Fortunately for racing traditionalists, the Kentucky Derby is back in its original scheduling slot on the first Saturday of May. This means that the Run for the Roses is again the first jewel in the Triple Crown.
While capacity will be limited, Churchill Downs will also welcome fans back to the Derby this year after having the stands empty in 2020. This means that a scaled-down version of festivities can be expected.
Of course, this also means there will be a healthy amount of opportunities for bettors, both remotely and on-site.
The Brad H. Cox-trained Essential Quality was the early favorite and remains so following Tuesday's post draw. The full 20-horse field and its gate positioning is as follows:
2021 Kentucky Derby Positions and Post-Draw 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 KentuckyDerby.com
Essential Quality is the overall betting favorite, which isn't a surprise. He hasn't lost in five races and brings plenty of momentum to Churchill Downs this week.
Cox, a Louisville native, is an accomplished trainer with horses who have won races such as the Kentucky Oaks, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Ashland Stakes.
However, the 41-year-old has never led a horse to victory in the Kentucky Derby. He is eager to change that.
"As far as American racing, this is—in my eyes, it's the biggest race there is," Cox said, per Dan Wolken of USA Today.
While Essential Quality is a 2-1 favorite, there will be stiff competition. Rock Your World, who is also unbeaten, is among the favorites and drew the gate just outside of Essential Quality.
"It's a good post and we're happy with it," trainer John Sadler said, per ESPN.
Though Known Agenda has a less desirable spot in the No. 1 gate, the Todd Pletcher-trained horse cannot be discounted. Getting off the rail could be a challenge, but the colt is fresh off a win in the Florida Derby and appears to be peaking at the right time.
Hot Rod Charlie is another top pick for bettors, as the Doug O'Neil-trained horse is coming off a win at the Louisiana Derby and has a favorable spot near the middle of the pack.
Right now, it's hard to pick against Essential Quality, but it wouldn't be a major surprise if Hod Rod Charlie or Rock Your World pulled off a slight upset on Saturday. Due to the post position, Known Agenda is a bit more of a sleeper here, as is Highly Motivated.
No horse has won the Kentucky Derby breaking from the No. 17 gate. If Highly Motivated pulls off the upset, it will be historic.