Breaking down the field of the 2021 Kentucky Derby: Favorites, odds, more

Kentucky Derby Essential Quality
Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality trains at Churchill Downs.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Just a little bit more of that fleeting normalcy returns on Saturday with the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs in Louisville — one of the benchmark moments every year that truly ushers in spring and the figurative well-deserved warm blanket that comes with it after a dreary winter.

The 1 1/4 miles race is run on dirt and features a field of 20 horses; the very best in their field of three-year-olds ready to take that first potential step toward immortality. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racing’s famed Triple Crown, which will be completed in the coming months at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, MD, and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, NY.

Whether you’re a casual spectator or an avid bettor, here is an introductory course on the field of 20 horses that will be contending for the Kentucky Derby.

Scouting the 2021 Kentucky Derby field

Post 1- Known Agenda (6-1)

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher
  • Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $541,700

A horse that likes to run mid-pack, Known Agenda is the leading point earner representing Pletcher. However, concerns arose following a fifth-place finish back in February at the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Pletcher has since put blinders on Known Agenda, which has improved the horse’s chances but will face some difficulties starting on the rail.

 

Post 2- Like the King (50-1)

  • Trainer: Wesley Ward
  • Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $200,680

Like the King is normally a pace-setting horse, but how he fares on dirt surfaces is a mystery. His last three races have come on Turfway’s Tapeta synthetic surface. With only two races on dirt, Like the King has a second-place and third-place finish.

 

Post 3- Brooklyn Strong (50-1)

  • Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
  • Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
  • Bred In: New York
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $225,000

Brooklyn Strong’s crew consists of Kentucky Derby debutants as this will be the first time Daniel Velazquez and Umberto Rispoli will be taking part in the first leg of the Triple Crown. This is a stalking horse, meaning he likes to sit just behind the leader where they’ll remain until the final stretch before making its move. New York hasn’t had a Derby winner since Funny Cide in 2003.

 

Post 4- Keepmeinmind (50-1)

  • Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
  • Jockey: David Cohen
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 1
  • Earnings: $424,987

It’s been a difficult year for Keepmeinmind, finishing off the board in each of his two starts this year. It’s worth noting he had the fastest workout last week, going four furlongs in 46.2 seconds to continue a perceived affinity to the track at Churchill Downs. This is a closer, so you’ll likely see him make a move toward the final stretch.

 

Post 5- Sainthood (50-1)

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher
  • Jockey: Corey Lanerie
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 3
  • Wins: 1
  • Earnings: $91,900

Sainthood just began racing this year after going unraced as a two-year-old. He is expected to be a stalker.

 

Post 6- O Besos (20-1)

  • Trainer: Gregory Foley
  • Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $172,624

Fairer conditions will be the hope for O Besos at Churchill Downs. His first career race came there on Nov. 22 and he finished sixth in sloppy conditions. This is another closer who impressed with back-to-back victories at Fair Grounds over the winter.

 

Post 7- Mandaloun (15-1)

  • Trainer: Brad Cox
  • Jockey: Florent Geroux
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $361,252

Mandaloun is one of the horses on the periphery of contending to keep an eye on. This is a stalker that should be close to the front of the pack this weekend. He won his only other appearance at Churchill Downs back in November but is coming off a sixth-place finish at the Louisiana Derby last month.

 

Post 8- Medina Spirit (15-1)

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert
  • Jockey: John Velazquez
  • Bred In: Florida
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $315,200

It’s been a busy 2021 for Medina Spirit, but it’s been a successful one with one win and three seconds in four starts. This is a horse that has never finished below second in five career races and is expected to be near the front of the pack for a majority of the Kentucky Derby.

 

Post 9- Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)

  • Trainer: Doug O’Neill
  • Jockey: Flavien Prat
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 7
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $1,005,700

Hot Rod Charlie only boasts two wins in seven starts, but he’s been hot as of late, which puts him up as one of the favorites at the Kentucky Derby. He finished second at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November and third at the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in Santa Anita in January before winning the Louisiana Derby on March 20. This is usually a horse that spends a majority race mid-pack, but at Louisiana, he went right toward the front and stayed there.

