The field is starting to narrow for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday May 1. We won’t have a full crowd on hand for the festivities, but fancy hats will be back in the stands at Churchill Downs for the first leg of the 2021 Triple Crown.
Because the field is not fully set, we’ll be focusing more on the top contenders to win the race and will have another update for you as things get closer. Three big prep races went in the books on April 3, as the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita thinned the field a little bit more for the Run for the Roses.
The top three-year-olds in the world will be in the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May and it will be a great site to see after how weird last year’s September Kentucky Derby felt.
Favorites to Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby
Odds are going to be all over the place for the big race, but we have an idea of who the top contenders are going to be.
Essential Quality (around 3.5/1) – The Brad Cox horse is a member of Godolphin Stables, so we’ve got a pretty good starting point here. Another good starting point? How about $2.21 million in winnings on the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit. Let’s put it this way. Essential Quality already has his own Wikipedia page. We can’t say that about any other horse expected to be in the field.
The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile also won the Blue Grass Stakes to make the son of Tapit one of the clear frontrunners for the prize on May 1.
Concert Tour (around 3.5/1) – Concert Tour won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn back on March 13. The son of Street Sense has the big duo of trainer Bob Baffert and rider Joel Rosario. Like Essential Quality, who is 5-0 in his career, Concert Tour is undefeated in three runs, including the San Vicente Stakes back in February.
This might be the best price we get because Concert Tour is entered in the Arkansas Derby on April 10. Another win there and he could be the consensus favorite in advance of the post draw.
Rock Your World (around 6.5/1) – Rock Your World was the winner of the Santa Anita Derby over Medina Spirit, Dream Shake, and Defunded. It was a commanding 4 1/4 length win as well at just over 5/1. Medina Spirit was the clear favorite and was second-best, but no match for the John Sadler-trained horse.
We’ll see how Rock Your World does leaving Santa Anita. Wins in a maiden, the Pasadena Stakes, and the Santa Anita Derby have been impressive, but those are the only three starts and a long trip to Kentucky is on the horizon.
Hot Rod Charlie (around 8/1) – Hot Rod Charlie seems like a great name for something with a lot of horsepower. The Louisiana Derby winner trained by Doug O’Neill is maybe the most raced of the three-year-olds. The runner-up to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile needed that Louisiana Derby win to get a first stakes race win. It also took Hot Rod Charlie four tries and a track switch from Del Mar to Santa Anita to get a win.
Running third to Medina Spirit in the Robert B. Lewis makes me wonder how Medina Spirit is not priced more like this.
Highly Motivated (around 10/1) – The son of Into Mischief is a Chad Brown colt that just ran second to Essential Quality in the Blue Grass. A game effort running third in the Gotham Stakes and a second in the Blue Grass seem to give the perception that this horse is starting to get a bit stronger as his third year of life moves forward. Sometimes horses just make a big leap from two to three and maybe Highly Motivated is building towards something special.
Bourbonic (around 12/1) – Did everybody just have Bourbonic wrong? The Todd Pletcher colt sired by Bernardini just won the Wood Memorial at better than 70/1. The bloodline for this horse is pretty good, but the stakes debut performance seemed to come out of nowhere at Aqueduct. In fact, the big push from Bourbonic came from nowhere, as the horse was two lengths behind the last-place horse going into the final turn to win by half a nose.
That huge speed ball with a very timid run has certainly altered the odds for this horse.
Medina Spirit (around 16/1) – Medina Spirit, led by the team of Bob Baffert and John Velazquez, is at +1600. Medina Spirit was the favorite of the Santa Anita Derby and fell short against Rock Your World, but has not finished worse than second in a race yet and has run four stakes races. This might be the most experienced in strong fields of the Derby hopefuls and one to very much consider as we go forward.