Kentucky Derby 2021: Projected Prize Money Earnings, Order of Finish and More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2021

Jockey Luis Saez reacts aboard Essential Quality as they 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

The 2021 Kentucky Derby moves back to the race's traditional slot on the first Saturday in May to begin horse racing's Triple Crown season, and the 19-horse field has all the elements to help the race to live up to its nickname of The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.

Essential Quality is the morning-line favorite in the 147th Run for the Roses, but there is no shortage of horses with a realistic chance of stealing the spotlight in what should be a highly competitive race. A runaway winner would be a surprise.

Let's check out all of the important details for this year's Kentucky Derby. That's followed by a closer look at the race and a prediction for how the horses will cross the wire.


Key Information

Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky

When: Saturday, May 1 at 6:57 p.m. ET

Watch: NBC

Live Stream: NBC Sports Live

Prize Money: $3 million purse ($1.86 million to winner)


Race Preview

Essential Quality rose to prominence in November by winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which typically provides the first glimpse at some of the following year's Triple Crown hopefuls. Hot Rod Charlie and Keepmeinmind, two of his Derby counterparts, finished second and third.

He's done nothing since then to lose his status as the favorite. He won both the Southwest Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes to remain perfect through five starts, and he recorded the highest Equibase speed figure (109) of his career in the Blue Grass Stakes in his final start before the Derby.

"This is the race where you need more racing luck," trainer Brad H. Cox told reporters. "If we get the trip, we're going to be very tough. I'm never going to be overconfident and say we're going to win, but if we have racing luck, we have two horses [in Essential Quality and Mandaloun] that are real good horses."

Kentucky Derby @KentuckyDerby

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

Rock Your World also arrives at Churchill Downs with an unblemished record, though he's more lightly raced than most of his Kentucky Derby foes with just three career starts.

His most recent win in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in early April raised expectations for the Kentucky Derby because it showed he could beat high-end competition, which was a question mark after his first two outings.

Known Agenda, Hot Rod Charlie and Highly Motivated round out the other top contenders. King Fury was scratched from the field Friday.

As for the long shots, Medina Spirit is the horse that jumps out, especially with the proven trainer-jockey combination of Bob Baffert and John Velazquez.

Medina Spirit is a bit overlooked because he's only won two of his five starts, but he's never finished worse than second, and all three of his losses came against top-tier horses: twice to Life Is Good—a Derby front-runner before suffering a leg injury in March—and once to Rock Your World.

His performance in January's Sham Stakes, where he finished second to Life Is Good by less than a length, was one of the best runs by any Derby horse during the prep season.

All told, this is one of the most complete Kentucky Derby fields in recent memory. Essential Quality is the rightful favorite, but there are several horses with realistic shots of pulling off the upset.


Predicted Order of Finish

Win: Rock Your World

Place: Essential Quality

Show: Medina Spirit