2021 Kentucky Derby Picks and Predictions

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The first leg of the Triple Crown is once again the first leg of the Triple Crown. With the world turned upside down due to the COVID pandemic, last year’s Kentucky Derby was removed from its historical spot on the first Saturday in May and was run in September. With a sense of normalcy and some sanity returning, the Derby returns to its rightful place in the pecking order.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby field has a deserving favorite and four others listed at shorter than 10/1 odds. Recently the Derby has belonged to the favorites with the top betting choice winning every race from 2013 to 2018. A winner in all five of his races, Essential Quality emerged as the betting favorite, though there are a number of horses with the talent and bloodlines to take the blanket of roses on Saturday.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby takes place on Sunday, May 1, from Churchill Downs in Lexington, KY. Post time is 7:01 p.m. ET. The race will air live on NBC.

2021 Kentucky Derby Odds

Essential Quality +305

Rock Your World +628

Known Agenda +728

Highly Motivated +925

Hot Rod Charlie +929

Mandaloun +1845

Medina Spirit +1845

Super Stock +2210

Dynamic One +2577

Midnight Bourbon +2602

O Besos +2650

King Fury +2884

Sainthood +3250

Like The King +4050

Soup And Sandwich +4250

Bourbonic +4250

Helium +4550

Brooklyn Strong +5250

Keepmeinmind +5250

Hidden Stash +5250

(Odds provided by BookMaker.eu as of Thursday, April 29 at 10:00 am ET)

Betting The Derby

Oddsmakers and handicappers have been spot on in their assessment of recent Kentucky Derby races. The betting favorite won six races from 2013 to 2018 and last year’s winner Authentic was third on the closing odds list. That’s not to say horses lower down the odds board don’t have a chance. We saw one of the longest shots claim victory in 2019, though 65/1 Country House wasn’t the first to cross the finish line. He was awarded the roses after second favorite Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.

There have been instances of extreme longshots winning the Kentucky Derby. In 2009 Mine That Bird came off at 50/1. There was another monumental upset in 2005 when Giacomo at 50/1 won by half a length over Closing Argument, who closed with 70/1 odds. The moral of the story is that anything can and oftentimes does happen.

2021 Derby Contenders

Essential Quality is a deserving favorite after winning all five of his starts and accumulating the most Derby points in the field. He romped to a win at his last prep race distancing Highly Motivated at the G2 Blue Grass stakes in early April. He also has wins against strong fields in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It’s hard to argue against Essential Quality, but he’s never raced this distance and there isn’t the typical buzz surrounding the favorite. Many experts feel the length may be too much for him.

Essential Quality (+305)

The Kentucky Derby is a test of endurance. No horse in the field has ever run this distance and training doesn’t properly get him acclimated to the 1¼ mile spread. Known Agenda is one colt that has the running style to be successful at this distance. He’s shown improvement over his past few races resulting in a pair of wins, including a triumph at the Florida Derby in his last prep.

Hot Rod Charlie is the only horse in the field to win a race at anything close to the Derby distance, and he did so in style flashing speed to win the 1 3/16 mile Louisiana Derby. He got on the radar as a 2-year-old with an impressive second place showing as a longshot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was able to maintain his speed in Louisiana and should be worth watching if he can set or maintain the pace at Churchill Downs.

Hot Rod Charlie (+929)

Certain trends in Derby winners have emerged since the points system was introduced back in 2013. Along with Essential Quality, Rock Your World is the only other horse in the field to check all the boxes. He has wins in all three races as a 3-year-old and most recently led the entire way at the G1 Santa Anita Derby in his debut on a dirt track. He’s another fast runner who needs to establish the pace but his draw at No. 15 could prevent him from doing that.

Rock Your World (+628)

Kentucky Derby Picks/Predictions

Kentucky Derby Finish:

1) Rock Your World

2) Hot Rod Charlie

3) O Besos

It’s easy to go with the favorite since those at or near the top of the leaderboard have dominated this race in recent years. However, there isn’t a lot of separation between the top six on the odds board and determining which one takes the blanket of roses is tough. There are a few longshot contenders with O Besos and Midnight Bourbon standing out, but Rock Your World has the speed and endurance to survive the lengthy race.