Kentucky Derby 2021: Complete Odds and Analysis for Top Contenders

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 24, 2021

Kentucky Derby 2021: Complete Odds and Analysis for Top Contenders

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Each year, the Kentucky Derby is scheduled to take place on the first Saturday in May.

    That wasn't the case in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic caused the Run for the Roses to be postponed until September. That also meant the Derby was the second race on the Triple Crown schedule, as the Belmont Stakes still occurred in June.

    In 2021, the Kentucky Derby is back to its typical date, with the race set to be held May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. One horse will emerge victorious and then look to become the 14th horse to capture the Triple Crown by also winning the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

    The field has yet to be finalized, but it's beginning to take shape. And it's clear which horses should be among the favorites to win the marquee event.

    Here's a look at the latest odds, followed by a breakdown of the top contenders.

Latest Odds

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Essential Quality 9-4

    Rock Your World 5-1

    Highly Motivated 8-1

    Hot Rod Charlie 10-1

    Super Stock 12-1

    Known Agenda 14-1

    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

    Sainthood 33-1

    O Besos 40-1

    Get Her Number 40-1

    Hidden Stash 40-1

    King Fury 40-1

    Odds via Oddschecker.

Essential Quality (9-4)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Essential Quality will have an opportunity to join an illustrious group at Churchill Downs, as he will be looking to become the 10th undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby since 1915. The Brad H. Cox-trained horse has won each of his first five career races, including the Southwest Stakes in February and the Blue Grass Stakes earlier in April.

    Cox is also looking to make history, as there has never been a Louisville-born trainer to win the Kentucky Derby. He's never had a horse enter the Derby, but this year, he could have three horses in the field, as Mandaloun and Caddo River are also expected to be involved.

    "We're staying pretty busy—can't sit around, think about what may happen," Cox said, per Carolyn Greer of Horse Racing Nation. "We're just trying to execute and prepare and train each day, and we're pretty busy right now. So I'm not nervous yet."

    While all three of Cox's horses could be Derby contenders, Essential Quality is the clear favorite. Plus, the colt has already been victorious at Churchill Downs, with his first career win coming at the course in September. While he will be facing tougher competition this time, that experience could still be beneficial.

Rock Your World (5-1)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Essential Quality isn't the only undefeated horse set to be in the Kentucky Derby field. Rock Your World will also enter the race with an unblemished career record, having won each of his first three races, including the Pasadena Stakes in February and the Santa Anita Derby earlier in April.

    Trained by John Sadler, Rock Your World may be the horse most likely to take down Essential Quality in the Derby. While Sadler has never won the Run for the Roses, he's previously entered four horses in the race and has had past success at Churchill Downs, winning the 2018 Breeders' Cup Classic with Accelerate.

    Sadler's most recent Kentucky Derby appearance came in 2014, when he entered Candy Boy, who is Rock Your World's sire. Candy Boy finished 13th in that race, which was won by California Chrome.

    Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World had only raced on grass. By winning that race in impressive fashion (by a 1 ¾-length advantage), he proved he could be one of the horses to watch in this year's Kentucky Derby.

Highly Motivated (8-1)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Chad Brown has had plenty of success as a trainer. He won the 2017 Preakness Stakes with Cloud Computing and then led Good Magic to a second-place finish in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. However, Brown has never won the Derby in five tries.

    This year, Brown will be looking to capture his first Kentucky Derby win with Highly Motivated, who has finished third or better in each of his first five career races. Highly Motivated's most recent win came at the Nyquist Stakes in November, and he finished second to Essential Quality at the Blue Grass Stakes.

    "I think it gives him a good shot in the Derby," Brown said, per Ron Flatter of Horse Racing Nation. "I'd say he'd be one of the main contenders."

    Essential Quality and Highly Motivated were the clear top two horses in the Blue Grass Stakes, and the former only won by a neck. It's quite possible that roles could be reversed in the Derby.