The 2021 Kentucky Derby is back to is “regular” scheduling — the first weekend in May. Nineteen horses will compete for the 147th running of the race — King Fury was scratched when he spiked a fever after this morning’s gallop.
This year there will even be a limited number of fans. The stands (reserved seats) at Churchill Downs will be at 40% to 60% capacity and 15,000 people will be permitted onto the infield. That means about 45,000 fans could be at the racetrack. A far cry from the 165,000 who normally watch the race in person, but a lot better than last year.
Top 3 Kentucky Derby Favorites
The clear favorite this year is Essential Quality, who has won all five career races in his career, is the 2-1 favorite, with sportsbettingdime.com showing him at +200 to win.
Essential Quality was named tJames McIngvale, the Houston furniture magnate and horse owner known as “Mattress Mack,” is so sure the colt will win, that he’s making the largest wager in Kentucky Derby history on the handsome grey.
To make maximize the money that goes toward the track (and horsemens’) purses, he’s making $2 million (or more) bet through the Churchill Downs mutuel windows. The highest percentage of a person’s wager that goes to the purse is from live on-track wagering. Here’s something that I didn’t know: generally, 7.25% of a live-on-track bet goes to the horseman’s purse. When a person makes a simulcast wager, the horseman’s purse receives a considerably lower percentage, 1.5%, because net revenues from the bet are split 50-50.
If Essential Quality prevails, he will deliver the first Kentucky win for his connections: trainer Brad Cox, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, and jockey Luis Saez, who technically won the race in 2019 on Maximum Security, who was later eliminated. Essential Quality will break from post position 14. The colt has already been incredibly successful for his contacts, as he was named the American Champion two-year-old colt of 2020 after winning the Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He is a son of Tapit. Some handicappers are concerned that Essential Quality has been at the top of his game too long, and that with the inevitable growth spurts he might find it hard to stay there. His running style could also be an issue. He paddles with his left front, which could be an issue in a longer race unless he gets a nice, clean trip.
Here is Essential Quality nosing out Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3rd. He had to go all out to win this race, showing his tenacity. But, will Highly Motivated be even more motivated tomorrow?
The next up is Rock Your World (5-1), also undefeated, but only raced three times. This colt has only raced once on dirt, but that run was a memorable a wire-to-wire win in the Santa Anita Derby. Rock Your World did not run as a juvenile, but won his two starts on turf.
Known Agenda is currently the third choice (6-1). The son of Curlin has been running very well after adding blinkers. He produced a very good run in the Florida Derby. However, he’s breaking from post position #1 which could leave him squeezed out.
Longshots you have to Love
In terms of longshots, O Besos is a horse that will have many people rooting for him, despite running at odds of 20-1. According to the Paulick Report, “It just feels right that a Derby horse whose name translates to “kisses” has an origin story filled with so much love; love of the horse, love of the sport, and love for one especially strong little girl.” Read the whole story here. Not only do you want him to win, he showed some real speed in the Louisana Derby. Maybe tomorrow will be his day?
Then, there’s Bourbonic, the 72-1 outsider who managed a major upset in the Wood Memorial, coming on strong from last place to win by a nose.
So, who are you rooting for? I have to say that I’m kind of hoping that Highly Motivated finds his way to a win tomorrow, but most important, I hope they all come home safely.