Kentucky Derby 2021: Early Look at Favorites in the Field and Latest Vegas Odds

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2021

John Velazquez rides Authentic as they lead the pack into turn one in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The 2021 Triple Crown action will open May 1, with the traditional first jewel, the Kentucky Derby. The race was moved to September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight months later, the pandemic isn't over, but the Derby will have more semblance of normalcy this time around. (And possibly some snow.) Churchill Downs had previously announced the number of reserved seats would be limited to 40 percent to 50 percent capacity, going up to 60% in "certain private areas that allow for social distancing."

On Wednesday, however, a limited number of infield-only general admission tickets went on sale, limited to about 25 to 30 percent of infield capacity.

Thus, the Derby won't be the spectacle it usually is in 2021, but we're a long way from the way things were in September, when no fans were allowed at one the biggest events in horse racing. 

Ahead of the race on Saturday, let's take a look at the presumptive favorites heading into the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. 


Kentucky Derby Latest Odds

Essential Quality 9/4

Rock Your World 5/1

Highly Motivated 8/1

Hot Rod Charlie 9/1

Super Stock 11/1

Known Agenda 12/1

Bourbonic 14/1

Medina Spirit 16/1

Caddo River 16/1

Dynamic One 20/1

Helium 22/1

Like the King 22/1

Soup and Sandwich 25/1

Mandaloun 25/1

Midnight Bourbon 25/1

Dream Shake 25/1

Sainthood 25/1

Hidden Stash 40/1

Odds via Oddschecker


Kentucky Derby Favorites

Kevin Kerstein @HorseRacingKK

Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality galloping in the snow-draped background of @ChurchillDowns. #KyDerby https://t.co/jTvBnTafDK

In the races on the road to the Kentucky Derby, Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality has racked up more points than any other horse, with 140. The gray colt, who is owned by Godolphin for HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, has been the clear front-runner in early odds and the latest odds ahead of the Derby. 

Essential Quality's perfect win record precedes him, most recently winning the 2021 Southwest Stakes after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Breeders' Futurity and at his Churchill Downs debut in September 2020.

Those races ranged from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles, and the three-year-old will now attempt 1 1/4 miles. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is looking for his first Kentucky Derby win. 

Essential Quality's biggest competition just may be Hot Rod Charlie, who was the early second-favorite in the odds.

The three-year-old earned 100 of his 110 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby by winning the Louisiana Derby on March 20 by two lengths, and also finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Hot Rod Charlie and trainer Doug O'Neill may be the power duo that steals Essential Quality's thunder. According to John Mucciolo of TwinSpires.com, the dark bay colt recently had blinkers installed and is performing well as a result. 

Hot Rod Charlie "is in very good hands with multiple Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner Doug O'Neill, and he could be rounding up to a peak performance at Churchill Downs on May 1," wrote Mucciolo. 

Medina Spirit and Rock Your World were tied for third place in the early odds, though they are much lower on the points leaderboard than Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie.

Medina Spirit doesn't have impeccable breeding, but the three-year-old has nevertheless shown he has what it takes to compete in the run-up to the Derby, winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and finishing second in the Sham Stakes, San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Rock Your World just came off the biggest race of his young life, with a 4 1/4-length win in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby that was good for 100 points. It was also his dirt debut, showing that he can handle the two most important elements of Churchill Downs: a 1 1/4 mile dirt track.