by Jon White
August 19, 2020
As it stands right now, Tiz the Law undoubtedly is going to be a strong favorite in this year’s 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs when he resumes his quest to become a Triple Crown winner on Sept. 5.
So much has changed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the order of the Triple Crown events. For the first time ever this year, the Belmont Stakes kicked off this country’s Triple Crown. Also, the Belmont this year was shortened considerably to 1 1/8 miles from its traditional distance of 1 1/2 miles.
Tiz the Law won the Belmont on June 20 by 3 3/4 lengths. That was followed by his 5 1/2-length triumph in Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes on Aug. 8.
At this point, Tiz the Law looks practically unstoppable. The New York-bred Constitution colt, trained by Barclay Tagg, is four for four this year while winning in dominant fashion. Tiz the Law won those four races from three to 5 1/2 lengths.
All indications are Tiz the Law is going to be the strongest Kentucky Derby favorite since Point Given was 9-5 in 2001.
Point Given did not get the job done in the Run for the Roses. He finished fifth in the field of 17. It would be the only time in Point Given’s 13-race career that he did not finish first or second.
Monarchos won the 2001 Kentucky Derby at odds of 10-1. Point Given subsequently won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, defeating Monarchos both times. Monarchos finished sixth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.
How strong a favorite will Tiz the Law be in this year’s Kentucky Derby? It appears he probably will be in the neighborhood of 4-5 to 6-5.
Tiz the Law is the 4-5 favorite in the latest Kentucky Derby odds issued by the William Hill Sports Book. He is the 6-5 favorite for the Kentucky Derby in the latest Daily Racing Form odds.
WILLIAM HILL’S KENTUCKY DERBY ODDS
Below are the Kentucky Derby odds, as of Aug. 16, listed by the William Hill Sports Book
4-5 Tiz the Law
4-1 Art Collector
7-1 Honor A.P.
12-1 Thousand Words
22-1 King Guillermo
30-1 Ny Traffic
35-1 Dr Post
40-1 Max Player
60-1 Sole Volante
60-1 Storm the Court
75-1 Attachment Rate
75-1 Major Fed
150-1 Finnick the Fierce
150-1 Necker Island
LATEST DRF KENTUCKY DERBY ODDS
This list is much more representative of likely entrants in the $3 million Kentucky Derby than the William Hill list. Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman and Marty McGee are fastidious in emphasizing likely entrants when they compiled this week’s Derby Watch.
“With the points-scoring races now completed, the order of preference is known for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5, and that will be the overriding factor on who moves onto [the Derby Watch] list of 20,” Privman wrote. “This week, Shirl’s Speight and Winning Impression are the two newcomers.”
Below are McGee’s latest DRF odds for the 20 horses on the Derby Watch list:
6-5 Tiz the Law
5-1 Art Collector
6-1 Honor A.P.
15-1 Thousand Words
20-1 King Guillermo
20-1 Max Player
30-1 Dr Post
30-1 Ny Traffic
30-1 Shirl’s Speight
30-1 Sole Volante
50-1 Attachment Rate
50-1 Finnick the Force
50-1 Major Fed
50-1 Necker Island
50-1 Storm the Court
50-1 Winning Impression
MY KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10
Tiz the Law took over the top spot on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 last week after he trounced his Travers opponents. He’s again No. 1 this week. In fact, there are no changes to my Top 10 this week.
Here is my current Kentucky Derby Top 10:
1. Tiz the Law
2. Honor A.P.
3. Art Collector
5. Thousand Words
7. Dr Post
8. King Guillermo
9. Ny Traffic
10. Max Player
TERRIFIC KENTUCKY OAKS SHAPING UP
Who isn’t eagerly looking forward to a clash between Gamine and Swiss Skydiver in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4?
Gamine is expected to be favored in the 1 1/8-mile event. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the Kentucky-bred Into Mischief filly goes into the Kentucky Oaks off scintillating performances in the Grade I Acorn Stakes and Grade I Test Stakes. Gamine won the one-mile, one-turn Acorn by 18 3/4 lengths and recorded a lofty 110 Beyer Speed Figure. She then won the seven-furlong Test by seven lengths and posted a 108 Beyer.
