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Kentucky Derby draw: Tiz the Law is the odds-on favorite; Art Collector is out

Tiz the Law, with jockey Manny Franco, wins the Belmont Stakes on June 20.
Tiz the Law, with jockey Manny Franco, wins the Belmont Stakes on June 20.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Tiz the Law became the first Kentucky Derby entry since 1989 to be installed as a less-than-even-money favorite at 3-5 after Tuesday’s post-position draw at Churchill Downs. But, the odds swing the other way when considering he drew the No. 17 post, the only gate that has never produced a winner in the race.

The lack of a winner from that post is little more than a statistical oddity. The big advantage that Tiz the Law, the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner, received was when Art Collector, the presumptive second favorite, scratched Tuesday morning after suffering a minor injury that will keep him out until the Preakness on Oct. 3. Art Collector had won the Blue Grass Stakes and Ellis Park Derby in his last two races.

Trainer Tommy Drury said Art Collector nicked the bulb of his left front heel with a hind hoof while he was going through his morning gallop on Monday.

“It was still very sensitive [Tuesday] morning,” Drury said. “… 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%.”

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Was it a major step or yet another in a long line of attempts by racing to fix its problems only to have it evaporate into the ether?

Tiz the Law was the last horse to be given a post in the random draw.

“I like being on the outside,” said Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law’s 82-year-old trainer. “I didn’t particularly want to be out that far but he seems to handle everything that’s thrown at him, so 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.”

The best horses all drew on the very outside of the 18-horse race. Second favorite Honor A.P. (5-1) is in the No. 16 post and Authentic (8-1) is in the No. 18. Morning-line maker Mike Battaglia put 14 of the horses at odds of 20-1 or higher, eight at 50-1.

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John Shirreffs checked in with his jockey, Mike Smith, about Santa Anita-based Honor A.P.’s post.

“I just talked to Mike and he’s happy with it,” Shirreffs said. “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 trains both Authentic and Thousand Words (15-1 in the No. 10 post), wasn’t overly concerned about the draw.

Horse racing took what it called a ‘major step’ in unifying equine safety standards by forming the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.

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“Not ideal for Authentic, but I’m OK with it,” Baffert said by text. “He’s out of harm’s way. Just glad to be in the gate.”

This is the first year that Churchill Downs will have a continuous 20-stall starting gate. Previously, there was a main gate of 14 spots and an auxiliary gate of six with a gap in between. The new gate makes the No. 1 post a much more forgiving spot, as it isn’t squeezed against the rail. The new location of the 1 is where the 3 post used to be.

In the end, in a 1 1/4 -mile race with a long run to the first turn, starting position is not as big a factor as it is in some races.

Tagg isn’t concerned about the lack of a winner from the 17 post.

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“I just put those kind of things out of my mind,” Tagg said. “There are a lot of horses who didn’t win the Derby, so frankly I’m not that worried about it.”

Among the nearly 2,000 horses who didn’t win the Derby was Easy Goer, the 3-5 morning-line choice in 1989. He finished second.


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