Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds: Best and Worst Horse-Jockey Tandems to Bet

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds: Best and Worst Horse-Jockey Tandems to Bet

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    For those who love betting on the horses, the Kentucky Derby kicks off the holy triumvirate of horse racing in North America. The 147th Derby opens a 2021 Triple Crown series that should see a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted last year's race calendar.

    The Run for the Roses returns to its traditional early May date and its place as the first of the trio. The 1 ¼-mile race will see a new Triple Crown contender emerge out of a 20-horse field.

    With such a large pack running at Churchill Downs, a good jockey can be the difference. It's a talented field so getting a good ride could play an important role. There are four jockeys who have won seven Derbies between them. Several others have at least top-three finishes to their names.

    As we break down this year's contenders, here's a look at two horse-jockey duos to back and one to stay away from as race day nears.

Post Positions, Jockeys and Odds

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    1. Known Agenda, Irad Ortiz, Jr.  6-1

    2. Like the King, Drayden Van Dyke 50-1

    3. Brooklyn Strong, Umberto Rispoli 50-1

    4. Keepmeinmind, David Cohen 50-1

    5. Sainthood, Corey Lanerie 50-1

    6. O Besos, Marcelino Pedroza 20-1

    7. Mandaloun, Florent Geroux 15-1

    8. Medina Spirit, John Velazquez 15-1

    9. Hot Rod Charlie, Flavien Prat 8-1

    10. Midnight Bourbon, Mike Smith 20-1

    11. Dynamic One, Jose Ortiz 20-1

    12. Helium, Julien Leparoux 50-1

    13. Hidden Stash, Rafael Bejarano 50-1

    14. Essential Quality, Luis Saez 2-1

    15. Rock Your World, Joel Rosario 5-1

    16. King Fury, Brian Hernandez Jr. 20-1

    17. Highly Motivated, Javier Castellano 10-1

    18. Super Stock, Ricardo Santana Jr. 30-1

    19. Soup and Sandwich, Tyler Gaffalione 30-1

    20. Bourbonic, Kendrick Carmouche 30-1

    Odds via Vegas Insider.

Best: Known Agenda and Irad Ortiz Jr.

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Irad Ortiz Jr. is not among the jockeys who have won the Derby. In fact, he's never finished in the top three, with his best result being fourth in 2019 aboard Improbable.

    But he's far from an unknown. The Puerto Rican has won the Eclipse Jockey of the Year Award three years running and leads all riders in wins in 2021 by a wide margin. Ortiz didn't have a mount in last year's event, so his lack of success is also a product of a lack of starts.

    Ortiz saddles Known Agenda on Saturday. The horse is among the most talented in the field but will need a steady hand to guide his trip. He will be starting from the first gate, which can be a tricky position. The first post hasn't produced a winner since Ferdinand in 1986. That fact is baked into Known Agenda's 6-1 odds.

    However, Known Agenda posted one of the best Equibase speed figures (112) in a win at the Florida Derby toward the end of March. He has the early speed to break away from a few 50-1 long shots directly to his right to make the inside track his own.

    There's great value in Known Agenda making some history.

Good: Medina Spirit and John Velazquez

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Florida-bred colt Medina Spirit has been remarkably consistent but is getting a bit overlooked in this field. In five career starts since November, the Zedran Racing Stables horse has never finished below second place.

    Even if Medina Spirit might be a little less gifted than some of the other colts in the field, it's hard to bet against his connections. He's Bob Baffert's only horse in the field. Baffert is tied for the most Kentucky Derby wins, and jockey John Velazquez has the most Derby wins among the jockeys with three.

    The duo trained and rode last year's Derby winner, Authentic.

    Velazquez has also won The Run for the Roses aboard Always Dreaming in 2017 and Animal Kingdom in 2011.

    At 15-1, Medina Spirit is far from a favorite, but that means there's value to be had. The colt has consistently shown up to challenge the pace every time out and has a great team behind him. Bettors could do worse than backing Medina Spirit and including him in their exotic bets.

Avoid: Brooklyn Strong and Umberto Rispoli

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It's been an interesting road to the Kentucky Derby for both Brooklyn Strong and rider Umberto Rispoli.

    Rispoli, a 32-year-old jockey from Italy, was originally headed toward guiding Rock Your World. If that were the case, he would have a strong chance to win. But when a more experienced and successful jockey in Joel Rosario became available, the colt's connections made the decision to sit Rispoli in favor of the 2013 Derby winner.

    "We think with [Joel's] experience over the track...and just my relationship with him and these owners (Hronis Racing and Talla Racing)...this gives us our strongest position," trainer John W. Sadler explained to Thoroughbred Los Angeles (h/t BloodHorse).

    Fortunately, Rispoli will still get an opportunity to ride in his first Derby. He's been charged with guiding long shot Brooklyn Strong, who also took an unconventional path to the race.

    The New York-bred horse finished fifth in his only start this year and had to rely on several horses bypassing the Derby before getting included.

    It would be a phenomenal story for the two to put together a shocking run, but betting on that happening is money wasted.