I ranked Gamine’s Acorn victory as the best performance by a Thoroughbred in this country during the first half of 2020.
Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenny McPeek, reaffirmed that she is a special filly by winning Saratoga’s Grade I, 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes last Saturday, After opening a 6 1/2-length lead with a furlong left to go, she coasted home to a 3 1/2-length victory. The Kentucky-bred Daredevil filly was credited with a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
That Swiss Skydiver was able to win the Alabama with something left in the tank was important for her impending showdown with Gamine. That’s because of the extensive campaign Swiss Skydiver has had so far this year.
Beginning at Tampa Bay Downs in January, Swiss Skydiver has raced at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in February, Gulfstream Park in March, Oaklawn Park in May, Santa Anita in June, Keeneland in July and Saratoga in August. Now it’s on to a race at Churchill Downs in September.
Despite Swiss Skydiver having done so much racing and traveling already in 2020, she has won five of her last six starts. Her only loss during that sequence came when she finished second to Kentucky Derby contender Art Collector in the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes.
Though Swiss Skydiver has sufficient points to get into the Kentucky Derby, it was reported in last Sunday’s Saratoga notes that she will contest the Kentucky Oaks instead of the Derby. Some have expressed the opinion that Swiss Skydiver would be better off running in the Derby to avoid Gamine. But I believe opting for the Kentucky Oaks does make the most sense, largely due to Gamine being required to race around two turns in that race.
Gamine’s only close call to date came in a two-turn race on May 2 at Oaklawn Park when she finished first by just a neck in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race. (Gamine was disqualified from purse money in her May 2 race due to a medication violation.)
Two turns certainly is not an issue for Swiss Skydiver. Her last five races, in which she has recorded four wins and a second, have all been around two turns.
Similarly, two turns has been no problem for Tiz the Law. All four of his victories this year have come in races around two turns. He won this year’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes by three lengths, Grade I Florida Derby by 4 1/4 lengths, Grade I Belmont Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths and Grade I Travers Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths.
In my opinion, it’s better for Swiss Skydiver to face Gamine in the two-turn Kentucky Oaks than Tiz the Law and other males, such as Art Collector, in the two-turn Kentucky Derby.
By the way, I probably should be fitted for those jackets with the sleeves in the back to think Speech can beat both Gamine and Swiss Skydiver in the Kentucky Oaks. But I believe that just might happen.
Granted, Speech was no match for Swiss Skydiver in the Santa Anita Oaks on June 6. Speech finished second, four lengths behind Swiss Skydiver.
But what I find intriguing about Speech is I don’t think she likes Santa Anita’s main track very much. She has been defeated both times she has raced on that surface.
Get Speech away from Santa Anita and she seems to be a much better filly. When Speech raced at Oaklawn, she came close to defeating Gamine. In Speech’s next start, when she again competed somewhere other than at Santa Anita, she won Keeneland’s Grade I Ashland Stakes by three emphatic lengths.
I readily admit that Speech is facing a tall task to defeat both Gamine and Swiss Skydiver in the Kentucky Oaks. But I am perfectly willing to stick my neck out and pick Speech to win the Oaks because I think she is a big-time threat at what quite likely will be a very nice price in the betting.
$20 MILLION SAUDI CUP UPDATE
Gary West, co-owner of Maximum Security, late last year strongly criticized The Stronach Group after the announcement was made that the purse for the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park would be cut from $9 million to $3 million.
In a story written by Bob Ehalt that was posted Dec. 15 on the Bloodhorse website, West said he was “mystified, bewildered and upset” with the timing of the official announcement, coming just 41 days before the race.
“Cutting the purse to $3 million is an absolute game-changer,” West said. “I wasn’t thinking of the Saudi Cup, but why should I run for $3 million when I can run for $20 million four weeks later?”
Maximum Security did skip the Pegasus World Cup, then ran in and won the Saudi Cup.
The $1,662,000 winner’s share of the Pegasus World Cup purse long ago was paid to Mucho Gusto’s owner, HRH Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdulaziz. However, the $10 million winner’s share of the Saudi Cup still is being withheld nearly six months later.
