Kentucky Derby futures: Revisiting Vegas odds on extended timeline

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The road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve has, due to a global public health crisis, stretched out another four months and widened considerably. With the Derby rescheduled to Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, the pool of potential contenders to make the 20-horse starting gate now welcomes late-developing types to join the select few that have already won major preps and earned qualifying points.

The bookmakers at William Hill continue to take fixed-odds future wagers on Derby 146, and as in years past in this blog we’ll take a periodic look at William Hill’s future-book odds and profile some of the contenders. In addition to the Vegas odds, Churchill Downs is holding their fourth Future Wager pool from April 3-5.

The pool opens with “All Others” favored at 5-2 odds, while Nadal and Tiz the Law lead the 23 individual horses at 6-1 opening odds. Churchill’s Derby Future Wager runs from noon April 3 through 6 p.m. ET on April 5.

As reported by Marty McGee in Daily Racing Form, Churchill Downs officials told the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that the company would probably offer two more Future Wager pools in July and August leading up to the rescheduled Derby on Sept. 5.

March 29 William Hill Odds Leaders to Win the 2020 Kentucky Derby:

1) Tiz the Law (7-2)

2) Authentic (9-2)

3) Charlatan (7-1)

4) Nadal (8-1)

5) Maxfield (9-1)

6) Honor A. P. (10-1)

6) Sole Volante (10-1)

Notable Changes: 

Tiz the Law, already the Kentucky Derby favorite in most future books for several weeks prior to his commanding win in last Saturday’s Curlin Florida Derby, saw his odds drop from 5-1 to 7-2 in William Hill’s March 29 sheet. If the run for the roses was held as originally scheduled on May 2, those odds would be acceptable and probably close to what he’d go off at when the gates opened. With the Derby bumped back to late summer, however, they’re dicey to say the least. That’s disappointing to contemplate, because Barclay Tagg and Sackatoga Stable could not have done a better job preparing Tiz the Law for the first Saturday in May and plotting his prep schedule. Tagg told the media that an ambitious summer campaign of Preakness Stakes-Belmont Stakes-Travers Stakes would be an ideal path to the Sept. 5 Derby, but it’s an open question at this point whether any – or all – of those races will go off as scheduled. No matter what, Tiz the Law has the look of a colt who will only get better as he matures and gains racing experience, and it will be exciting to watch him do so in the coming months.

Florida Derby runner-up Shivaree debuts on William Hill’s sheet at 100-1 odds despite picking up 40 qualifying Kentucky Derby points with his game effort. Trainer Ralph Nicks admitted after the Florida Derby that his connections were not sure if the Florida-bred Awesome of Course colt could get the Florida Derby’s 1 1/8-mile distance, and visually it was evident in deep stretch that jockey Emisael Jaramillo was all out in urging his mount to hold on for second, which he did. It seems a more likely scenario at this point to see Shivaree win a race on Gulfstream Park’s Summit of Speed card this September, or travel in late summer to compete in the H. Allan Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga, than it does to see him starting in the Kentucky Derby.

Wells Bayou, impressive winner of the Louisiana Derby on March 21, saw his odds drop from 125-1 to 20-1 on William Hill’s March 29 sheet. He shapes up as a major player in the May 2 Arkansas Derby if his connections stick with that plan, since he’s already proven to have an affinity for Oaklawn Park’s track with an allowance win and a good second to Silver Prospector in the Southwest Stakes.

Todd Pletcher-trained Money Moves dropped from 125-1 to 60-1 odds on William Hill’s latest sheet after an eye-catching 2 ¾-length score in a competitive allowance-optional claiming race going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park on March 28. He improved to 2-for-2 in his young career after winning a six-furlong Gulfstream maiden in the slop by 1 ¼ lengths Feb. 15 (boosting his Equibase Speed Figure from 87 to 96) and should have no problem taking the next step and trying two turns.

Money Moves is a son of good stamina sire Candy Ride, and while his dam, by Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, was a pure sprinter who earned over $300,000 and won three stakes races, he has more heft deeper in the bloodline. He is from the family of Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book, champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Caledonia Road, and Grade 1-winnng turf miler Data Link (recent Gotham Stakes third-place finisher Attachment Rate is also a relative). Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs are still racing as of April 2, but stakes options in the coming weeks are scarce. Nevertheless, there’s suddenly a lot more time for this colt, who was a $975,000 purchase as a juvenile, to develop.

Two to watch:

The four-month delay of the Kentucky Derby to Sept. 5 has given future-book players a chance to re-calibrate their bearings and take a second look at 3-year-olds who may have not accomplished much as of early April but have shown enough potential to warrant longshot consideration for the “First Saturday in September.” Here’s a couple that stand out at triple-digit odds via William Hill:

Mystic Guide: This Godolphin homebred debuts on William Hill’s latest sheet at 100-1 odds, and get ’em while you can. He looked the part of a graded stakes-winning racehorse in only his second career start on the March 21 Louisiana Derby undercard at Fair Grounds, sitting a stalking trip in the 1 1/16-mile race and effortlessly pulling clear to a five-length win that earned a 99 Equibase Speed Figure. This son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper stretched out after finishing third in a six-furlong maiden on Feb. 14 and should relish even more real estate based on his pedigree. Mystic Guide’s dam, Music Note, by A.P. Indy, was one of the best fillies racing from 2007-’09, winning seven of 12 starts, including four Grade 1s, and earning more than $1.6 million while finishing second by a head in the 1 ¼-mile Alabama Stakes in 2008 and third in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (now Distaff) in both 2008 and 2009. It will be interesting to see where Mystic Guide surfaces next given the dwindling number of tracks operating. As trainer Michael Stidham told Horse Racing Nation, “We thought we’d have no chance to make May 2. Obviously things have changed. “

Roman Empire: Another Todd Pletcher trainee, Roman Empire sits at 150-1 after romping by 8 ¾ lengths in a one-turn-mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park Feb. 28, his second career start and first on dirt. He basically paired his Equibase Speed Figures when making the switch (88 in his third-place debut, 86 in his win) and that number range will obviously need to improve, but there’s plenty of time for that. This colt is by Belmont winner Empire Maker and his female family includes top-class stamina horses Eddington (a millionaire who hit the board in the Preakness Stakes and Travers Stakes) and European Group 1 winner Miserden.

Pletcher is renowned for gearing up his 3-year-olds each spring with the first Saturday in May in mind (recall how horses such as Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017 peaked like clockwork in the Kentucky Derby), but this year is obviously different. Roman Empire, like Money Moves, will be one to keep close tabs on while taking a fresh look at this crop of 3-year-olds during an elongated Triple Crown season.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.