Once upon a time, not all that long ago, there was a Kentucky Derby in which bettors believed a handful of horses were clearly superior to the rest.

Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex, Bandini, and Greeley’s Galaxy entered the 2005 Kentucky Derby off blowout wins in major prep races. All started at less than 7-1 under the Twin Spires. But three of the four finished off the board as Giacomo (50-1) and Closing Argument (71-1) swept a stunning exacta that returned $9,814.80 for $2. The $2 trifecta paid $133,134.80, and the $1 superfecta yielded $864,253.50.

The point is, there are no certainties in horse racing. Yes, #17 Tiz the Law (3-5) and #16 Honor A. P. (5-1) are formidable favorites in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. No one will be surprised if they run 1-2 at short prices. But what if we get a repeat of 2005, with the favorites faltering to finish out of the exacta?

Should such a scenario unfold, the payoffs could be astronomical. Beyond the two favorites, the Derby is wide-open with a bevy of evenly-matched contenders to consider. So if you want to play a handful of contrary tickets opposing the favorites—just in case madness unfolds—why not play a trifecta using Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. for third place only, with longshots in the top two slots?

It shouldn’t be too hard to find the right price horses. Unheralded speed horses rarely factor in the Kentucky Derby; to the contrary, the majority of longshots finishing on the board in recent years have been deep-closing types who stayed out of trouble and passed tired rivals down the stretch. An extremely fast pace contributed to the unprecedented results of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, and a similarly destructive pace is arguably the only hope for a surprising outcome in 2020.

So let’s toss from consideration all the speed horses, logical or otherwise, and favor late runners instead. #2 Max Player (30-1) is an obvious choice after finishing third behind Tiz the Law in both the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1). #3 Enforceable (30-1) and #12 Sole Volante (30-1) are also intriguing—they won Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races during the winter, but will start at solid prices after faltering in their most recent runs.

#5 Major Fed (50-1), #8 South Bend (50-1), #11 Necker Island (50-1), #13 Attachment Rate (50-1), and #14 Winning Impression (50-1) are harder to endorse, but all five placed in Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races this year, and all have the right running style to pick up the pieces late. Even #9 Mr. Big News (50-1) is worth a look, considering he capitalized on a fast pace to win the Oaklawn S. during the spring.

So if you want to bet outside the box in search of a potentially life-changing payoff, here are some tickets to get you started:

  • $1 Trifecta: 2,3,12 with 2,3,5,8,9,11,12,13,14 with 16,17 ($48)
  • $1 Trifecta: 2,3,5,8,9,11,12,13,14 with 2,3,12 with 16,17 ($48)

Good luck!