Kentucky Derby Picks 2021: Predictions and Odds for All Horses in the Lineup

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2021

Kentucky Derby Picks 2021: Predictions and Odds for All Horses in the Lineup

0 of 4

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The race for the Triple Crown begins Saturday with the Kentucky Derby, which is set to feature a 20-strong field galloping for immortality.

    After an unusual race schedule in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional order returns in 2021. Of the Triple Crown races, the Derby might be the most difficult to win. At a distance of 1 ¼ miles, it's the middle ground between the shorter Preakness Stakes and longer Belmont Stakes. Throw in the fact that it usually boasts the biggest field, and it's a tall task to pick up the win at Churchill Downs.

    This year's crop of contenders features a fairly big favorite in Essential Quality, but there's more than one colt with the makeup to challenge the Blue Grass Stakes winner.

    Here's a look at the complete field, along with the latest odds as we approach race day.

Post Positions and Odds

1 of 4

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    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 Vegas Insider.

The Favorite

2 of 4

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Essential Quality is the 2-1 favorite going into race day. The Brad H. Cox-trained colt has earned $930,000 this year and stands to be even more profitable if he can cash in on his favorite status.

    If you want to nitpick his resume you could point to a lack of data points this year. He's made just two starts, first winning the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February before winning the Blue Grass Stakes.

    He has won all five starts, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he beat fellow Derby entrant Hot Rod Charlie.

    It's telling that Essential Quality remains the favorite after the post draw. He will be breaking from the 14th gate, which hasn't produced a winner since Carry Back in 1961.

    Despite that, the favorite's connections were happy to just avoid being too far inside or out.

    "Historically you just want to be somewhere in the middle, give yourself a chance," said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin, which owns Essential Quality, per BloodHorse said. "The race will be tough enough on its own. You don't need [it] to get tough before it starts."

The Contenders

3 of 4

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    After Essential Quality, there are three entrants with odds below 10-1: Rock Your World (5-1), Known Agenda (6-1) and Hot Rod Charlie (8-1).

    Rock Your World might be the most interesting of the contenders. He's a pace-setter who is set to break beside the favorite out of the No. 15 post. All three of his starts have come at Santa Anita, including a first-place finish at the Santa Anita Derby, so there will be questions about how well he will ship to Churchill Downs.

    Known Agenda is another intriguing candidate, but his post draw wasn't the best. He will break from the No. 1 post, but it's worth nothing that the 20-horse starting gate that debuted last year will reduce the separation between horses and could aid his early trip.

    The fact he's flanked by four long shots could also reduce that disadvantage as well.

    Then there's Hot Rod Charlie. The Kentucky-bred colt has been a steady performer, placing in the top three in five of his seven career starts. However, he's topped out at 100 in his Equibase speed figures in any one race.

    His lack of top-end speed might disqualify him even if he's a strong candidate to finish in the top three with a good trip.

The Long Shots

4 of 4

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    When filling out your exotics or looking for a value horse to back, there are some worth taking a flier on.

    Chief among them is Medina Spirit (15-1). Trainer Bob Baffert described his horse as "a cut below those top horses," per Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier-Journal, but Baffert's record in the Derby can't be discounted. He's won three of the past six Runs for the Roses and is going for a record-setting seventh win.

    Medina Spirit has a first- and three second-place finishes in four starts in 2021 and posted one of the highest Equibase speed figures of the field this year with a 109.

    Perhaps the most intriguing long shot is Helium (50-1). He faces long odds but comes into the race with just one start in 2021, a win at the Tampa Bay Derby, which he won by 1 ¾ lengths.

    Breaking from the 12th post, he has a good draw for his closing style. If he doesn't get pinned behind the field early, he could have enough endurance to make a late run at showing down the homestretch.


    Predicted Order of Finish

    Win: Known Agenda

    Place: Essential Quality

    Show: Medina Spirit