Kentucky Derby 2021: Complete Odds and Early Favorites to Consider

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 23, 2021

Jockey Luis Saez rides Essential Quality to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile horse race at Keeneland Race Course, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Things are going to feel a bit more normal this time around at Churchill Downs when the 2021 Kentucky Derby takes place May 1. It's spring, for one, and there will also be some fans in attendance for the first race on the Triple Crown schedule.

Last year, the Kentucky Derby was postponed until September because of the coronavirus pandemic, and no spectators were allowed. It also wasn't the first Triple Crown race like usual, as the Belmont Stakes had still taken place in June.

So this year, the Run for the Roses will seem more like itself. And it's time to start looking at the odds and seeing which horses could be top Derby contenders.

Here are the latest odds, followed by a breakdown of some of the favorites.


Latest Odds

Essential Quality 9-4

Rock Your World 5-1

Highly Motivated 8-1

Hot Rod Charlie 10-1

Super Stock 12-1

Known Agenda 12-1

Bourbonic 14-1

Medina Spirit 16-1

Caddo River 16-1

Dynamic One 20-1

Helium 25-1

Like the King 25-1

Soup and Sandwich 25-1

Mandaloun 25-1

Midnight Bourbon 25-1

Dream Shake 25-1

Sainthood 33-1

O Besos 40-1

Get Her Number 40-1

Hidden Stash 40-1

Odds via Oddschecker.


Early Favorites to Consider

Since 1915, there have only been 30 horses enter the Kentucky Derby with undefeated records, per Mike Curry of America's Best Racing. Only nine of them went on to win the Run for the Roses, including two recent victors: Justify (2018) and Nyquist (2016).

Essential Quality (the early betting favorite at 9-4) could become the 10th undefeated Kentucky Derby champion in 2021. Trained by Brad H. Cox, Essential Quality has won each of his first five career races, including the Southwest Stakes in February and the Blue Grass Stakes in April.

Not only has Cox never won the Kentucky Derby, but he's also never had a horse he's trained enter the race despite being a two-time Kentucky Oaks winner. It's possible that Cox will have three horses in this year's Derby field, as Caddo River (16-1) and Mandaloun (25-1) could also be in the race.

Cox will be looking to make history, as no Louisville-born trainer has ever won the Kentucky Derby.

"Time for that to change," Cox said earlier in April, per John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader.

Longtime trainer Bob Baffert almost always has at least one horse to watch in the Kentucky Derby field, as he's won the race six times, including in two of the past three years (Justify in 2018 and Authentic in 2020). If Baffert wins the Derby this year, he will break a tie with Ben Jones for the most career victories by a trainer in the race's history.

Baffert will only have one horse in the Kentucky Derby this year, Medina Spirit (16-1), who has finished first or second in each of his first five career races. Medina Spirit is coming off a pair of second-placed finishes at the San Felipe Stakes in March and the Santa Anita Derby earlier in April.

Rock Your World (5-1) and Highly Motivated (8-1) could be the horses most likely to upset Essential Quality in the Derby, and each horse's trainer is looking to win the race for the first time.

John Sadler has never won the Kentucky Derby in four tries, with his most recent entrant being Candy Boy in 2013. He will look to win the race with Rock Your World, who is 3-0 in his career and most recently won the Santa Anita Derby.

Chad Brown is 0-for-5 at the Kentucky Derby, although he trained Good Magic, who finished second to Justify in 2018. He also trained the 2017 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing. He will look to win the Derby with Highly Motivated, who has finished no worse than third in five career races and placed second at the Blue Grass Stakes.

While it could be worth betting on some of these horses, it's hard to go against Essential Quality considering how strong he has looked ahead of the Derby. Anything is possible once the horses reach the gates at Churchill Downs, but as of now, Essential Quality is rightfully the early favorite to win.