Art Collector was declared out of the Kentucky Derby early Tuesday morning, just hours before 3-5 morning-line favorite Tiz the Law drew the No. 17 post position for Saturday’s 146th edition of the Run for the Roses.
In an oddity, the favorites – Honor A.P. (5-1), Tiz the Law and Authentic (8-1) – drew the three outside post positions in the 18-horse field. After Thousand Words (15-1), who drew the No. 10 hole, the 14 other horses were listed at 20-1 or higher on Mike Battaglia’s morning line.
Art Collector, winner of the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes on July 11, might have gone postward as the second choice if not for his defection. Battaglia said Tiz the Law would have been 4-5 if he’d been entered.
Trainer Tommy Drury said Art Collector sustained a minor injury to his left front during Monday training and he didn’t want to take a chance by running the son of Bernardini.
“It was still very sensitive this morning,” he said. “When I took my thumbs to palpate the bulbs of his heels, you could still tell it was pinching him. I had to make a choice. Your horse has to always come first. To run in a race of this caliber and trying to compete against the best 3-year-olds in this country, you’ve got to be 110 percent.”
So the connections for Tiz the Law, the lowest morning-line favorite since the entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring was also made 3-5 in 1989, will have one less viable contender to deal with. But their colt will have talented horses on each side of him in the new starting gate that allows for 20 horses and enabled Churchill Downs officials to scarp the auxiliary gate.
“I like being on the outside,” said trainer Barclay Tagg, who will be shooting for his second Kentucky Derby victory after Funny Cide won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2003. “I didn’t particularly want to be out that far, but he seems to handle everything that’s thrown at him. We’ll just have to leave it up to him. It gives you a chance, if you have any speed at all, it gives you a chance to get a better position.”
Tiz the Law has won six of seven career starts, the only blemish coming in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last fall over a sloppy track when he stumbled at the start and finished third.
Honor A.P., who won the Santa Anita Derby before finishing second behind Thousand Words in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 1, can give John Shirreffs his second Derby victory following Giacomo’s upset at 50-1 in 2005.
“I just talked to (jockey) Mike (Smith) and he’s happy with it,” Shirreffs said of Honor A.P.’s post position. “I think it’s OK. There’s a long run to the first turn and I don’t have to worry about getting pushed down on the outside.”
Bob Baffert, who conditions Authentic and Thousand Words in an effort for a record-tying sixth Derby victory, texted Churchill Downs publicity after the draw: “Not ideal for Authentic, but I’m OK with it. He’s out of harm’s way. Just glad to be in the gate.”
The last time Authentic broke from the outside was the Santa Anita Derby, when he veered out at the start and raced wide the entire way while finishing second to Honor A.P.
“Hopefully Johnny (jockey Velazquez) will be a stronger rider this time around,” co-owner Jack Wolf said. “I guess it’s better than (post) one or two. I would think he’ll have to send.”
Trainer Mark Casse, who will saddle 30-1 longshot Enforceable, foresees Authentic going to the front and possibly taking the field gate to wire.
“Authentic is going to definitely have to go and then Manny (Franco on Tiz the Law) and Mike (Smith on Honor A.P.), if they let Authentic get away, they may not run him down,” Casse said. “They’re going to be sitting right behind him and not letting him get too far away.”
Perhaps trainer Dale Romans, who will send out 50-1 longshot Attachment Rate from post No. 13, summed up the race best.
“It’s 2020,” he said. “Anything can happen.”
Post time: 4:02 p.m.
Distance: 1 1/4 miles.
Top contenders: Tiz the Law, 3-5; Honor A.P., 5-1; Authentic, 8-1.
Television: NBC, 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Note: Trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Authentic and Thousand Words (15-1), is trying for his record-tying sixth Derby victory. Ben Jones won six from 1938 through 1952.