Sep 4, 2020 - Sports

Kentucky Derby gears up for its first run outside of May since 1945

The 2015 Kentucky Derby. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The 2015 Kentucky Derby. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 146th "Run for the Roses" is set for tomorrow (7:01pm ET, NBC), with Churchill Downs hosting 18 hopeful steeds — and zero fans.

The state of play: The Derby hasn't been run outside of May since 1945, and the last time it wasn't the opening Triple Crown race was all the way back in 1931.

  • Belmont Stakes: June 20 (Winner: Tiz the Law)
  • Kentucky Derby: Tomorrow
  • Preakness Stakes: Oct. 3.

The backdrop: "The most exciting two minutes in sports" tends to attract upwards of 150,000 fans each year — one of whom hasn't missed it since 1947 — but the pandemic will leave Churchill Downs rather empty.

  • To qualify, horses must be three years old and be among the top-20 points getters in the 35-race "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series.

Flashback: Secretariat set the Derby record (1:59.40) in 1973. Last year's winner, Country House, finished in 2:03.93, though he was only awarded the win after Maximum Security was retroactively disqualified for interference.

The field includes Tiz the Law (3-5) is a near-historic favorite, followed by Honor A.P. (5-1) and Authentic (8-1). Full field and odds.

  • Finnick the Fierce is the only horse to have ever beaten Tiz, finishing a spot ahead in last November's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Of note: Tiz the Law drew the 17th starting post — a position from which no horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby.

By the numbers: Four key predictive statistics help clarify this year's contenders.

  • 26 of the last 28 Derby winners had a closing speed of 38 seconds or less and a Brisnet speed figure of 96 or more in their final prep race.
  • Most past winners had a Dosage Index (the ratio of speed to stamina due to pedigree) of at least 3.00, and a pre-Derby layoff of no longer than six weeks.
  • Only three horses — Tiz the Law, South Bend and Max Player — check the box for all four of those stats.
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