 

Post 10- Midnight Bourbon (20-1)

  • Trainer: Steven Asmussen
  • Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 7
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $461,420

Midnight Bourbon has never finished beneath third-place in his career, most recently finishing second behind Hot Rod Charlie at the Louisiana Derby. A horse that likes to be on or close to the lead, he boasts a win this year at the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, which came at Fair Grounds.

 

Post 11- Dynamic One (20-1)

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher
  • Jockey: Jose Ortiz
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 1
  • Earnings: $194,120

After taking his first career win at Aqueduct on March 7, Dynamic One caught the attention of many when finishing second at the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 3, also at Aqueduct. This stalker put up a strong workout at Churchill Downs last week, ranking second of 108.

 

Post 12- Helium (50-1)

  • Trainer: Mark Casse
  • Jockey: Julien Leparoux
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 3
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $287,763

Helium is one of the least-favored horses to win the Kentucky Derby, but he hasn’t lost a race yet in his career, most recently winning the South Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) on March 6. This is another stalker that should start near the front and could make a bit of noise if you’re willing to take the risk.

 

Post 13- Hidden Stash (50-1)

  • Trainer: Victoria Oliver
  • Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 7
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $231,062

Hidden Stash’s last three runs have come in graded races, finishing third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February, second behind Helium in the South Tampa Bay Derby, and fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 3. The closer hasn’t won a race since November, but it was at Churchill Downs.

 

Post 14- Essential Quality (2-1)

  • Trainer: Brad Cox
  • Jockey: Luis Saez
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 5
  • Earnings: $2,254,144

The overwhelming favorite, Essential Quality has not lost, with four of those wins coming in graded races: the Breeders’ Futurity, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Southwest Stakes, and Blue Grass Stakes. He is generally not a strong starter with only decent speed out of the gates but is a burner when it counts the most. That includes coming from nine lengths back to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. However, he was off the pace when winning the Blue Grass. An adaptive and versatile horse, Essential Quality has the makings of a true star.

 

Post 15- Rock Your World (5-1)

  • Trainer: John Sadler
  • Jockey: Joel Rosario
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 3
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $546,600

Rock Your World is also undefeated and the second-favorite behind Essential Quality. All three have come at Santa Anita this year, including the Pasadena Stakes in February and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. You’ll see him at or near the front out of the gates — it just depends on if he’ll be able to hold onto the pace for the 10 furlongs.

 

Post 16- King Fury (20-1)

  • Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
  • Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $262,739

King Fury’s trainer, Kenneth McPeek, admitted that he probably won’t get into the Derby after winning the Lexington Stakes back on April 10. But a number of defections got him into the field of 20 and a date with the great unknown. This is a closer who has never raced more than 1 1/16 miles, which does not bode well.

 

Post 17- Highly Motivated (10-1)

  • Trainer: Chad Brown
  • Jockey: Javier Castellano
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 5
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $320,050

Highly Motivated showed off a new style at the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3. More of a stalker throughout his career, he was right at the front of the pack on his way to a second-place finish behind Essential Quality. One could see a similar, aggressive style from Javier Castellano this weekend as Highly Motivated looks to upset the favorite.

 

Post 18- Super Stock (30-1)

  • Trainer: Steven Asmussen
  • Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 8
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $804,752

Super Stock enters Derby weekend on a high after winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 10. It was his first win since the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity in August.

 

Post 19- Soup and Sandwich (30-1)

  • Trainer: Mark Casse
  • Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
  • Bred In: Florida
  • Starts: 3
  • Wins: 2
  • Earnings: $203,875

Another horse that didn’t begin racing until 2021, Soup and Sandwich won his first two career races at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay before finishing second in the Florida Derby. He’s fast out of the gates and should set a quick early pace.

 

Post 20- Bourbonic (30-1)

  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher
  • Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche
  • Bred In: Kentucky
  • Starts: 6
  • Wins: 3
  • Earnings: $465,880

A pair of strong showings at Aqueduct put Bourbonic over the top and into the Kentucky Derby field, especially a first-place finish at the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 3. However, he is a serious longshot and should spend most of the afternoon at the back of the pack.

 

This first appeared on AMNY.com

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