Kentucky Derby 2021: A Look at the Likely Contenders

Chris Adams

Saturday, May 1, 2021 will mark the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby and a return to its traditional date, the first Saturday in May, after moving to September in 2020 due to the pandemic.

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious races in American racing and by far the most recognizable to the casual horse fan. It comprises a massive field of 20 up-and-coming stars of the game who had to earn their right to enter the race.

The winner has the chance to attempt the grueling road to the Triple Crown, last won by Justify in 2018 which requires a horse to win the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.

$200 New Player Bonus

50% up to $250

How Did the Horses Get Here?

In 2013 thoroughbred racing made a massive overhaul to how horses would qualify for the race to improve the quality of the event and make the process more digestible for the fans of the race. The Road to the Kentucky Derby series was born. This series is a collection of the most prestigious graded stakes races for 2 and 3-year-olds with each race awarding Derby points to the top 4 finishers.

Following the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes in early April, the 20 three-year-olds with the most points get into the race. If one of the top horses does not choose to run or withdraws from the race, the next horse on the list draws in.

Who Are the Runners?

The following list contains 25 horses in order of their Derby points. If all horses accept the invitation to the Derby, horses listed 21-25 would need a defection in order to draw in.

At the writing of this piece, all Derby preps are concluded and points are final.

  • Runners are listed in order of Derby points earned.
  • Odds are listed in parenthesis as a ratio and are based on the closing odds of Derby future wager pool #5 until Wednesday, April 28th when the morning line odds will be released.
    • Horse’s odds listed with an * were not specifically included in the future Derby wager and were offered up as a general “All other 3-year-olds” option in the future wager
  • Some jockeys may be listed multiple times and will have to choose a horse to ride in the Derby. This choice can often provide clarity in which of their mounts they believe has the best chance to win.

Top Contenders for the Kentucky Derby (100+ Derby Points)

Since the introduction of the point system in 2013, no horse has crossed the wire first after earning less than 100 derby points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Essential Quality (4-1)

  • Trainer: B. Cox
  • Jockey: L. Saez
  • Derby Points: 140
  • Profile: Essential Quality is easy to pick out because of his gray color and likely to be the favorite when the gates open for the Kentucky Derby. He is 5 for 5 lifetime.

Hot Rod Charlie (12-1)

  • Trainer: D. O’Neill
  • Jockey: J. Rosario
  • Derby Points: 110
  • Profile: Hot Rod Charlie pulled a major upset in the Louisiana Derby against East Coast horses. Rosario has the highest earnings of any jockey in the country.

Super Stock (5-1*)

  • Trainer: S. Asmussen
  • Jockey: R. Santana
  • Derby Points: 109
  • Profile: Super Stock pulled a huge upset in the Arkansas Derby to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby. This colt could be getting good at the right time.

Like the King (5-1*)

  • Trainer: W. Ward
  • Jockey: D. Van Dyke
  • Derby Points: 104
  • Profile: Like the King comes out of a victory in the Jeff Ruby which is typically not a productive prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Known Agenda (5-1*)

  • Trainer: T. Pletcher
  • Jockey: I. Ortiz
  • Derby Points: 102
  • Profile: Known Agenda won the Florida Derby in his final prep before the Kentucky Derby. Irad Ortiz has more wins than any other jockey in the nation.

Rock Your World (31-1)

  • Trainer: J. Sadler
  • Jockey: U. Rispoli
  • Derby Points: 100
  • Profile: Rock Your World won his dirt debut impressively upsetting Medina Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby.

Bourbonic (5-1*)

  • Trainer: T. Pletcher
  • Jockey: K. Carmouche
  • Derby Points: 100
  • Profile: Bourbonic shocked the Wood Memorial field winning at 72-1. The Wood has typically been a weak prep for the Kentucky Derby

The Rest of the Kentucky Derby Field

The following horses have earned enough points to get into the Derby, but have not eclipsed 100 Kentucky Derby Points.

Medina Spirit (13-1)

  • Trainer: B. Baffert
  • Jockey: J. Velazquez
  • Derby Points: 74
  • Profile: Medina Spirit is trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Velazquez who has won the Kentucky Derby 3 times. The horse has struggled to beat Derby caliber horses in his preps, but is always in the money.

Concert Tour (5-1)

  • Trainer: B. Baffert
  • Jockey: J. Rosario
  • Derby Points: 70
  • Profile: Concert Tour looks to be Baffert’s strongest contender this year after Life is Good defected. Baffert put Concert Tour on the same prep path as American Pharoah but lost the Arkansas Derby which typically hasn’t been a good sign for the Kentucky Derby.

Midnight Bourbon (27-1)

  • Trainer: S. Asmussen
  • Jockey: J. Talamo
  • Derby Points: 66
  • Profile: Midnight Bourbon finished a well-beaten 2nd to Concert Tour in the Louisiana Derby.

