2020 Kentucky Derby Preview: How To Bet, Where To Watch, And What To Wear

Posted By Martin Harris on September 2, 2020 - Last Updated on October 22, 2020

Everything has changed in 2020. It’s September and the MLB season is only a month old. We’re watching the NBAPlayoffs. NHL teams are currently vying for the Stanley Cup. And the Kentucky Derby will finally run this Saturday.

The 146th edition of the Kentucky Derby was one of many sporting events postponed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, the race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is scheduled for the first Saturday in May.

However, this year the most prestigious event in horse racing will be taking place Saturday, Sept. 5.

With nearly a 150-year history, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most storied sporting events in America. However, the pandemic and need for added safety protocols are forcing some changes to this year’s “Run for the Roses.”

Here is a preview of this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, including information about this year’s Triple Crown, a discussion of the 2020 Kentucky Derby field, and a look at some of the many revered Derby traditions.

2020 Kentucky Derby: The Triple Crown

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Typically, the Preakness Stakes runs two weeks later in Baltimore in mid-May.

Then comes the final leg, the Belmont Stakes in New York, which usually happens the first or second Saturday in June.

This year the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were both postponed, with the Preakness now scheduled for Oct. 3, 2020. However, the Belmont Stakes did run in June, albeit a couple of weeks later than usual, with Tiz the Law taking home the victory.

That means this year marks the first time since 1931 that the three Triple Crown races will be run out of their usual order. It’s also the first time the Belmont Stakes has run first.

The Triple Crown tests the racing ability of three-year-old thoroughbreds. For a horse to win all three races proves its greatness and guarantees its place in horse racing history. That feat has only been accomplished 13 times, most recently by American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

One reason that the Triple Crown is such a challenging test for horses is the fact that the races are of different lengths.

  • Kentucky Derby – 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs)
  • Preakness – 1 3/16 miles (9.5 furlongs)
  • Belmont Stakes – 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs)

This year, the Belmont Stakes was shortened to 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs), in part because training schedules had been interrupted in the spring. Both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness will keep their usual distances, which means the Kentucky Derby will actually be the longest of the three races this time.

2020 Kentucky Derby field

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the 2019 Kentucky Derby featured one of the most unusual and historic endings in the race’s long history.

You might recall Maximum Security finished the race as the winner, but jockeys of two other horses objected to the result. After a review, it was determined Maximum Security had veered into the path of another horse, both impeding that horse’s progress and in turn affecting others.

Officials disqualified Maximum Security, making second-place finisher Country House the winner.

While such drama is unlikely to happen again this year, the 2020 Kentucky Derby will no doubt be exciting. Thanks to the long wait, the anticipation is extremely high.

In fact, the two-and-a-half months between the Belmont and this year’s Kentucky Derby represents the longest layoff between Triple Crown races ever.

All eyes will be on Tiz the Law after the stallion topped a 10-horse field to win the Belmont Stakes.

Tiz the Law pulled away at the end, finishing nearly four lengths ahead of second-place Dr Post, with Max Player following in third.

Tiz the Law will be the favorite this Saturday, with 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg hoping to keep the Triple Crown dream alive. Tagg trained Funny Cide in 2003 who won both the Derby and Preakness but came up short in the Belmont, finishing third.

Post positions for the 2020 Kentucky Derby

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, a post position draw at Churchill Downs determined the 18-horse line-up for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Tiz the Law drew post 17. No Kentucky Derby winner has ever started from post 17, one of the outside posts.

That said, this year’s race will feature a single, 20-stall starting gate, instead of two separate ones, perhaps making being on the extreme outside less meaningful. In fact, as it turned out, all of the favorites happened to draw outside post positions.

This week, Finnick the Fierce and King Guillermo scratched, bringing the field down to 16.

Here is how the 16 horses will line up on Saturday, with latest odds:

  1. VACANT
  2. Max Player (30-1)
  3. Enforceable (30-1)
  4. Storm the Court (50-1)
  5. Major Fed (50-1)
  6. Money Moves (30-1)
  7. South Bend (50-1)
  8. Mr. Big News (50-1)
  9. Thousand Words (15-1)
  10. Necker Island (50-1)
  11. Sole Volante (30-1)
  12. Attachment Rate (50-1)
  13. Winning Impression (50-1)
  14. Ny Traffic (20-1)
  15. Honor A.P. (5-1)
  16. Tiz the Law (3-5)
  17. Authentic (8-1)

The race’s traditions

The Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race. It is an annual social event. Including the infield, there are usually close to 170,000 fans in attendance to watch the Derby every year, most of whom come dressed to the nines.

Churchill Downs had originally planned to allow a limited number of spectators to watch this year’s Kentucky Derby. Ultimately, that plan changed and there will be no spectators at this Saturday’s race.

There will no doubt be many virtual parties this year where spectators can still dress up and socialize, perhaps via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or by other means.

If you are planning to dress up for the Derby, bold is often best. The more colorful the better, with floral patterns and lots of pink and red often favored.

Many Derby fashionistas suggest simple elegance when it comes to choosing what to wear. That said, all are encouraged to be less reserved when it comes to the selection of a Derby hat. Wide brims and accessories like bows, ribbons, or other out-of-the-ordinary adornments come highly recommended.

Many who do will also be certain to enjoy the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep. If you want to make your own, get some bourbon, sugar, mint, and water and find a recipe online.

Other traditions surrounding the race itself will still be taking place as well, including:

  • The playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses move from the paddock to the starting gate
  • The “Riders Up!” command to jockeys
  • The draping of an elaborate garland of roses over the winning horse’s neck

How to bet on the Kentucky Derby in Michigan

Along with the Super Bowl and March Madness, the Kentucky Derby is one of the most wagered upon sporting events every year.

One reason why the Derby is so popular to bet on is the fact that many states allow residents to bet on horse racing over the internet, and Michigan is one of those states.

Online, licensed horse betting sites in Michigan accept advance deposit wagering on horse racing. TVG Horse Racing is a very popular site that serves Michigan bettors.

In addition to offering wagering, TVG also streams races and provides betting content and information. There is a website in addition to a mobile app.

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2020 Kentucky Derby betting types and tips

TVG allows a variety of betting types. Novice bettors probably want to stick with straightforward win, place, and show bets.

A win bet is on a horse to finish first (of course). Meanwhile, a place bet is on a horse to finish first or second, and a show bet is on a horse to finish first, second, or third.

Those with more experience with betting and handicapping might go for more exotic bets like the exacta (picking the top two finishers in order) or trifecta (picking the top three finishers in order). Obviously these wagers are riskier, but they also have bigger payouts.

Pay attention to the odds, of course, which are going to change all week right up until post time. That’s because unlike fixed-odds betting, horse racing uses pari-mutuel betting in which odds are determined by how much is bet on each horse.

If you want to do more than just pick a favorite or a horse whose name you like, you can look at past performances (by the horse, the jockey, and the trainer) to help you. You can also check experts’ picks to see which horses they are backing.

Where to watch the Derby

The NBC television network will broadcast the race on Saturday. It can also be viewed streaming on NBCSports.com or via the NBC Sports app.

Pre-race coverage starts at 2:30 p.m. ET. Post time is at 7:01 p.m. ET.

Martin Harris Avatar
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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. In 2019, his book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books.

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