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Sole Volante’s Chances in the 2020 Kentucky Derby May be Better Than You Think

| September 2, 2020 11:23 am PDT
Sole Volante’s Chances in the 2020 Kentucky Derby May be Better Than You Think

What can you say about a horse that began his professional career as a birthday gift from a doting father? Not an awful lot, unless you’re talking about Sole Volante, the three-year-old colt standing at #16 in the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoreboard standings.

He may have the connections and he may the ambition—but does he really have what it takes to best 19 or more top runners in one of the most popular horse races in the world, The Kentucky Derby?

Let’s see why that might happen.

Sole Volante’s Trainer

Longtime trainer Patrick L. Biancone took his first Triple Crown hopeful—Lion Heart—to the Kentucky Derby in 2004. Lion Heart came in second to Smarty Jones. Even as far back as 1989, Biancone had the ambition and skill to coach a horse into the Belmont Stakes—Le Voyageur, who finished third.

Biancone has trained thoroughbreds not only in the United States, but also throughout Europe, the Middle East, and even Hong Kong, although there have been controversies in several of those locations concerning the use of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs).

In 2007, his training license was suspended in Kentucky for six months, a move that effectively banned him from all race tracks in North America during that period because of reciprocity.

So, why is Biancone among Sole Volante’s connections? Because 22-year-old Andie Biancone, his daughter, owns the three-year-old KD hopeful and is listed as her father’s assistant trainer. And Sole Volante? He was actually purchased by Patrick Biancone for $20,000 as a birthday present for his daughter.

Sole Volante’s Jockey

Luca Panici rode Sole Volante in the Belmont Stakes—and finished a poor sixth place. But he also rode Sole Volante to his first RTKD win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. In June–wedged between those two extremes–Panici rode Sole Volante to a non-RTKD allowance race win at Gulfstream Park wedged in there somewhere.

Panici is respected in the Gulf Coast and Southern horse racing circles, even though he’s newer to the jockey profession than many of his peers. He ranked in the top 100 jockeys in 2018 and 2017 for both earnings and wins. Is he too inexperienced for the Kentucky Derby? Well, he’s 2 for 3 in the wins department aboard Sole Volante. Maybe we should let them work it out.

Sole Volante’s Recent Form

Sole Volante started on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a decided bang: a win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, ahead of then-KD hopefuls Independence Hall and Ajaweed.

After pocketing those ten RTKD points, he went on in March to a second-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, losing to King Guillermo, who at the time wasn’t even on the Triple Crown nomination list, although his owner, MLB legend Victor Martinez, remedied that quickly enough.

After that score, his connections decided to run him in a Gulfstream Park allowance race, perhaps to build up his confidence–and the result was another win for Sole Volante, although no RTKD score accrued.

Ten days after that allowance win at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, Sole Volante and Panici found themselves in Elmont, New York for the Belmont Stakes. The competition was brutal, and Sole Volante managed only a sixth-place finish.

In the end, Sole Volante finished with 30 RTKD points in his pocket, and the Number 16 slot on the 2020 RTKD leaderboard.

So, You’re Saying Sole Volante’s Got a Chance…

Maybe entering that allowance race so close to his run at the Belmont Stakes was a mistake, and maybe it had a bad effect on Sole Volante’s performance there. Maybe not.

But this thoroughbred has proven—as has his jockey—that he can win serious races against professional horses. So 50-1 odds from the early handicappers doesn’t appear to bother him. And it doesn’t appear to concern his connections, either.

J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

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