Horses That Can Win the Kentucky Derby 2021
We are less than three weeks away from the running of the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby. If you feel like you just watched Authentic romp home to stun favorite Tiz the Law at a price of 8/1, you are not alone. Like many sporting events, and things in everyday life, COVID forced the committee to move the “Run for the Roses” from May to the beginning of September. At that point in the season, we had seen enough from the full field to understand what we were getting in terms of sheer ability. As the Derby moves back into its original and most famous slot – the first weekend in May, the jury is going to be out on the majority of these three-year-olds because we’ve only seen them run sparingly to date. As of writing this, there are still 27 horses listed on the futures board. However, as you know, only 20 horses get drawn in.
I’ve taken the time to break down a few of the key contenders in this race – horses that can win the Kentucky Derby -- and as we move closer towards race weekend, I’ll be delivering all the Kentucky Derby content you can consume.
Essential Quality +250
Coming into this year’s edition of the Kentucky Derby, I believe that Essential Quality is the horse to beat, and the oddsmakers agree with me. He’s listed as a pedestrian +250, but I see those odds dropping closer to even money as we get closer to race day. Essential Quality is a gray colt by Tapit out of Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality. He is bred and owned by Godolphin for HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai. He is trained by Brad Cox and is regularly ridden by Luis Saez.
Essential Quality was named champion two-year-old last season, and he is currently undefeated as he’s won five races from five starts. His wins are impressive in the sense that four of them have come in high-quality stakes races such as the Claiborne Breeders Futurity, the TVG Breeders Cup Juvenile, the Southwest Stakes and most recently the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3. In that race, he went off as the 1-2 favorite and stalked the leader in the two path until the 1/16 pole, before unleashing a final surge to win by half a length. It was more work than it should have been against a field that was below his talent level. However, the fact that he grinded out a win while keeping some effort in reserve goes to show you the talent this horse has.
Known Agenda +600, Rock Your World +650
It’s tough to understand what kind of horse you have until you get into the Derby and you see him run either well, poorly, or a race that was full of excuses. Known Agenda, for whatever reason, is sitting second on the futures board with a price of +600. He’s a two-time winner over three starts, but his most impressive and most important win was the Florida Derby back on March 27. In that race, Known Agenda went off at 5-1, with newly added blinkers, and rode the rail in mid-pack for the majority of the race before making his move off the rail and into the three-path at the quarter pole and pulling away to win by two-and-a-half lengths. The victory gave trainer Todd Pletcher his sixth win in the Florida Derby and added to the record-setting win total (138) of Irad Ortiz Jr. at Gulfstream Park. Known Agenda is owned by St. Elias Stable and is a chestnut colt.
The other contender in this race would be Rock Your World. This is a Dark Bay colt that’s owned by Hronis Racing LLC and Talla Racing LLC and is trained by John W. Sadler and ridden regularly by Umberto Rispoli. This horse enters the Derby via the “win and in you’re in” path as he took down the RUNHAPPY at Santa Anita Derby. In that race, Rock Your World went off at 5/1 and led wire-to-wire for a four-length win. That win kept his undefeated record intact (three wins from three starts, two Stakes wins) and gives him momentum heading into the first weekend in May. He’s an impressive horse with a quick turn of foot, but the lack of a big-name trainer or jockey will likely keep people away from backing this horse.
The Long shot
Highly Motivated +1400
It may not be the sexiest pick, or the boldest take to predict a +1400 horse to do well in the Kentucky Derby (sixth favorite), but this horse is going to be overlooked for a number of reasons. To that, I say, is foolishness. For starters, Highly Motivated is a Bay Colt that is owned by Klaravich Stables and is trained by Chad C. Brown. He is ridden by Javier Castellano and is going to make some noise in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Highly Motivated has hit the board in each of his five starts – two wins, two runner ups and a third. He won the Nyquist Stakes in November and then finished third in the Gotham, before running second to Essential Quality by half a length in the Blue Grass Stakes. There is definitely room for improvement for Highly Motivated, but that’s the thing with the Derby – a horse wants to peak in the Derby, not before it. Highly Motivated can handle the distance well thanks to his breeding, and he’s got a quick turn of foot if it comes down to a sprint to the wire.
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