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Post Positions, Morning Line Odds Set For Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • The Kentucky Derby is traditionally run on the first Saturday in May.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled to September 5.
  • The ‘Virtual Kentucky Derby’ will be broadcast on NBC on May 2, 2020 starting at 3 PM.

More details on the Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown event that will air in the time slot originally slated for the actual ‘Run for the Roses’. NBC will broadcast a three hour block on Saturday with special features including a replay of American Pharoah’s 2015 Kentucky Derby victory which would end up being the first leg of his run to the Triple Crown. The main event will be a virtual race called the Triple Crown Showdown. Here’s the blurb explaining it from the press release announcing the event:

In addition, the NBC broadcast will highlight Churchill Downs’ first ever virtual horse race—The Kentucky Derby: Triple Crown Showdown, a computer-simulated version of a race under the historic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. The virtual race, created by Inspired Entertainment, will feature the 13 past Triple Crown winners and use data algorithms including historical handicapping information about each horse, which helps to determine the probability of their potential finishing positions.

Yesterday I released my opening odds on the race and will be posting a couple of revisions later today. Today, the virtual ‘post positions’ for the race were announced and the ‘official’ morning line odds released by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. It sounds like Inspired Entertainment is really bringing their ‘A Game’ to the simulation. They’re even simulating the performance tendencies of each Triple Crown winners’ jockey. There was one problem–Eddie Arcaro is the only jockey in history to ride two Triple Crown winners (Whirlaway and Citation). In the real world, he would have to decide which mount to take. In the virtual simulation ecosystem that’s not an issue as Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers explains:

“Fortunately, this is a virtual fantasy race and therefore we have been able to clone Eddie Arcaro. Eddie Arcaro in our fantasy race does not have to make the difficult decision of which Triple Crown winner he’s going to ride. He’ll be riding both. He’s that good.”

Horse racing geeks know which mount Arcaro would have taken. The Hall of Fame jockey commented to a CBS reporter after Whirlaway won the 1941 Derby that “Citation could carry the both of us and still beat Whirlaway.” Rogers also gave a simplified explanation of how the outcome of the Triple Crown Showdown will be determined:

“Each of the Triple Crown horses is assigned what we’re calling a win probability. That data is fed into Inspired Entertainment’s computer models. Those with a higher probability value are not necessarily going to win the race, but they’ll have more chances of doing so. The result is very much like the NBA Draft. It’s a weighted lottery system.”

In fact, the Inspired Entertainment simulation of the 2020 Grand National in England was won by 18-1 wagering choice Potter’s Corner. I’ll post the replay of that event at the bottom of this page so you can get a feel for the level of detail we’re talking about here.


Post positions were established by random draw. Here’s how they’ll line up as reported by Churchill Downs along with each horse’s Triple Crown winning year, jockey and trainer along with morning line odds:

The complete field from the rail out (with Triple Crown-winning year, jockey, trainer and morning line odds): #1 Affirmed (1978, Steve Cauthen, Laz Barrera, 5-1); #2 Assault (1946, Warren Mehrtens, Max Hirsch, 20-1); #3 Secretariat (1973, Ron Turcotte, Lucien Lauren, 7-2); #4 Sir Barton (1919, Johnny Loftus, Guy Bedwell, 20-1); #5 Seattle Slew (1977, Jean Cruguet, Billy Turner Jr., 5-1); #6 American Phraoah (2015, Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, 6-1); #7 Gallant Fox (1930, Earl Sande, “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons, 20-1); #8 Citation (1948, Eddie Arcaro, Ben Jones, 4-1); #9 War Admiral (1937, Charlie Kurtsinger, George Conway, 8-1); #10 Whirlaway (1941, Eddie Arcaro, Ben Jones, 4-1); #11 Count Fleet (1943, Johnny Longden, Don Cameron, 6-1); #12 Justify (2018, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, 15-1); and #13 Omaha (1935, Willie “Smokey” Saunders, “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons, 20-1).

To make things easier, here are Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds converted to moneyline format:


Secretariat                            +350
Citation                               +400
Affirmed                               +500
Seattle Slew                           +500
American Pharoah                       +600
Count Fleet                            +600
Whirlaway                              +600
War Admiral                            +800
Justify                                +1500
Omaha                                  +2000
Gallant Fox                            +2000
Assault                                +2000
Sir Barton                             +2000

Battaglia made the comment that he didn’t have the heart to put a price higher than 20-1 on a Triple Crown winner.

BetOnline.ag also has Triple Crown Showdown odds posted as follows. These odds are interesting not only because they’re actually bettable but due to some significant discrepancies between Battaglia’s odds (and for that matter my odds).


Secretariat                            +200
American Pharoah                       +550
Affirmed                               +800
Citation                               +800
Seattle Slew                           +800
Count Fleet                            +1200
Justify                                +1200
War Admiral                            +1200
Whirlaway                              +1200
Omaha                                  +2500
Assault                                +3300
Gallant Fox                            +3300
Sir Barton                             +3300


The BOL prices have Secretariat a shorter priced favorite and American Pharoah as the second choice. This makes the next tier of horses very attractive. Affirmed, Citation and Seattle Slew are all +800 but are +500, +400 and +500 respectively in Battaglia’s line. Count Fleet and Whirlaway are +1200 at BOL but both +600 in Battaglia’s line.

Stay tuned for my revised numbers later today.



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