2021 Kentucky Derby Preview

Updated: May 1st 6.43 PM EST

As we return to normalcy from the pandemic, the Run for the Roses also fortunately returns to its usual spot on the calendar–the first Saturday in May. Unlike last year, fans will be allowed but attendance will be capped at about 60% capacity. Overall, this is welcome news for the most exciting two-minutes spectacle in sports. I generally feel that this will be a good betting race and that it will live up to its billing by providing an exciting finish.

This will be “Must-See-TV” and NBC will once again televise the event. Coverage begins this Saturday at 12:30 p.m EST on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. EST on NBC.

Below is the starting field for the 147th Kentucky Derby with post-positions, morning line odds and jockey assignments. Note that all horses and their sires are hyperlinked to their Equibase profiles to facilitate personal handicapping.

2021 Kentucky Derby Starting Field


1) Known Agenda (6/1) – The Florida Derby winner. In the last 20 years, the Florida Derby has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners. He’s got a great trainer/jockey combination in Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz Jr.


Career: 6 Starts 3-1-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 5th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.45 – 2021 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 101 – 2021 Florida Derby

2) Like the King (50/1) – The Jeff Ruby Steaks winner. His last three starts have all come on an all-weather surface at Turfway Park.

Career: 6 Starts 3-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Palace Malice (Finished 12th in the 2013 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.22 – 2021 Jeff Ruby Steaks
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94- 2021 Jeff Ruby Steaks

3) Brooklyn Strong (50/1) – The Remsen Stakes winner where he produced a 107 Brisnet Speed Figure back in early December. That’s the best Brisnet Speed Figure that any horse has ever produced in this field. Brooklyn Strong disappointed in the Wood Memorial finishing fifth. But he was coming off a nearly four month layoff.

Career: 6 Starts 1-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->1st-->5th
Sire: Wicked Strong
Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.60 – 2020 Remsen Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 107 – 2020 Remsen Stakes

4) Keepmeinmind (50/1) – The Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner back in November of last year. His three-year-old campaign has been lackluster. He finished sixth in the Rebel Stakes and fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes

Career: 6 Starts 1-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->6th–>5th
Sire: Laoban
Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: David Cohen
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.06 (estimated) – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

5) Sainthood (50/1) – An inexperienced colt with just three career starts. He finished second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks race but he had an absolutely horrible trip (shown below). A deserved 50-1 morning line longshot but he has Corie Lanerie as his jockey, one of the best at Churchill Downs.

Career: 3 Starts 1-2-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Mshawish
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Corie Lanerie
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.38 (estimated) – 2021 Jeff Ruby Steaks
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 93 – 2021 Jeff Ruby Steaks

6) O Besos (20/1) – He finished 4th in the Risen Star Stakes and 3rd in the Louisiana Derby. He will be a longshot greater than 20/1 come post-time.

Career: 5 Starts 2-0-1-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->4th–>3rd
Sire: Orb (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Trainer: Gregory Foley
Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:51.59 (estimated) – 2021 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94 – 2021 Louisiana Derby

7) Mandaloun (15/1) – Trainer Brad Cox’s other entry in the Derby. Mandaloun won the Risen Star Stakes in February but had a disappointing sixth place finish in the Louisiana Derby.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>6th
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.39 – 2021 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 100 – 2021 Risen Star Stakes

8) Medina Spirit (15/1) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s lone entry in the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in January. He then followed up this winning effort with two disappointing second place finishes in the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. Baffert and Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby last year with Authentic. I don’t see it happening again this year with Medina Spirit.


Career: 5 Starts 2-3-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st-->2nd–>2nd
Sire: Protonico
Trainer: Bob Baffert (1997,1998, 2003, 2015, 2018 & 2020 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velazquez (2011, 2017 and 2020 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.85 (estimated) – 2021 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 99 – 2021 Santa Anita Derby

9) Hot Rod Charlie (8/1)  – The Louisiana Derby winner. He finished 2nd in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Essential Quality. He has a Kentucky Derby winning trainer (Doug O’Neill) and jockey (Flavian Prat).


Career: 7 Starts 2-1-2-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 2nd->3rd–>1st
Sire: Oxbow (Finished 6th in the 2013 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill (2012 & 2016 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Flavian Prat (2019 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 100 – 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

10) Midnight Bourbon (20/1) – The Lecomte Stakes winner. In 7 career starts, he has never finished out of the Trifecta. Plus he gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.


Career: 7 Starts 2-2-3-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Tiznow
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Mike Smith (2005 & 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.67 (estimated) – 2021 Risen Star Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2021 Risen Star Stakes

11) Dynamic One (20/1) – The runner-up in the Wood Memorial Stakes where he lost by a head to the 72-1 longshot Bourbonic.


