If the betting lines are correct, then Essential Quality will be the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. But things aren't always that straightforward at Churchill Downs. There have been plenty of favorites that have fallen short in The Run for the Roses over the years.
While the undefeated Essential Quality appears poised for a strong run in this year's Derby, there are plenty of other horses that will be joining him at the gates on Saturday that are capable of winning, too. And you can also never count out the long shots, no matter how big their odds are.
One of the 20 horses will end up winning the Kentucky Derby and then try to go on to win the Triple Crown by notching victories at both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. It's not an easy trifecta to pull off, though, which is why only 13 horses have ever done it.
Here's a look at the lineup for this year's Kentucky Derby, followed by a breakdown of the favorites and sleepers to watch.
2021 Kentucky Derby Lineup
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 favorite because he's won each of his first five career races. The colt has also been impressive in doing so, as he notched victories at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November and at the Southwest Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes earlier this year.
Not only will Essential Quality be looking to become only the 10th undefeated horse to win the Derby, but he's going to be starting from the No. 14 post. There hasn't been a winner to come from that gate since Carry Back in 1961.
"I think it'll be a good spot," trainer Brad Cox said, per Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post. "He's got good tactical speed that he'll be able to get into a good position from there."
If it works out for Essential Quality, then it may also work for Rock Your World, who is starting alongside him in the No. 15 post. Rock Your World has the second-best odds to win the Derby, and he also enters with an undefeated record, although he's only competed in three races.
Some of the top sleepers in this year's Derby are starting closer to the other side of the posts.
Medina Spirit (15-1) is looking to become the horse that gives longtime trainer Bob Baffert his record-breaking seventh career Kentucky Derby victory. Baffert is tied with Ben Jones after winning last year's Derby with Authentic.
At the Santa Anita Derby earlier this month, Medina Spirit finished second to Rock Your World, so he'll have to avenge that loss (and outrace some other strong horses) in order to win the Derby. But it's never wise to completely count out a Baffert-trained horse at Churchill Downs.
Plus, Medina Spirit's jockey will be John Velazquez, who is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, including having won last year with Authentic.
Another sleeper to potentially watch is Midnight Bourbon (20-1). He'll also have an experienced jockey in Mike Smith, who is a two-time Derby champion, having last won with Triple Crown champion Justify in 2018.
Midnight Bourbon is one of two horses in this year's Derby field trained by Steve Asmussen, who has entered 21 previous horses in the Kentucky Derby but has never won the race. Asmussen has won the other two Triple Crown events, and perhaps Midnight Bourbon could give him his first Derby victory.
Whether it's a favorite or a sleeper that crosses the finish line first Saturday evening, the Kentucky Derby is sure to live up to the hype that comes with it each year. And while Essential Quality is likely to remain the favorite up until race time, it's far from a sure thing that he'll come away with the victory because of the strong competition alongside him.