As the BloodHorse reported on Aug. 10, The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) announced it would “award the prize money of horses placed second-10th in the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup,” but that the “prize money of $10 million will continue to be withheld from first-place finisher Maximum Security, who then was trained in the United States by Jason Servis, until the JCSA is able to satisfactorily complete its investigation and any inquiry. Servis has been indicted on federal charges related to performance-enhancing drugs and the JCSA would like to see further information from those legal proceedings before making a final decision.”
West responded publicly, calling the decision “unprecedented” and requesting further transparency into the JCSA’s investigation.
According to an Aug. 19 story by the Paulick Report, during a conversation with Nick Luck on his daily podcast Tuesday (Aug. 18), HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, described the process by which Maximum Security would be disqualified from his Saudi Cup victory.
“If the results [of the federal investigation into Jason Servis] come out where they have concrete evidence that Maximum Security received performance-enhancing drugs of any kind within the previous six months of the Saudi Cup, then by the race book and our own rules in the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, that is an automatic disqualification of a horse,” Prince Bandar said.
According to the Paulick Report story, Prince Bandar said he sympathized with the owners of Maximum Security, but also said the federal indictment, which was announced shortly after the Saudi Cup, “fueled objections from connections of horses finishing below Maximum Security,” which then caused the JCSA to launch its own investigation.
The U.S. federal investigation has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Prince Bandar said, according to the Paulick Report story. The JCSA is still awaiting its results [of the investigation] to be publicized before handing down the prize money to Maximum Security’s connections.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But do you think West is now second-guessing the decision to send Maximum Security to the Saudi Cup? And do you think West will ever be involved with sending a horse to the Saudi Cup in the future?
Meanwhile, 2020 Horse of the Year candidate Maximum Security was transferred to Baffert after the Saudi Cup. In the colt’s first start for Baffert, Maximum Security won Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap by a nose on July 25.
Maximum Security heads Saturday’s Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. The 1 1/4-mile has attracted a field of six.
In a bit of irony, after Maximum Security reportedly did not run in the Pegasus World Cup because its purse was reduced to $3 million, he is running in the Pacific Classic even though its purse has been sliced in half from $1 million to $500,000.
FOND MEMORIES FROM HALF A CENTURY AGO
On March 30, 1970, Secretariat was born in Virginia. Also that year, a postage stamp cost 6 cents. The average price of a gallon of gas was 36 cents. The Beatles broke up. Diana Ross and the Supremes performed their final concert in Las Vegas. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” debuted, as did “Monday Night Football.”
I look back on the summer of 1970 fondly. I was in high school. By that time, I had already become fanatical about horse racing in general and a horse by the name of Turbulator in particular.
It was 50 years ago this month that Turbulator, a horse whose owner had once unsuccessfully tried to swap for two cows, reached the pinnacle of his remarkable career.
As a youngster while on a farm in Montana, Turbulator suffered a serious knee injury. It seemed a longshot that he would ever be able to race. Consequently, Turbulator’s owner-breeder-trainer, Tom Crawford, a one-time used car salesman, tried to unload the damaged Thoroughbred.
“Once upon a time, the young son of Cold Command and Fur Piece was romping in a pasture,” the Seattle Times’ Bob Schwarzmann wrote of Turbulator in a recap of the gelding’s career after he was retired in 1974 at the age of 9. “Not paying attention, the frisky bay crashed into a sprinkler and severely cut a knee.
“A trade with a neighbor was suggested. Crawford was willing to swap one gimpy horse for two white-faced heifers. The neighbor countered with a straight-up deal, one bovine for one equine. Tom balked, negotiations broke off, and he was doomed to nursing a horse not worth a couple of cows.”
On Aug. 14, 1970, that very horse, Turbulator, broke the 6 1/2-furlong world record by two-fifths of a second when he won Longacres’ Governor’s Handicap at odds of 4-1 with regular rider Larry Pierce aboard.
Most people had expected Fleet Fair to win that race. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Fleet Fair had to pack top weight of 127 pounds, seven more than Turbulator. Fleet Fair went into the Governor’s Handicap having won six straight (three at Golden Gate Fields and three at Longacres).
The first part of Fleet Fair’s name certainly was an apt description of him. Consider the scorching early pace he set in the Governor’s. He clicked off fractions of :21 3/5 for the opening quarter and :43 4/5 for the half.
