Racing’s Biggest Week of the Year: Kentucky Derby and Oaks, plus Saratoga
By Noel Michaels, former DRF handicapper, online editor and OTB media personality and
Arlington racing analyst
Thoroughbred racing is entering its biggest week of the year as the calendar flips to
September. Saratoga is ramping up for the final week of the premier summer meet, just as
Kentucky Derby fever reaches its apex with the Run for the Roses scheduled for this Saturday,
Sept. 5, preceded by Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday, Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs.
The running of the 2020 Kentucky Derby is finally here. After a four-month delay from
the first Saturday in May, the race will still be run without spectators at Churchill Downs on
Saturday, Sept, 5 as the centerpiece of a stakes-filled card that is sure to be the biggest day of the
year so far in Thoroughbred racing. The Derby goes as the second jewel of the Coronavirus-
effected 2020 Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes is already in the books and the Preakness
Stakes, normally the middle jewel, will be the Triple Crown anchor leg on Oct. 3.
As a field of 17 three-year-olds prepares to go to the Kentucky Derby starting gate at 1 ¼
miles, all eyes will be on prohibitive favorite Tiz the Law, who has dominated all throughout the
season so far for trainer Barclay Tagg with jockey Manny Franco aboard. Not only has Tiz the
Law racked up a record of 6 wins in 7 career starts so far including multiple Grade 1 wins in
races such as the Travers, Florida Derby, and Champagne Stakes, but he’s also already won the
first leg of the out-of-order Triple Crown with his dominant 3 ¾-length win in the Belmont
Stakes. Therefore, instead of an entire field of Triple Crown aspirants in a traditional Kentucky
Derby, this year’s race will feature only one Triple Crown hopeful – Tiz the Law.
Can Tiz the Law remain perfect this year and deliver the goods as the favorite in the
Kentucky Derby, or will there be an upset? This Derby Day Saturday, I will have the answer!
Plus, even in a Derby with a prohibitive favorite, you can always find value in the exotics. I not
only have the winner, with my picks you will also get the exacta, trifecta, and even the
superfecta! Saturday’s selections will also include my three Churchill undercard best bets of the
You can get my 4-race Derby Day handicapping package, featuring the Kentucky
Derby winner, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta for only $20. Sign-up for a winning Derby Day
Additionally, the Derby isn’t the only feature coming out of Churchill Downs this week,
the running of Kentucky Oaks on Friday will also be an amazing race headlining an amazing
day of racing and wagering where the 3-year-old fillies take center stage. The Oaks will be a
fascinating showdown between the immensely talented Gamine and the Alabama Stakes, Santa
Anita Oaks and Gulfstream Oaks winner Swiss Skydiver. I will also have all the winning
exotics for the Oaks on Friday. Just like Saturday, Friday’s selections for Churchill Downs will
also feature releases on the day’s three best bet undercard races.
With so much going on at Churchill Downs, it would be easy to overlook what figures to
be a big closing week at Saratoga, with The Spa wrapping-up its tremendous 2020 season with
six final racing days from Wednesday through Labor Day Monday.
I am preparing for my best week of the season at Saratoga this week, and I am ready
to cash-in on the days ahead. First will come Saratoga Wednesday and Thursday bankroll
builders as you prepare for the Derby and Oaks, and then we will finish strong with Sunday and
Monday Labor Day power plays.
How do I win at Saratoga? It’s all about angles, and knowing what to bet and what to bet
against. Saratoga is a difficult meet for horseplayers to win at consistently, but any astute
handicapper can increase their win percentage by limiting their wagers only to select situations
that enjoy the best success.
Pay attention to some important distinctions, and you can win more money. For example,
Saratoga runs a ton of turf sprints, and there are a couple shortcuts to picking more turf sprint
winners at better prices. First, in terms of connections, bet the ones who win and bet against the
ones who lose. Linda Rice has been the unrivaled queen of those races, winning more than twice
the amount of any other trainer in those races. If Linda Rice is the queen, then the current king in
those races would have to be Christophe Clement, who annually wins with 20-25 percent of his
starters. Todd Pletcher , meanwhile, won’t make you any money in turf sprints, because he
rarely wins turf sprints at Saratoga or anywhere. Pletcher only enters his throw-away horses in
Post positions are also an indicator of potential turf sprint success. Don’t bet the rail in
Saratoga turf sprints, because those horses are just 2-for-50 (4%) this year. Instead of the inside,
bet the far outside posts, which are actually very good at Saratoga. Horses breaking from far
outside posts 9-12 in turf sprints this season have won a combined 5 of 32, for a 16% win
What other post position nuggets can bettors benefit from knowing this season at
Saratoga? Did you know the inside posts are dominating in dirt sprints this season? A total of
136 dirt sprints have been run at The Spa this year, and 124 of them have been won from posts one thru six.
Horses breaking from posts 8 and out almost never win, and are a combined 5-for-106 with 0
winners the last two weeks and 0 winners from posts 10 and out.
Finally, as the jockey battle to be leading rider at the 2020 Saratoga meet comes down to
the final week between Irad Ortiz and Jose Ortiz (with an outside chance for Joel Rosario),
here’s a look at how to bet Irad and Jose Ortiz the right way.
Irad Ortiz and Jose Ortiz are not created equal. At Saratoga this season, you can
differentiate when the best time is to bet their horses based on what surface the race is run on.
Irad is the best rider at the meet on the dirt with 27 wins from 110 mounts for 25%. Jose,
meanwhile, is great on the grass, where he has 29 winners from 116 mounts for 25% wins, which
is mind-boggling based on Saratoga field sizes in turf races.
Get my featured Saratoga selections for the final week of the meet, including
Wednesday and Thursday bankroll-builders, and Saratoga Sunday and Monday holiday
weekend power plays.
Get the best picks for the best week of the year in Thoroughbred racing! Best of luck!