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Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law close to sure thing

Updated September 3, 2020 - 6:00 pm

You’ve no doubt heard the old saw that there is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing. Well, that goes double for the Kentucky Derby.

Tiz the Law, the 3-5 morning line favorite in the delayed Derby, might indeed be the next coming of Secretariat, as some have anointed him.

But don’t forget that he’s also just one stumble or rough trip from ignominious defeat on the biggest stage he will set hoof on.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge admirer of the son of Constitution, who has all the attributes you look for in a major league racehorse: natural speed, quick acceleration and proven stamina.

The colt has swept all four of his starts at 3 under jockey Manny Franco and is the only horse in the field who has won at the testing 1¼-mile Derby distance. And the apparent ease with which he’s been winning suggests he has more gas in the tank if he needs it.

He’s also being handled by veteran trainer Barclay Tagg, who already has won a Derby for Tiz the Law’s owners, collectively known as Sackatoga Stables, turning the trick in 2003 with another New York-bred, Funny Cide.

But this is the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, where big fields often translate to troubled trips. And it’s worth noting that Tiz the Law’s only loss came at Churchill Downs, when he checked in third in the slop in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Cup in November.

So what’s a bettor to do?

The #RJhorseracing handicapping crew and yours truly, the Blind Squirrel, have some thoughts on that, but first let’s look at the likely pace scenario for Saturday’s race, which will be broadcast by NBC from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and livestreamed at NBCSports.com.

The early stages of the race figure to be interesting, with the likely speed, the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic and Ny Traffic, starting from outside posts. Storm the Court, starting from Post 4, and Thousand Words, another Baffert runner starting from the 10 hole, also could get involved early.

But since none of those horses is uncontrollable speedballs, I expect they’ll carve out a fairly moderate pace early, putting the closers at a disadvantage in the late stages of the race.

If Authentic and Ny Traffic head for the front, that should present Franco and Tiz the Law with a golden opportunity to track the leaders as they move toward the rail and secure the colt’s favored stalking position just behind and outside the front-runners without getting caught too wide on the first turn.

There’s much more to unpack on the race, but let’s hear from the crowd ’cappers and see how they plan to wring some profit from the race.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicapping crew is naturally tackling the Derby, heavy favorite or no. And for dessert, we’re tackling the 11th race at Del Mar, an allowance/optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the main track.

To no one’s surprise, the crowd ’cappers are solidly backing Tiz the Law to win the 146th Run for the Roses. In fact, they are perfectly aligned with the Churchill linemaker, as they see Honor A.P. (5-1) and Authentic (8-1) as his biggest threats.

Much as I like to try to beat the favorite, Tiz the Law’s brilliance has me waving the white flag. I think he’ll win and keep his bid for the upside-down Triple Crown alive in next month’s Preakness Stakes. But to inject some value into the equation, I’m going to swing for the fences in the place shot and hope that Attachment Rate (50-1) can stay out of trouble for a change and run the race of his life. Ny Traffic is my third choice.

In race 11 at Del Mar, the crew sees a tight battle to the wire between 5-2 morning line favorite Nolo Contesto and Ronamo (5-1), with the latter eking out a win at the wire. They have Royal Act (4-1) finishing third.

I’m so exhausted from all the Derby handicapping that all I have to say is: Strongconstitution (5-1), Nolo Contesto and Royal Act, in that order.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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