Kentucky Derby Entries 2021: Race-Day Predictions for Horses, Jockeys in Lineup

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2021

Kentucky Derby entrant Midnight Bourbon works out Churchill Downs Wednesday, April 28, 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

With the return to the traditional Triple Crown schedule, the beginning of May once again marks another opportunity for horses and jockeys to enter the record books as Kentucky Derby winners. 

After a scrambled race schedule  in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Derby will once again be the first leg of the American Classics. The 1¼-mile race will determine who has a chance to sweep the Preakness and Belmont Stakes races to join the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners. 

Winning the Derby will be a tall task in itself. There is a 19-horse field competing at Churchill Downs this year, and the oddsmakers haven't named a clear favorite. 

Even if they had, the Derby usually has a way of producing surprising results. Authentic upset Tiz the Law in 2020, and Country House pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the race in 2019 after Maximum Security was disqualified. 

So the favorite is far from a lock even if it posted an impressive record before. Here's a look at the whole field and who will be aboard each horse as we head toward post time. 


Horses, Jockeys, Post Positions and Odds

1. Known Agenda, Irad Ortiz, Jr.  12-1

2. Like the King, Drayden Van Dyke 53-1

3. Brooklyn Strong, Umberto Rispoli 38-1

4. Keepmeinmind, David Cohen 37-1

5. Sainthood, Corey Lanerie 28-1

6. O Besos, Marcelino Pedroza 34-1

7. Mandaloun, Florent Geroux 28-1

8. Medina Spirit, John Velazquez 11-1

9. Hot Rod Charlie, Flavien Prat 9-2

10. Midnight Bourbon, Mike Smith 12-1

11. Dynamic One, Jose Ortiz 35-1

12. Helium, Julien Leparoux 35-1

13. Hidden Stash, Rafael Bejarano 29-1

14. Essential Quality, Luis Saez 5-1

15. Rock Your World, Joel Rosario 5-1

16. (Scratched) King Fury, Brian Hernandez Jr. 23-1

17. Highly Motivated, Javier Castellano 10-1

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

19. Soup and Sandwich, Tyler Gaffalione 21-1

20. Bourbonic, Kendrick Carmouche 24-1

Odds and Post Position via KentuckyDerby.com

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

As the odds indicate, this year's race is wide-open. With several talented horses in the field, a prudent jockey who can make the right decisions for their horse could be the deciding factor. 

There are several experienced jockeys in the field who will be looking to add a Derby win to their resume. For some, it wouldn't be their first time winning the Run for the Roses. Four jockeys in the field account for seven Derby wins. 

John Velasquez has the most with three. He and Bob Baffert teamed up with 2020 winner Authentic, but he also won the race in 2017 aboard Always Dreaming and took it in 2011 with Animal Kingdom. 

This year, he'll make the trip with Medina Spirit as Baffert's only hope to capture his seventh Derby title. Baffert knows his horse isn't looked at as one of the favorites, although he acknowledged it's an open field. 

"The Derby this year is pretty wide-open," the legendary trainer said, per Jason Barr of KGUN9. "You don't have that really dominant horse. You have Essential Quality who is undefeated. He's a nice horse. You don't have Justify or American Pharoah. Or, maybe we might see one we don't know about. But going in, they're all pretty close together."

The experience of Baffert and Velasquez at least make Medina Spirit an interesting bet. 

Then there's Mike Smith with his two Derby wins. He earned his first in 2005 with Giacomo and won in 2018 aboard Justify. He'll be riding Midnight Bourbon, who comes in at 12-1. 

Flavien Prat will look to add his second. He won his first in 2019 with the controversy of a disqualification but will be aboard the favorite in the field right now in Hot Rod Charlie. 

Thirty-six-year-old Joel Rosario won his first Derby in 2013 with Orb. He gets the mount on Rock Your World, who comes in as one of the favorites at 5-1. The Santa Anita Derby winner hasn't been raced much and should be one of the freshest horses in the field. 

Among those seeking their first Derby win, 28-year-old Irad Ortiz Jr. is one to keep an eye on. The Puerto Rican has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey three times running and finished fourth in the Derby aboard Improbable in 2019. 

He draws one of the faster horses in the field this year but will need a great trip to pick up the win. Known Agenda breaks from the first post, which can be difficult, but the new 20-horse gate that debuted at last year's race should help him. 

Ortiz Jr. has yet to capture his first Derby moment, but he does have a win in the Belmont Stakes, so he's won an American Classic before. Todd Pletcher, Known Agenda's trainer, has been pleasantly surprised by his colt this year. 

After winning the Florida Derby, he credited the decision to put blinkers on the horse as the reason for the improvement.

"He has made a lot of progress in his last two starts," Pletcher said, per Tim Wilkin of the Times Union. "I think the addition of blinkers has been a part of it, and part of it he's getting more experienced and more comfortable in those scenarios when he's behind horses and inside horses and taking some dirt."

Known Agenda's ascendance, talented jockey and trainer may be enough for him to overcome the No. 1 post and pull off the upset. 

Luis Saez has perhaps the easiest route to claiming his first victory. He will be paired with opening-odds favorite Essential Quality, who has proved to be one of the best horses in the field. Breaking from the 14th post, there aren't any obvious barriers to the two having a strong trip.  


Projected Win-Place-Show:

Win: Known Agenda

Place: Essential Quality

Show: Medina Spirit