Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds: Picks, Dark-Horse Contenders and More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Kentucky Derby entrant Super Stock works out at Churchill Downs Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. The horse is co-owned by trainer Steve Asmussen's parents with a partner. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Essential Quality should enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate Saturday as the favorite to win the first leg of the Triple Crown.

The path to victory may not be as easy given the history of his starting position. Only two horses have ever won the Kentucky Derby from Post 14.

Essential Quality will face tough competition from the start alongside Rock Your World, who starts in Post 15, a position that produced 2020 Derby winner Authentic.

While favorites have dominated the winner's circle lately at Churchill Downs, there is always a chance that a long shot steals the show through a win or a high finish.


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Top Picks

Essential Quality

Although Post 14 has not produced many Derby champions, Essential Quality's team should still feel good about his chances.

In fact, 2020 pre-race favorite Tiz the Law started there and finished behind Authentic, who started to his right.

Trainer Brad Cox did not seem worried about where the favored horse will begin the race, per ESPN.

"It got a little nerve-wracking with both horses still to go and the rail still being out there," Cox said. "I think it'll be a good spot [for Essential Quality]. He's got good tactical speed that he'll be able to get into a good position from there."

Essential Quality is undefeated in five races and has a jockey in Luis Saez who had Maximum Security in front of the field in 2019 before he was disqualified.

If he shows the same form he did in his five races, Essential Quality should sit near the front of the pack. The competition from the start from Rock Your World should also help his push to the front.


Rock Your World

Rock Your World is viewed as the top challenger to Essential Quality.

At 5-1, the Santa Anita Derby champion should fight for position with the pre-race favorite for most of the 1¼ miles.

The staff behind Rock Your World should feel confident in Post No. 15 because Authentic won from that position in 2020.

Authentic was in a similar role to that of Rock Your World entering the 2021 event. In September, he was viewed as a strong horse, but not the favorite with Tiz the Law in the field.

Rock Your World does not have as lengthy a track history as Essential Quality, but he did beat out fellow Derby horse Medina Spirit to win at Santa Anita on April 3.


Dark-Horse Candidates


Mandaloun comes from the same training stable as Essential Quality. He is one of two Brad Cox-trained three-year-olds in the field.

Mandaloun's sixth-place finish at the Louisiana Derby is not a great sign for success at Churchill Downs, but he does start in a favorable position.

Post No. 7 has produced seven winners, including Justify in 2018, and Mr. Big News came out of that spot to take third in 2020.

Mandaloun does have two victories and a third-place finish in his career, but his worst result came against the biggest field and in the longest race he competed in at the Louisiana Derby.

If Mandaloun recovers from that poor finish, he could be in the mix for places in the top three or four, but he likely will not receive much winning buzz before Saturday.


Midnight Bourbon

Midnight Bourbon's performance at the Louisiana Derby gives him more promise than Mandaloun to land a surprise victory.

The horse starting in Post No. 10 took second at the Louisiana Derby, and he has five top-three finishes in his career.

In his last three races, Midnight Bourbon faced Derby-level competition, including Hot Rod Charlie, O Besos and Mandaloun at the Louisiana Derby.

The experience against Triple Crown competition combined with a string of consistent results makes Midnight Bourbon an intriguing dark-horse selection.

If anything, Midnight Bourbon should find himself in contention for the top positions, which makes him an ideal trifecta or superfecta pick.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from KentuckyDerby.com.