Tiz the Law the class of the Kentucky Derby, but scramble is on for second

The Grade I, $3 million Kentucky Derby will finally take place at Churchill Downs this Saturday following a four-month postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay did little to abate the anticipation for the 1 1/4-mile classic, though it definitely narrowed down the list of win candidates. #17 TIZ THE LAW was set as the 3-5 morning-line favorite, the lowest such mark since 1989. Still, 17 horses will stand and face the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner in Churchill’s new 20-horse starting gate. Post time for the 146th Kentucky Derby, the finale on a stakes-laden 14-race program, is 7:01 p.m. ET.

TIZ THE LAW has earned his reputation as the top three-year-old in the country by going 4-for-4 this year. He overcame traffic trouble to score by three lengths in the Holy Bull before powering away to an impressive 4 1/4-length romp in the Florida Derby. TIZ THE LAW awaited the Belmont, run three months later, but showed no signs of rust as he blew the field away by 3 3/4-lengths. Then he delivered a career-best effort in the Travers, scoring by 5 1/2-lengths. TIZ THE LAW, Manny Franco aboard, is the champ until proven otherwise.

#15 NY TRAFFIC (20-1) could be the value of the Kentucky Derby. He was last seen surging late to just miss the victory in the Haskell behind the speedy (but perhaps distance-challenged) #18 AUTHENTIC (8-1). That was his third straight runner-up result in a graded stakes race. The stretchout to 1 1/4-miles could help NY TRAFFIC win the battle for place in the “Run for the Roses.” Paco Lopez will be in the irons once more.

#16 HONOR A. P. (5-1) was upset by the frontrunning #10 THOUSAND WORDS (15-1) in his most recent outing, the Shared Belief Stakes, though his speed figure still came back strong despite being bumped into at the start. Prior to that defeat HONOR A. P. dazzled when he topped AUTHENTIC in the Santa Anita Derby. Jockey Mike Smith and trainer John Shirreffs team up once more on this talented son of Honor Code.

#2 MAX PLAYER (30-1) has not ducked TIZ THE LAW this year, running third in the Belmont as well as the Travers in his last two tries. The 2020 Withers winner switches from trainer Linda Rice to Steve Asmussen for the Derby. Asmussen has yet to win a Derby from 13 total starters, but he has a knack for handling late-blooming greats like Curlin and Gun Runner. MAX PLAYER is a threat to hit the ticket under Ricardo Santana Jr..

#7 MONEY MOVES (30-1) would not have made the Kentucky Derby in an ordinary year, as he’s never run in a stakes race. The Todd Pletcher trainee won his first two starts at Gulfstream this winter before hitting the shelf for four months. MONEY MOVES came back to run a strong second in a Saratoga allowance/optional claiming event. The lightly-raced son of Candy Ride could improve on Saturday and perhaps hit the ticket at square odds under Javier Castellano.

The play: $7 exacta 17/15,16, $3 exacta 17/2,7 ($20)

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