Weyburn (35-1)

  • Trainer: J. Jerkens
  • Jockey: T. McCarthy
  • Derby Points: 60
  • Profile: Weyburn pulled a thrilling upset in the Gotham and ran decent in the Wood, but comes from the New York prep series which hasn’t fared well in the Kentucky Derby recently. The Connections have indicated that they may skip the Derby and head to the Belmont Stakes.

Mandaloun (36-1)

  • Trainer: B. Cox
  • Jockey: F. Geroux
  • Derby Points: 52
  • Profile: Mandaloun was a highly touted runner that hasn’t really lived up to the hype since breaking his maiden.

Caddo River (33-1)

  • Trainer: B. Cox
  • Jockey: F. Geroux
  • Derby Points: 50
  • Profile: Caddo River was the winner of the Smarty Jones, but has since struggled to beat Derby caliber horses. His early speed does always leave him close in the final stages. Early indications are that this horse may skip the Derby and train up to the Preakness.

Highly Motivated (25-1)

  • Trainer: C. Brown
  • Jockey: J. Castellano
  • Derby Points: 50
  • Profile: Highly Motivated just missed upsetting Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes. He has been steadily improving with each start for one of the nation’s best trainers.

Helium (28-1)

  • Trainer: M. Casse
  • Jockey: J. Ferrar
  • Derby Points: 50
  • Profile: Helium won the Tampa Bay Derby. Typically Tampa form doesn’t translate well to other venues.

Panadol (5-1*)

  • Trainer: S. Gahadyer
  • Jockey: M. Barzalona
  • Derby Points: 40
  • Profile: Panadol may end up as the only foreign invader after finishing 2nd in the UAE Derby. Imports have not yet been major players in the Kentucky Derby.

Soup and Sandwich (5-1*)

  • Trainer: M. Casse
  • Jockey: J. Velazquez
  • Derby Points: 40
  • Profile: Soup and Sandwich was 2nd in the Florida Derby behind Greatest Honor, now off the Kentucky Derby Trail. He is likely to get a jockey downgrade for the Derby.

Dynamic One (5-1*)

  • Trainer: T. Pletcher
  • Jockey: J. Ortiz
  • Derby Points: 40
  • Profile: Dynamic One was 2nd in the Wood behind longshot Bourbonic. This is another horse coming out of the New York prep series.

Crowded Trade (38-1)

  • Trainer: C. Brown
  • Jockey: E. Cancel
  • Derby Points: 40
  • Profile: Crowded Trade is another New York prepper. His trainer has suggested he might skip the Kentucky Derby and look to the Preakness.

Sainthood (5-1*)

  • Trainer: T. Pletcher
  • Jockey: G. Corrales
  • Derby Points: 40
  • Profile: Sainthood was second in the Jeff Ruby and would need to make significant improvements to factor in the Kentucky Derby.

Also Eligibles for the Kentucky Derby

The following horses failed to reach the top in the Derby standings, but many factors could draw them into the race such as an injury to one of the contenders or connections choosing not to run in the Derby.

Proxy (51-1)

  • Trainer: M. Stidham
  • Jockey: J. Velazquez
  • Derby Points: 36
  • Profile: Proxy was seen as a major threat on a lot of early Kentucky Derby boards, but has yet to beat Derby quality horses and finished a disappointing 4th in the Lexington.

Rombauer (5-1*)

  • Trainer: M. McCarthy
  • Jockey: F. Geroux
  • Derby Points: 34
  • Profile: Rombauer always seems to be a “wise guy” horse but has failed to get a true signature win in the preps for the Kentucky Derby. Connections have indicated the horse may pass on an invite to the Derby and instead point to the Preakness.

Hidden Stash (53-1)

  • Trainer: V. Oliver
  • Jockey: R. Bejerano
  • Derby Points: 32
  • Profile: Hidden Stash has yet to win a stakes race and would need to get a lot better to compete.

Dream Shake (45-1)

  • Trainer: P. Eurton
  • Jockey: F. Prat
  • Derby Points: 30
  • Profile: Dream Shake has always been in the 2nd tier of California horses finishing behind many of the horses closer to the top of the leaderboard.

O Besos (50-1)

  • Trainer: G. Foley
  • Jockey: M. Pedroza
  • Derby Points: 25
  • Profile: O Besos ran a surprising 3rd in the Louisiana Derby, but has a run style that doesn’t fare particularly well in recent editions of the Kentucky Derby.

Betting News will be providing more Derby-related content in the weeks leading up to the “Run for the Roses.” Check back for updates on handicapping angles, expert selections, and updates on all the potential runners to make the most out of your 2021 Derby experience.

More Articles You Might like

Latest on Betting News