Turbulator, eighth early in the field of 10, was “forced to come extremely wide losing considerable ground” coming into the stretch, according to the official race chart. Approaching the eighth pole, Fleet Fair began to weaken, eventually finishing fourth.
Kid Cabin took the lead with a little more than a furlong remaining. He led by a half-length with a furlong to go, then opened up a clear advantage of about 1 1/2 lengths at the sixteenth pole. The six-furlong fraction was 1:07 3/5. To put that into perspective, the track record for six furlongs was 1:08 flat.
Turbulator roared down the stretch to run down Kid Cabin in the closing yards. Turbulator prevailed by a half-length. Richard Wright rode runner-up Kid Cabin.
Years later, I asked Wright what he remembered about the race in which Kid Cabin ran second when Turbulator broke a world record.
“At the sixteenth pole, I really thought I was going to win,” Wright said. “My horse had the lead and was running so strong. But then I heard the announcer say Turbulator’s name. When I heard that, I thought, ‘Oh oh.’ I looked over my right shoulder and could see Turbulator was smoking. Then I thought, ‘Where’s the wire?’ I couldn’t hold off Turbulator, but it took a world record to beat my horse. All these years later, I still can’t believe I didn’t win that race as good as Kid Cabin ran.”
After the race, Pierce was quoted as saying: “We had clear sailing and, when we moved, I had a lot of horse. I saw the inside was tight, so I went to the outside. But they took me wider than I wanted to go. At the eighth pole, I didn’t think we’d win. But at the sixteenth pole, I knew we’d win.”
This is from Daily Racing Form’s race recap: “In a world-record performance, John Farnsworth and Tom Crawford’s wonder horse, Turbulator, came charging from far back to capture the 30th running of the $10,920 Governor’s Handicap as he zipped the 6 1/2-furlong distance in 1:14 flat.
“A loud ovation by the 9,548 in attendance greeted Turbulator as he jogged back to the winner’s enclosure. In the post-race ceremonies, both Farnsworth and Crawford were on hand to accept the trophy. Jockey Larry Pierce also took part in the presentation.”
Two days after the race, Russell Brown wrote the following in the DRF in his column: “One never really knows where a good horse comes from, but Sunday he came from far back.
“In the 31st edition of the Governor’s Handicap, Farnsworth and Crawford’s Turbulator, seemingly out of contention, surged to the front in the final yards to capture the 6 1/2-furlong race and in the process etch his name in the world record book with a clocking of 1:14.
“Guided by leading rider Larry Pierce, Turbulator ranged up outside of horses on the turn and flashed down the lane to overhaul Kid Cabin and break the world record by two-fifths of a second. Unlike last year when he won seven straight races at Playfair, the son of Cold Command has had his ups and downs this season.
“Sunday’s victory clearly puts him in the driver’s seat as the handicap division girds for the most important race of the meet, the Longacres Mile, in two weeks.
Turbulator did not win Longacres Mile that year due to a bad break -- literally. What happened to him in that race was, of all things, a broken stirrup.
TURBULATOR: “THE BEST, BY FAR THE BEST”
In the Pacific Northwest, the one race that everyone covets is the Longacres Mile. Crawford was no different.
This year’s Longacres Mile will be run at Emerald Downs on Sept. 10.
The 1970 Longacres Mile was all but conceded to Turbulator after he had lowered the world record for 6 1/2 furlongs.
Racing secretary Steve O’Donnell assigned Southern California-based T.V. Commercial top weight of 125 pounds for the Longacres Mile that year, two pounds more than Turbulator.
T.V. Commercial, a 5-year-old like Turbulator, was coming off a win in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. As a 3-year-old, T.V. Commercial finished fourth behind Dancer’s Image, Forward Pass and Francie’s Hat in the Kentucky Derby. T.V. Commerical was awarded third money following the disqualification of Dancer’s Image for a medication violation.
O’Donnell discussed his Longacres Mile weights in Russell Brown’s DRF column on Aug. 26, four days before the race. At that time, it was known that T.V. Commercial would be staying in California. Without T.V. Commercial, O’Donnell -- like just about everyone -- felt that Turbulator pretty much had his prospective Longacres Mile foes at his mercy.
