Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds: Examining Lines, Payouts for Field at Churchill Downs

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Kentucky Derby entrant Essential Quality waits to work out at Churchill Downs Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 1. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Essential Quality enters the 2021 Kentucky Derby as the best horse in the field.

But being the favorite does not always equate to being in the winner's circle Saturday night.

In 2020, Tiz the Law went into September's Kentucky Derby as the favorite with a Belmont Stakes win in hand. He ended up in second behind Authentic.

Rock Your World, Known Agenda and Hot Rod Charlie could play the role of Authentic on Saturday as horses with decent odds that take down the pre-race favorite at Churchill Downs.

When it comes to betting value, those three horses carry a larger potential payout compared to Essential Quality, who has drifted to 5-1 as of midday Friday but will likely have shorter odds when the starting gate opens.


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Essential Quality carries payout value because he sits at 5-1.

If you want to wager on the undefeated horse, now is the time before all of the money comes in Saturday and potentially drops the odds below even money.

By all accounts, Essential Quality is a solid pick. He won the Breeders' Cup juvenile in November and few competitors have been able to match his pace.

If you search past the pre-race favorite, all you have to do is look at the November triumph as to which horse could challenge Essential Quality.

Hot Rod Charlie was second at Keeneland. He took first at the Louisiana Derby and third at the Robert E. Lewis Stakes in his two races after that event. He is trained by Doug O'Neill, who has a pair of Kentucky Derby wins from 2012 and 2016, as well as a Preakness Stakes victory in 2012.

At 8-1, Hot Rod Charlie carries more value than the other favorites in the field. If you believe he will be competitive with Essential Quality again, he should be worth the play.

Rock Your World could contend with Hot Rod Charlie as the best option outside of Essential Quality. He starts next to the pre-race favorite and is coming off a first-placed finish at the Santa Anita Derby. He has the talent to compete length for length with Essential Quality. And since they start next to each other, they may run neck and neck for the entire 1 ¼ miles.

Despite being 12-1, Known Agenda may carry the worst value of the four favored horses because he drew an unfavorable position on the rail. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt does not have many fast horses around him, which could affect his pace or keep him locked in on the rail.

There is a chance he breaks out in front of the long shots or rides behind the pace of one, but that still feels like a less-than-ideal situation compared to what Essential Quality, Rock Your World and Hot Rod Charlie have in front of them.


Statistics and odds obtained from KentuckyDerby.com.