times, it's just as important to try and find the winning ticket. In the other piece, I covered three factors that have been vital to success in the Derby -- recent form, jockey booking, and the horse's trainer. We'll use those factors, along with historical post-position data, to determine the best bets.
Here's a look at the best bets for the 146th Kentucky Derby. Be sure to check out the 'value plays' section, as there are some intriguing horses with long odds (please note: that section is ranked in order of how I'd bet them).
(Whenever I refer to rankings for jockeys and trainers, it's usually the ranks among those with at least 100 starts. I will also be referencing Equibase's speed figure, which tells you how fast a horse has been running in each of its races -- adjusted for track, distances, and conditions.)
The Front Runner
Tiz The Law (3-5)
Not much needs to be said about Tiz The Law that hasn't already been said.
The 2020 Belmont Stakes champion is first in Kentucky Derby points, has won each of his four races in 2020 and six of seven in his career, and he has an excellent jockey/trainer pairing in Manuel Franco in Barclay Tagg.
Aside from Tiz The Law being the lowest-priced morning-line favorite in more than 30 years, the only other factor that is not appealing is the colt's post position. In the history of the Kentucky Derby, no horse has won out of the 17th position -- that's out of 41 events with at least 17 in the race. However, that statistic could be alleviated by the fact that it's an 18-horse field (as opposed to 20) and by the new gate that's to be debuted at the Derby.
With an average speed figure of 114.3 in 2020, Tiz The Law is going to be hard to beat.
Honor A.P. (5-1)
Honor A.P. only has one win in 2020, but that doesn't mean he should be faded. The colt is fresh off a career-best speed figure a month ago, and 15 of the last 20 Derby winners posted a career-best figure in their final race before the Derby.
Jockey Mike Smith is a two-time Derby winner who most recently rode Justify to a triple crown in 2018. Trainer John Shirreffs won this event in 2004 and has had tremendous success so far in 2020.
This is definitely a horse to include.
Winner of three of four in 2020, Authentic comes in with strong form -- he has posted an average speed figure of 107.0 in 2020.
Bob Baffert has trained 3 of the last 18 Kentucky Derby winners, while jockey John Velazquez has been in the saddle for two of the last nine Derby victors. That's a lethal combination.
The Value Plays
Money Moves (30-1)
Money Moves is likely my favorite horse to include in wagers, whether it's exotics or otherwise.
Recent form? Check. The colt is fresh off a career-high 109 speed figure just over a month ago and averaged a figure of 97.3 in the first three races of his career. 7 of the last 14 Derby winners posted an average figure between 87.7 and 98.7 in their three races leading up to the main event at Churchill Downs.
Jockey booking? Check. Money Moves gets one of the best jockeys in the world in Javier Castellano. Castellano has yet to win a Derby in 13 tries, but he's ninth in total purse this year, third in earnings per start, and has ridden his horses to a 16% winning percentage and 50% top-three percentage.
Trainer? Check. Money Moves will be trained by Todd Pletcher, who has trained 2 of the last 10 Derby winners -- neither of those winners were the favorite. This year, Pletcher is 6th in total earnings, 16th in earnings per start, and his horses have won 21% of their outings while posting a WPS rate of 53%.
Money Moves will run out of the seventh post, which has the third-best average finishing position since 1930.
Max Player (30-1)
Max Player is another long-shot worth including in bets. Fresh off a career-best speed figure of 105, Max Player has averaged 104.3 in his last three efforts. The form is there.
Ricardo Santana Jr. takes the reigns in place of top jockey Joel Rosario. Santana is 5th in total purse and 10th in purse per start this year -- he's ridden to a 17% winning percentage and 43% top-three percentage.
Trainer Steven Asmussen is 1st in total earnings and 49th in earnings per race in 2020. His horses have posted a 19% winning percentage and 47% WPS rate.
Max Player will run out of Post 2, which has the second-highest in the money (ITM) percentage among all post positions.
Thousand Words (15-1)
The second horse by Bob Baffert in this race should not fly under the radar. Thousand Words posted a career-best 107 speed figure in a win a month ago -- his second stakes win of the season.
Baffert's success has already been noted, but jockey Florent Geroux has had his fair share of success as well. Geroux is 10th in total earnings this season and 7th in purse per start -- he's won 18% of his 2020 outings with a top-three rate of 44%. He managed a third-place finish in his Kentucky Derby debut in 2016.
Thousand Words draws the 10th post, which has the highest ITM percentage of any position.