“Turbulator’s the best, by far the best,” O’Donnell said while noting that T.V. Commercial was not going to be shipped to Longacres. “Horses here can’t carry a candle to him. I hope we get some horses from California that would try him, make it some kind of contest. I couldn’t put more weight on him and be fair to him. But I sure think Turbulator is going to beat all the horses on the grounds.”
Thirteen started in the 1970 Longacres Mile. The lone California shipper was the Noble Threewitt-trained Traffic Beat, who was coming off a narrow loss when he finished second an allowance race on the grass at Del Mar.
Sent away as the 6-5 favorite, Turbulator finished fifth in the Longacres Mile. But the truth is he was fortunate to finish the race. It took a magnificent display of balance and athleticism on the part of Pierce just to stay on the horse all the way to the end.
At the start, Pierce’s left stirrup iron got caught on the starting gate and broke into several pieces.
“There was a new 14-stall starting gate,” Pierce told me years later. “It was very narrow between the stalls. When I came out of the gate, I could feel that my left foot was not in the stirrup. I just thought my foot had come out of it. I was kind of riding lopsided, a little off balance, but I wasn’t that worried about it right then. I was worried more about my position going to the first turn” in the bulky field of 13.
It was a relatively short run to the first turn in a one-mile race at Longacres.
“I wanted to get as good a position as I could,” Pierce continued, “and I figured I could put my foot back in the stirrup later. Just before we got to the first turn, I reached down to put my foot in the stirrup, and I realized there was no stirrup! My first thought was, ‘Don’t panic.’ But this was something that had never happened to me before.”
Going into the backstretch, Turbulator was ninth. That was when Pierce’s right foot came out of the stirrup.
“That scared me,” Pierce said. “But in a split second -- I don’t know whether it was fear or adrenalin -- I got back down in the saddle. I crawled my way back off his neck. As I came to the half-mile pole, I got my right foot in the stirrup.
“From about the five-eighths pole, he was running free. He was doing things on his own because I had just lost control of him. He made a move down the backstretch on his own. But then I got trapped on the inside [on the far turn]. The horse had gone through so much already, and now he’s trapped. I kept looking to get him to the outside, but he stayed trapped all the way to the end.”
Despite all that had happened to Turbulator after the start, he managed to improve his position from 10th to fifth in the final quarter of a mile. Even though his jockey rode with only one stirrup for the entire race, Turbulator defeated California invader Traffic Beat by a head.
“He gave me everything he had,” Pierce said. “I really believe that if I just been able to somehow get him to the outside, he still would’ve won.
“You know, there were so many ifs. He wins easy if the stirrup doesn’t break, if my foot doesn’t slip out of the right stirrup, if I don’t almost fall off him, if we’re not trapped -- if, if, if. And he still only got beat 2 1/2 lengths.”
Who won the 1970 Longacres Mile? It was Silver Double, who was a nice horse in his own right. Silver Double was good enough to win the Bay Meadows Handicap in 1971.
Turbulator and Silver Double met several times. The only race that Silver Double won whenever they met was the 1970 Longacres Mile when he benefitted from Turbulator’s broken stirrup.
It was an absolute crime that Turbulator did not win the 1970 Longacres Mile. After all, as O’Donnell said, Turbulator was “the best, by far the best” horse at Longacres in 1970.
THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 304 Vekoma (12)
2. 261 Tom’s d’Etat (3)
3. 252 Improbable (5)
4. 238 Maximum Security (5)
5. 222 Tiz the Law (12)
6. 212 Midnight Bisou
7. 112 Zulu Alpha
8. 106 Monomoy Girl (1)
9. 94 By My Standards
10. 38 Gamine
The most interesting thing to me in this week’s two NTRA polls is that the two outstanding 3-year-old fillies Gamine and Swiss Skydiver finished in a dead heat for fifth in the Top Three-Year-Old Poll.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 380 Tiz the Law (38)
2. 303 Art Collector
3. 262 Honor A.P.
4. 236 Authentic
5. 201 Gamine
5. 201 Swiss Skydiver
7. 122 Thousand Words
8. 86 King Guillermo
9. 77 Ny Traffic
10. 65 Caracaro