Career: 5 Starts 1-2-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Union Rags (Finished 7th in the 2012 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer) .
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:55.51 (estimated) – 2021 Wood Memorial Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2020 Maiden Special Weight at Gulfstream Park

12) Helium (50/1) – The Tampa Bay Derby winner is undefeated in three career starts. He is sort of a wildcard since he hasn’t raced since March 6th. He will be well-rested and you got to feel like he has improved since his last start.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Ironicus 
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 93 – 2021 Tampa Bay Derby

13) Hidden Stash (50/1) – He finished fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes and ten lengths behind the winner. His best finish was a second-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (shown below). He is a very deserving 50-1 longshot.


Career: 7 Starts 2-1-2-2 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd->2nd–>4th
Sire: Constitution
Trainer: Victoria Oliver
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.10 (estimated) – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 93 – 2021 Tampa Bay Derby

14) Essential Quality (2/1) – The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes winner and the consensus Kentucky Derby favorite. He’s undefeated in five career starts. However, he will be trying to become the first Blue Grass Stakes winner to win the Derby since Strike the Gold in 1991. He will be ridden by jockey Luis Saez who had his 2019 Kentucky Derby victory taken away from him by race stewards riding Maximum Security.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0  Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Tapit (Finished 9th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.50 – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes

15) Rock Your World (5/1) – The Santa Anita Derby winner. He is undefeated in three career starts. He will try to do what Justify did in 2018, win the Kentucky Derby without any prep races as a 2-year-old.

Career: 3 Starts 3-0-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Candy Ride
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario (2013 Kentucky Derby Winner)
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.17 – 2021 Santa Anita Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2021 Santa Anita Derby

16) King Fury (SCRATCHED) – The Lexington Stakes winner in the mud. File that away in case we get an off-track on Saturday. He has never raced further than 8 1/2 furlongs (1 & 1/16th mile),

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 7th->5th–>1st
Sire: Curlin (Finished 3rd in the 2007 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: N/A
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 95 – 2021 Lexington Stakes

17) Highly Motivated (10/1) – Although this colt finished second in his last two starts, he had produced three consecutive 102 Brisnet Speed Figures. He is consistent. So this is definitely a horse to include in your exotic bets.

Career: 5 Starts 2-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>2nd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:48.54 (estimated) – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 102 – 2021 Blue Grass Stakes

18) Super Stock (30/1) – The surprise Arkansas Derby winner defeating the race favorite in the Baffert-trained Concert Tour. Super Stock is trained by Steve Asmussen and owned by Asmussen’s father Keith. They were happy to get this colt in the Derby field. Although I wouldn’t place any win bets on him, the Arkansas Derby usually produces good Derby runners. So consider him in your exotic bets.

Career: 8 Starts 2-2-2-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 2nd–>4th–>1st
Sire: Dialed In (Finished 8th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:50.92 – 2021 Arkansas Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 97 – 2021 Arkansas Derby

19) Soup and Sandwich (30/1) – The Mark Casse-trained colt finished second in the Florida Derby. He is inexperienced with just three career starts. That worked for Justify in 2018 but rarely ever did before.


Career: 3 Starts 2-0-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>2nd
Sire: Into Mischief
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gafflione
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:49.88 (estimated) – 2021 Florida Derby
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 98 – 2021 Florida Derby

20) Bourbonic (30/1) – The 72-1 longshot won the Wood Memorial Stakes winner. He’s a closer and they always have a fighting chance in the Derby if the opening fractions are fast. I like him in my Superfectas.

Career: 6 Starts 3-1-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Bernardini
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2010 & 2017 Kentucky Derby Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche
Fastest 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:54.49 – 2021 Wood Memorial Stakes
Career Best Brisnet Speed Figure: 94 – 2021 Wood Memorial Stakes

Who’s my Derby Favorite?

I think this race comes down to three contenders: Essential Quality, Known Agenda and Rock Your World. I was a bit surprised that Essential Quality was given 2/1 odds. I think 3/1 would be more appropriate. Although Essential Quality is my Derby favorite, he is no slam dunk. Why? Although he won the Eclipse Trainer of the Year award in 2020, Brad Cox (Essential Quality’s trainer) has never won the Kentucky Derby. In fact, he is fielding his first two Kentucky Derby runners in Essential Quality and Mandaloun. You kind of feel that you have to lose one before you win one. But maybe the Racing Gods will smile on Cox.

Also, very few Blue Grass Stakes runners have won the Kentucky Derby. Only four have found the Winner’s Circle. The last was Street Sense in 2007 who finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes. The only Blue Grass Stakes winner that went on to win the Derby was Strike the Gold in 1991.

My second favorite is the Florida Derby winner Known Agenda. The Florida Derby has produced the most Kentucky Derby winners the past twenty years. I like his trainer/jockey combo. I also love the way he dealt with traffic coming out onto the stretch in that Florida Derby. This is something that I have concerns about with Rock Your World, my third favorite.

