Max Player is the perfect Kentucky Derby longshot 

Profile Picture: Nick Roush

September 3rd, 2020

The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby is Tiz the Law’s race to lose. The winner of the Belmont Stakes is the 3-5 favorite, Mike Battaglia’s biggest morning line favorite since Empire Maker in 2003. Manny Franco will try to become the first jockey to ride a Derby winner from the 17-post. That’s the only thing not going for Tiz the Law. Even so, there’s an opportunity for others to produce high prices by hitting the board. 

One horse you should include in all of your Derby exotics is Max Player. This horse has not won since February, but don’t be fooled, without Art Collector in the field he might be Tiz the Law’s toughest competition. 

Max Player continues to get faster

Max Player posted a 95 Brisnet speed figure in a Grade III Withers Stakes victory. He’s gotten faster in his last two starts, exceeding 100s in each, only to come in third to Tiz the Law in the Belmont and Travers Stakes. In each raise Max Player made an impressive run down the stretch, but there’s one problem: Joel Rosario took the horse too wide around the final turn. Instead of making up ground near the rail, Max Player was seven-wide in the middle of the track.

A new trainer should give Max Player new life

That all should change thanks to a change in rider and trainer. Max Player has been moved from Linda Rice’s barn to Steve Asmussen’s. Earlier this summer Asmussen surpassed Dale Romans as the winningest trainer in the history of Churchill Downs. Much of his recent success was in the hands of Ricardo Santana Jr., a combination you can rely on when regularly betting beneath the Twin Spires. 

In his first ride on Max Player, Santana will be racing out of the 2-hole. With a decent break, Max Player can sit back and let the outside favorites push the pace, until Santana is tasked to navigate through the 18-horse field near the rail.

The outside speed should benefit closers in the Kentucky Derby. Ny Traffic will try to set the pace just inside of Tiz the Law, Authentic and Honor A. P., all horses that thrive as frontrunners. If the pace gets too hot, Max Player is the perfect horse to clean up the mess. 

Max Player has phenomenal finishing speed

Kentucky Derby winners do not limp across the finish line. Over the last nine years Derby winners have finished their final three furlongs in 38 seconds or faster. Only five horses have finished that fast in a 2020 Derby prep race: Tiz the Law, Honor A.P., Enforceable, NY Traffic and Max Player.

Steve Asmussen is Churchill’s winningest trainer, but he’s never crossed the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby. Max Player may be the one to change that on the first Saturday in September.