Kentucky Derby 146: Despite Outside Draw, Tiz the Law Tabbed as 3-5 Morning-Line Favorite

Posted on: September 1, 2020, 09:14h. 

Last updated on: September 2, 2020, 10:36h.

On Tuesday morning, Tiz the Law made history at the Kentucky Derby post position draw. On Saturday, the Belmont Stakes champion will look to make more of it, as he seeks the second leg of the 2020 Triple Crown.

Tiz the Law Kentucky Derby
Tiz the Law arrived at Churchill Downs in Louisville Tuesday. The New York-bred and based colt is the heavy favorite in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. (Image: Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)

The Barclay Tagg-trained colt drew the 17th gate in the 18 horse field for Saturday’s 146th running of the Run for the Roses. But not even that far post kept Churchill Downs oddsmaker, Mike Battaglia, from making the New York-bred the 3-5 morning-line favorite in the 1-1/4-mile race.

Tiz the Law is just the seventh morning-line favorite since 1949 to start with odds below even money. The last came 31 years ago, with the coupled entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring.

Bettors will determine the final odds. But it’s a near certainty that Tiz the Law will be the first post time favorite at less than even-money odds since Arazi in 1992.

Tiz the Law earned that lofty status by winning all four of his races this year, all graded stakes, in preparation for the Derby. His last win came last month in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“He’s a unique horse,” Tagg said. “I keep pinching myself because he’s such a unique horse. Everything we’ve asked him to do he just does it. He’s a strong horse. He’s not flighty, but he’s on the muscle all the time.”

Starting from the Outside

Betting favorites, even the heavy ones, don’t always get the garland of roses. In fact, since 1949, of the seven horses or entries that broke at less than even odds, only two reached the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle, with Spectacular Bid being the last in 1979.

Another factor going against Tiz the Law is his starting position. The Kentucky Derby has used a starting gate for 90 years. In 41 tries, the horse breaking from the 17th gate has won zero times.

However, this year is the first year Churchill Downs will use a new gate that brings the horses closer together at the start. Before, 14 horses used the track’s main gate, and the rest used an auxiliary gate that pushed those entries further to the outside. While outside horses have fared better in recent years, most recently Country House winning last year, it’s still considered somewhat of a disadvantage to start out there.

However, Tagg said he likes being on the outside.

I didn’t particularly want to be out that far, but he seems to handle everything that’s thrown at him so we’ll just have to leave it up to him,” Tagg said. “It gives you a chance. If you have any speed at all, it gives you a chance to get a better position.”

As a stalker, starting on the outside allows Tiz the Law a chance to avoid getting bunched behind traffic early in the race.

It also helps that his top two contenders in the race, Honor A.P., and Authentic, flank him on the outside. At 5-1, Honor A. P. starts from the 16th post, and 8-1 Authentic, one of two Bob Baffert-trained colts in the race, starts from the far gate.

Those are the only horses with odds shorter than 15-1.

Heel Injury Forces Art Collector Out

Tiz the Law’s Kentucky Derby odds likely went below even money because one of his main competitors, Art Collector, bowed out Tuesday morning just a couple hours before the draw. Art Collector has also won all four of his races this year, including the Blue Grass Stakes in July and last month’s Ellis Park Derby.

Trainer Tommy Drury told Jennie Rees of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association that the colt clipped his heels while galloping at the track Monday. Though not a major injury, Kentucky horse racing’s anti-doping rules meant that Art Collector could not receive an anti-inflammatory drug just five days before the Derby.

“We discussed some different scenarios,” Drury said. “We maybe could have put a bar shoe on it and stabilized it and he would have been fine. But you’re going to the Kentucky Derby. First and foremost, as the trainer, it’s my responsibility to be the voice for the horse. That’s just not fair to him (to run). He’s been too good to us, and we’re going to make sure he’s taken care of first.”

Drury said the plan is now to take Art Collector to Baltimore next month for the Preakness Stakes.

Shortly after Art Collector withdrew from the race, the connections for South Bend announced their decision to enter their 3-year-old colt to keep the field at 18. Still, it marked the first time since 2003 the Kentucky Derby fielded less than 20 entries.

COVID-19 forced Churchill Downs officials to move the Derby off its traditional first Saturday in May date for the first time in 75 years. Track officials also will close the venue, which typically draws well more than 120,000 fans, to fans this week because of the coronavirus.