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2020 Kentucky Derby: A Quick Look at Contenders

Kentucky Derby contenders will race for glory at Churchill Downs.

We are now just two weeks out from the 146th Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs and the field is starting to take shape for what, in 2020, will be the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

The Run for the Roses was delayed for four months thanks to the pandemic, and Tiz the Law, who won the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 20, will be the heavy favorite among contenders on the first Saturday of September, in Kentucky Derby wagering.

Never placed a bet on the Kentucky Derby? Be sure to check out our handy betting guide to help you get in the action.

2020 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Tiz the Law 

The colt is perfect in four starts this year, winning the Belmont Stakes and then returning to win the Travers (G1) at Saratoga on August 8 in his last outing, earning a career top Beyer Speed Figure.

The Barclay Tagg trainee drew off to win by 5.5 lengths in a very impressive outing and that race was at the Derby distance of 1.25 miles. Tagg has a Derby victory under his belt, winning in 2003 with Funny Cide. This colt is a very imposing favorite but is going to end up a very short price.

Art Collector 

The Tom Drury trainee is also perfect in his four starts this year. He was transferred to Drury after the colt tested positive out of a win at Churchill Downs last November for having levamisole, a de-worming agent, in his system while in the care of trainer Joe Sharp.

The colt has earned three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in a row, winning the Ellis Park Derby in gate-to-wire fashion in his last start on August 9. The colt is coming into the Derby in sharp form.

Honor A.P. 

This colt is trained by John Shirreffs, who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Derby history with Giacomo at 50-1 in 2005. The colt won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on June 6 to stamp his ticket to Louisville.

In his last outing in the Shared Belief, he could not catch Thousand Words – who wired the field – and had to settle for the runner-up spot. Despite the loss, the race should serve as a good prep for the Derby and it does not hurt to have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith riding this colt.


We had to get to a Bob Baffert trainee eventually, right? The Hall of Fame trainer has won the Kentucky Derby five times and his last two winners, Justify and American Pharoah, went on to win the Triple Crown. This colt has won four of his five career starts and won the Haskell Invitational (G1) in gate-to-wire fashion in his last start at Monmouth Park.

He ran second to Honor A.P. in the Santa Anita Derby and beat that foe in the San Felipe (G2) back in March. There is no active trainer better at getting a three-year-old ready for 1.25 miles on the first Saturday of May. However, now the question is whether he is just as good doing it four months later.

Thousand Words 

This Baffert trainee won his first three career starts and appeared to be one of the barn’s top Derby prospects. Then he lost three in a row and his Derby prospects did not look so good.

He bounced back with a career top effort in winning the Shared Belief over Honor A.P. but he did benefit from being able to set a moderate early pace and was only facing three foes. It will be a different story here facing as many as 19 foes.

King Guillermo 

For this colt to win the Derby, he will have to do so off a four-month break. He has not raced since a runner-up finish in one of the divisions of the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park on May 2.

His best effort came in his win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his previous start, the victory coming at 1 1/4 miles. Winning at 1.25 miles off a four-month break is a big ask.


He was no match for Tiz the Law in a runner-up finish in the Travers, but it was just the colt’s fourth career start. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in his second career start and then came up just a neck short in the Peter Pan (G3) at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles in his stakes debut.

He was beaten by 5.5 lengths in the Travers while two lengths clear of third-place Max Player. The colt will be one of the most lightly raced runners in the field and may still have some upside.

Ny Traffic 

The son of Cross Traffic has lost four in a row coming into the Derby, but he has been in the mix in each of those outings. Last out he was beaten by just a nose in the Haskell to Authentic. He was second to Maxfield two back in the Matt Winn (G3) over the Churchill Downs main track.

In his first two starts on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, he was third in the Risen Star (G2) and second in the Louisiana Derby (G2), both of those trips coming at Fair Grounds. Perhaps not a winning candidate but he should be a big price to use in the exotics.

Churchill Downs has 21 possible starters for the Derby with the field limited to 20. Connections of several runners are still on the fence about running, and with a couple of weeks to go, it looks as if we may not see a full field. It seems likely we will have a field of 16 to 18 runners.

Michael Dempsey covers the Triple Crown for Odds Shark and his full card selections and analysis can be found at turfnsport.com.