Rock Your World got off to a great start in the Santa Anita Derby and had no traffic to deal with. He pretty much wired the Santa Anita Derby field. He is fast but I doubt that he will get that good of a trip in the 20 horse field of the Derby. Also, he is inexperienced with just three careers starts and did not run as a 2-year-old. That worked for Justify in 2018 but never did during the whole 20th Century. In case you have forgotten, before Justify, the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having run as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882.

Derby Sleeper?

I think the best two longshots in this field are O Besos and Sainthood. However, it will take a near-miracle and perfect setup for either to pull off the huge upset. As of Friday, It appears that we won’t be getting any rain so that hurts their chances. Wet races often produce wild results. Consequently, I won’t be making any bets on either to win. You may want to include one or both in some of your Superfecta bets.

Betting Strategies

My biggest bet will probably be a combination bet on three horses to win (Essential Quality, Known Agenda and Rock Your World) scaling the bets according to their live odds to meet a projected average payout for any of the three that win.

Right now at 6:43 PM EST, the live odds for the above three are Essential Quality 3/1, Rock Your World 9/2 and Known Agenda 10/1. If these hold I will make the following bets with $100 using Rock Your World as my cover bet. The expected payout for each bet:

For odds Essential Quality (3/1), Rock Your World (9/2) and Known Agenda (10/1)

$61 on Essential Quality – expected payout = $248.00

$19 on Rock Your World – expected payout = $104.50

$20 on Known Agenda – expected payout = $220.00

In either scenario, I double my money or nearly double it if Essential Quality or Known Agenda win and come out a little ahead if Rock Your World surprises and finishes 1st. But these live odds will change clear up until post time so you will have to wait to get a clearer picture.

I placed a 50 cent Trifecta: 1,14,15 over 1,14,15,17 over 1,9,14,15,17 that cost $13.50

I also placed a $5 Exacta 1,14 over 1,14,17 that costs $20

I think I am going to steer clear of Superfecta bets as Churchill Downs doesn’t have 10 cent Supers this year. You have to bet at least $1 for a Superfecta bet.

I will update this blog clear up until post-time in case there are any scratches or weather changes.


10 comments

  1. Hi Michael,
    Great post. What about your last 3/8 under 38 angle? Last 7 that crossed first, forgetting 2020, were in that group.
    Thx,
    Greek

    Like

  2. Greek, I compiled that data. Essential Quality produced the top time: 36.34 in the last 3 furlongs in the Blue Grass Stakes. Highly Motivated would be second at roughly. 36.38. Third would be Known Agenda at 36.76. The Louisiana Derby was 1 3/16th mile this year but scaling it to 1 1/8th, Hot Rod Charlie would be under 38 seconds. Mandaloun got under 38 seconds in the Risen Star and Like the King did as well in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Sainthood would have won that race and got under 38 seconds if he didn’t get hemmed in coming onto the stretch.

    Like

    • Great, thx. I figured RYW wasn’t in it. Concerning he didn’t roll at the end but didn’t necessarily need to. It was fast at the front.
      Need to be part of early pace here. I agree he may have an issue if not. Surprised like u that EQ is such an early big fav.
      Leaning towards speed at this pt. RYW against recent final prep history.
      Everything I’m looking at tells me the winner is one of four- EQ, RYW, HM and HRC. Go figure. I do like KA with a different draw, even with Irad.
      Early long shots to fill out are Helium and Sainthood.

      Like

  3. Rock Your World coasted home for the win in the Santa Anita Derby. If he had any pressure, he would have gotten below 38 seconds I am sure. Don’t underestimate Known Agenda. The #1 post is not a bad draw anymore with the new gate so long as you can get out of the gate well. With Irad onboard, I see no problems.

    Like

  4. RYW was 38.5 but race was very fast early.

    True the 1 post isn’t the problem it once was. I do like KA and Irad is always aggressive. Just a bit hesitant. He should have good odds.

    Like

  5. Hard to predict MS from recent form. In the mix but certainly not winning. Impressive.
    Never doubt Silver Charm and the needle.

    Like

  6. Yep, Baffert practically conceded the Derby before the race. This win didn’t fit conventional Derby handicapping. So many things were working against Medina Spirit. An April birthday, he didn’t win his last prep race, he didn’t eclipse 38 seconds in the last 3 furlongs of that last prep race (38.89). In fact, he was beaten soundly in his last two prep races, by 8 lengths in the San Felipe and by 4 1/2 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby. Also Medina Spirit was Florida-bred. There have only been six Derby winners who were Florida-bred before Medina Spirit. What are you going to do when a horse defies the odds and takes a huge unexpected step up in performance? There is nothing you can do but accept the loss and move on.

    Like

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