Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders: Lineup and Pedigree for All Entries in the Field

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2021

Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders: Lineup and Pedigree for All Entries in the Field

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Kentucky Derby is back. If it felt like the race sneaked up on you, that's because the 147th Run for the Roses comes just eight months after the 2020 edition, which was delayed until September because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The horse-racing world is back on track this year, returning the Kentucky Derby to its traditional date. And on Saturday, a lineup of some of the best thoroughbreds in the world will look to make history and earn the first jewel in the Triple Crown.

    Here's a look at the 20 horses that are likely to race at Churchill Downs. According to Horse Racing Nation, there are no alternates left, so the field can only get smaller if another horse pulls out. The following slides show the contenders in the order they are ranked on the Derby's official website as of Monday morning. Pedigree information is courtesy of Horse Racing Nation.

Top Contenders

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    1. Essential Quality (pedigree Tapit and Delightful Quality)

    2. Hot Rod Charlie (pedigree Oxbow and Indian Miss)

    3. Super Stock (pedigree Dialed In and Super Girlie)

    4. Like the King (pedigree Palace Malice and Like A Queen)

    5. Known Agenda (pedigree Curlin and Byrama)

    6. Rock Your World (pedigree Candy Ride and Charm the Maker)

    7. Bourbonic (pedigree Bernardini and Dancing Afleet)

    Essential Quality is heading into the Kentucky Derby as the horse to beat this year. The three-year-old colt is undefeated in five starts, including wins this year at the Blue Grass Stakes (Grade II) in April and the Southwest Stakes (Grade III) in February.

    Trainer Brad H. Cox, who is looking to become the first Louisville-born-trainer to win the Derby, per CBS Sports, was happy with Essential Quality's weekend workout in preparation for the Run for the Roses.

    "Really good move, wasn't looking to do a whole lot," he said, per BloodHorse's Christine Oser and Byron King. "... I instructed the rider after the five-eighths to reel him back in; he did. The rider did a fantastic job. [Essential Quality] cooled out great."

    Hot Rod Charlie has the second-most points heading into the Kentucky Derby. He's finished first in two of seven career races, including the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) on March 20. Another horse to keep an eye on here is Rock Your World. Trained by John W. Sadler, Rock Your World is undefeated in three starts, including a win at the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

Middle of the Pack

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    8. Medina Spirit (pedigree Protonico and Mongolian Changa)

    9. Midnight Bourbon (pedigree Tiznow and Catch The Moon)

    10. Mandaloun (pedigree Into Mischief and Brooch)

    11. Highly Motivated (pedigree Into Mischief and Strong Incentive)

    12. Helium (pedigree Ironicus and Thundering Emilia)

    13. Soup and Sandwich (pedigree Into Mischief and Super Scoop)

    14. Dynamic One (pedigree Union Rags and Beat the Drum)

    Medina Spirit is eighth in the points rankings but had a good showing at the Santa Anita Derby, finishing second to Rock Your World. In fact, Medina Spirit has never finished worse than second and is trained by Bob Baffert, who has had six horses win the Kentucky Derby, including Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify.

    You'll notice some strong bloodlines in this group. Mandaloun, Highly Motivated and Soup and Sandwich are the progeny of Into Mischief, so it will be family affair at Churchill Downs. Mandaloun, along with Essential Quality, is one of the two horses Cox is hoping will deliver him a win at his hometown track.

In the Running

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    15. Sainthood (pedigree Mshawish and Lemon Hero)

    16. Hidden Stash (pedigree Constitution and Making Mark Money)

    17. O Besos (pedigree Orb and Snuggs and Kisses)

    18. King Fury (pedigree Curlin and Taris)

    19. Keepmeinmind (pedigree Laoban and Inclination)

    20. Brooklyn Strong (pedigree Wicked Strong and Rivera Chic)

    Brooklyn Strong made it into the field after Caddo River was pulled from contention. Caddo River would have been a third horse for Cox, but his bloodwork and temperature was off.

    "It was off a little bit, the bloodwork," Cox said, per WDRB's John Lewis. "It's not the right decision to run him on Saturday. His white count is off—it's high—so we'll just back off him a little bit and regroup."

    O Besos could be a long shot to watch Saturday. His sire, Orb, won the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes and a third-place run in the Belmont Stakes.