The field for the Kentucky Derby was reduced to 16 on Friday when Finnick the Fierce was scratched.
The field will be loaded into posts 2 through 17 on Saturday, with posts 1, 18, 19 and 20 left vacant in the new starting gate, according to Churchill Downs stewards.
Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law is the -160 favorite to win what will be the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown from the No. 17 post position, which hasn’t produced a winner since the gate was first used for the Derby in 1930.
DraftKings sportsbook director Johnny Avello, formerly of Wynn Las Vegas, handicaps the 16-horse field:
Post position, horse, jockey, odds:
2. Max Player, Santana, 25-1
Only has a total of five races, and each one is an improvement over the last. Changed trainers after his third-place finish in the Travers Stakes, going from Linda Rice to Steve Asmussen. As good as Asmussen’s career has been, he’s 0-for-20 in Derby tries. The horse has been working well at Churchill Downs, but the post position compromises his chances of winning. Could be used in exotics.
3. Enforceable, Beschizza, 30-1
We have a good sample size on this colt, as he has 10 starts. He’s had some gate issues in two of his last three efforts, but once he proceeds through that, he runs evenly. A good-looking gray colt out of Tapit that likes to come from far back but rarely gets to the winner’s circle.
4. Storm The Court, Leparoux, 80-1
The long-term situation looked promising a year ago with a maiden win at Del Mar and a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 45-1 at Santa Anita. But he hasn’t progressed and failed to beat a weak field on grass in his last race.
5. Major Fed, Graham, 40-1
His second-place finish in the Indiana Derby was a personal best, but not up to the standards to clash with this field.
7. Money Moves, Castellano, 40-1
Has yet to run in a graded race. They paid a boatload of money for him, dishing out $975,000. I do like the connections of owner Robert LaPenta, trainer Todd Pletcher and rider Javier Castellano. Running style dictates he’ll try to stay close to the pace.
8. South Bend, Gaffalione, 80-1
A late addition that has more experience than any other horse in the field with 12 starts. Has won two of three races on the Churchill dirt surface. Could see a fourth- or fifth-place finish if all goes well.
9. Mr. Big News, Saez, 80-1
Another late addition. Trainer Bret Calhoun is solid, but I don’t think this colt belongs in this race.
10. Thousand Words, Geroux, 16-1
Sired by Pioneerof the Nile, this $1 million purchase won his first three races and then things went awry. After a three-month break, he seemed to return to that previous form, winning the Shared Belief at Del Mar in August in stellar fashion. Latest workouts indicate he’s stayed sharp.
11. Necker Island, Mena, 60-1
He genuinely doesn’t belong here. One positive is both of his wins were at Churchill Downs.
12. Sole Volante, Panici, 40-1
He’s better than his sixth-place showing in the Belmont Stakes but still not good enough to win here. I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking a shot and using him in their gimmicks.
13. Attachment Rate, Talamo, 40-1
Just a maiden win on his resume but certainly an improving colt. Ran second a month ago to Art Collector, who was scratched and probably would have made some noise. The distance shouldn’t be an issue, and the jockey/trainer tandem of Joseph Talamo/Dale Romans is formidable. If you’re looking for a bomb, this might be one to consider.
14. Winning Impression, Rocco, 50-1
I respect the trainer, Dallas Stewart, but not so much the horse. His last two races were pretty dreadful.
15. Ny Traffic, Lopez, 18-1
Trainer Saffie Joseph seems to know how to prepare a horse for a race. His close runner-up finish to Authentic in the Haskell indicates a move forward. Jockey Paco Lopez has guided more than 50 percent of his mounts to the money in 14,000 total starts. Workouts at Saratoga over the past month have been superb.
16. Honor A.P., Smith, 5-1
Hard to find much fault with any of his five races, except that he’s won only two of the five with three runners-up. Trainer John Shirreffs doesn’t saddle many horses, but he’s winning at a 22 percent clip this year and won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo. When the horses break, he’ll need to get close to the pace position early, and jockey Mike Smith is the right man for that task. He’s good enough to win.
17. Tiz the Law, Franco, -160
Right from his maiden special win at Saratoga in August 2019, he appeared to be a special horse. He’s won six of seven starts, and every win has been by at least three lengths. He also won at the 1¼-mile distance in the Travers, and his latest workouts have shown no regression. The deserving favorite.
18. Authentic, Velazquez, 10-1
Another horse with few imperfections on his resume. The biggest question mark is can he go this far and hold on, as I expect him to grasp the early lead. If he can break quickly with no hindrances, it makes this race even more interesting. Trainer Bob Baffert has won the Derby five times and jockey John R. Velazquez twice, so experience looms.
Avello likes Honor A.P. and Tiz the Law to win or place and considers Ny Traffic a live long shot.
For exactas and trifectas, he suggests using the following horses underneath Honor A.P. and Tiz the Law: Ny Traffic, Authentic, Money Moves and Attachment Rate.
For a superfecta, Avello recommends using Max Player.