Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds: Picks and Predictions Based on Recent Betting Lines

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Kentucky Derby hopeful Hot Rod Charlie works out at Churchill Downs Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 1. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

We're coming up on the first Saturday in May, and weather reports from Louisville, Kentucky, are looking favorable for the most exciting two minutes in sports. 

Yes, the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is nearly upon us. The horses have all arrived at Churchill Downs and are working out on the famed dirt track.

The post position draw happened Tuesday and gave us a clearer view of which horses have an extra advantage come race day.

And unlike in 2020, when the Derby was run in September and had no paid attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a limited-capacity crowd will be welcomed back to Churchill Downs this weekend to see this field of 20 horses battle it out for the red rose garland. 

Let's take a look at the updated Vegas odds for the 20 horses in this year's field, evaluate how they're prepared to do at Churchill Downs and make some predictions for this weekend's race. 

Kentucky Derby @KentuckyDerby

Post Positions for the 147th #KyDerby https://t.co/Qj3jv0KY6B


Kentucky Derby 2021 Post Positions, Odds

1. Known Agenda 6-1

2. Like the King 50-1

3. Brooklyn Strong 50-1

4. Keepmeinmind 50-1

5. Sainthood 50-1

6. O Besos 20-1

7. Mandaloun 15-1

8. Medina Spirit 15-1

9. Hot Rod Charlie 8-1

10. Midnight Bourbon 20-1

11. Dynamic One 20-1

12. Helium 50-1

13. Hidden Stash 50-1

14. Essential Quality 2-1

15. Rock Your World 5-1

16. King Fury 20-1

17. Highly Motivated 10-1

18. Super Stock 30-1

19. Soup and Sandwich 30-1

20. Bourbonic 30-1

Odds via SportsLine (h/t CBS Sports) 


After the opening lines come out, one of the factors that can cause the greatest shift in the Kentucky Derby odds is the post position draw. 

Tuesday's draw saw the top three favorites in this year's field, Essential Quality, Hod Rod Charlie and Rock Your World, draw post Nos. 14, 9 and 15, respectively. 

None of the favorites drew post No. 5, which has produced the most winners, with 10, since the introduction of the starting gate in 1930, but that didn't cause them to budge from their exalted status as Vegas darlings. 

And the three avoided the No. 1 post on the rail, which went to Todd Pletcher-trained Known Agenda. 

"No question, it's not the post we wanted," Pletcher said, per Robert Kieckhefer of UPI Racing. "But I do think it's not the big disadvantage it used to be with the new starting gate."

This year, Churchill Downs moved from a 16-horse gate with an additional four-horse gate attached to a new 20-horse gate. So being on the rail may not set off the alarm bells the way it used to. We'll see what happens Saturday. 

Moreover, Known Agenda won the Florida Derby on the inside.

Hot Rod Charlie is fresh off his first win, at the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby on March 20. It could be due in part to his new blinkers, after receiving which he has shown "vast improvement," per John Mucciolo of TwinSpires.com 

Byron King @BH_BKing

Hot Rod Charlie ⁦@KentuckyDerby⁩ https://t.co/kfaBN6TF3B

"He 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," Mucciolo wrote. 

Still, there's no question Essential Quality is the horse to beat this year. The Brad Cox-trained gray colt has a perfect record going back to Sept. 5, 2020, which includes wins in the G1 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October and the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, also at Keeneland, in November. 

This year saw Essential Quality continue his winning ways at the Southwest Stakes and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. 

"The standout three-year-old has been best in each of his five assignments to date," writes Mucciolo. "The 1 1/4-mile distance at Churchill Downs on May 1 should pose no problem for the talented sophomore."



1. Essential Quality

2. Rock Your World

3. Known Agenda