Kentucky Derby 146 – Analyzing the Favorite

Churchill Downs finishBy ART PARKER for “Racing’s Best Kept Secret”

Not long ago a friend of mine that pays a small amount of attention to horse racing asked me, “Who will win the Derby?” I learned long before the turn of the century that answering that question is tough, if not impossible, for any good horseplayer. So, I answered with my usual smarty pants response of, “The one that crosses the line first.”

My friend would have none of that and responded with, “That’s what you said last year but that guy got disqualified,” referring to Maximum Security being the first Derby winner in 145 years to be disqualified for a racing violation during the running of the race. My next comeback was a simple, “I don’t know.” Then I came up with a verbal guarantee and proclaimed, “But I can guarantee who the favorite will be!”

Well, I didn’t say I was brave and going out on a limb with that prediction.

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Tiz the Law will be the favorite if he goes to the post, and as of this moment, there is no reason to believe he will be left out of the proceedings. There is no doubt in my mind and the mind of anyone who knows anything about horse racing in 2020.

The New York bred has won six of seven, four of which are Grade Ones. You rarely see that with any horse that is Derby bound. As a three-year-old he has won almost all of the big races. His victories include the Florida Derby, the Travers, and the Belmont Stakes (at a changed distance of nine furlongs). As a juvenile, he notched his first Grade One with a victory in the Champagne Stakes – one of the most important races for the two-year-olds.

In the Derby points standing he has not only accumulated more points than anyone in history (372 points), his closest rival in the standings is a very good colt named Authentic with only 200 points.

He is beautifully bred. His nicely bred sire, Constitution, was a Florida Derby winner that never had a complete chance to show how good he was. That means that Tiz the Law is a grandson of Tapit, the world’s top stallion. His dam is Tiz Fiz by Tiz Now. We all know that Tiznow is the only two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Need I say more about the breeding of Tiz the Law?

His races have been impressive. He is quick from the gate but doesn’t need the lead. He has a good tactical speed to be close to the pace and stalk leaders. Tiz the Law is the epitome of class in my book because he appears to do the most important thing a racehorse can do – he follows orders and does what he is told to do. I saw this when he won the Holy Bull at Gulfstream. He was up close and in good position but pinned on the rail and had to take up down the backstretch. His rider, Manny Franco, checked his mount slightly, moved him outside of horses for a clear run, and asked him to advance. About the time Tiz the Law regained position, Franco said “Enough for now” and Tiz the Law went back to cruising instead of attacking. When it came time to attack Franco encouraged him slightly to go and he went into semi-assault mode. Once clear in the stretch Franco suggested a total attack and it quickly became a bad day for the rest of the field.

This appears to be his normal race. Get position, advance quietly to challenge then pounce – and take no prisoners.

In watching his races I have only seen one potential problem for Tiz the Law. He sometimes appears to have a little trouble in the turns. The difficulty is probably not enough to not cause concern, but in the Derby and a big field, anything can cost even the best horse the race. Franco has won over 1,000 races and is not viewed as one the classic riders, but I think Tiz the Law is in good hands and thus far Franco has been a great partner.

Others may believe that Churchill Downs may be a problem for him because that is the venue of his only loss, the Kentucky Jockey Club last November. I have a hard time buying that. Tiz the Law bobbled some leaving the gate and was in good position on the rail, but never had anywhere to go and was throttled back on a couple of occasions. He finally found a hole but the odds were stacked against him by that time. The track was off that day, and some may think that was an issue in the race. The rough trip was the downfall for Tiz the Law in his only loss.

I’m not touting Tiz the Law simply because I don’t like favorites from a wagering standpoint. However, if Tiz the Law is healthy, if weather and track condition are not an issue, and if he has a fair trip, then I will be shocked if he doesn’t win.

I don’t consider this three-year-old crop to be all that great. I’ve seen almost forty Derbies, and Tiz the Law is probably good enough to have won several of them. He is not Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Man o’ War or Affirmed, but when one combines his talent with the weak competition he seems invincible in 2020.

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