As expected, Essential Quality has been opened as a 2-1 morning line favorite to win the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Tuesday morning’s official post position draw finalized the 20-horse field for the 147th edition of the annual “Run for the Roses.”
Horse bettors are especially excited about this year’s race returning to the first Saturday in May after it had to be pushed back to early September last year. This is the Crown Jewel of the Triple Crown racing series for the best three-year old Thoroughbreds in the nation.
The 2021 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course is the second leg of the series and this year’s race will take place on Saturday, May 15. The final leg is scheduled for Saturday, June 5 with the running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
Going Chalk With the Favorite
As far as this Saturday’s main event on an exciting card of major graded racing at Churchill, it is hard to go against the favorite as the top choice. Trained by Brad Cox, this Kentucky-bred colt has passed every test he has faced with a perfect 5-for-5 record.
Essential Quality got a good break on the post-position draw at No. 14. Jockey Luis Saez will once again get the ride.
Sired by Tapit, he became an immediate Kentucky Derby contender by winning both the Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two-year old. The Kentucky Derby favorite started his three-year old campaign on a strong note by winning the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in late February. He also won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his final Kentucky Derby prep on April 3.
My top-valued pick to win this race would be Hot Rod Charlie at early 8-1 odds. I had this three- year old Kentucky-bred colt tagged as the second-best entry in the field of 20. Yet, he slipped to fourth on the board when the morning line odds were released.
The son of Oxbow caught my eye early with his unexpected second-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. After slipping to third in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 30 he did cool down a bit on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
However, staying true to his name, he heated right back up by winning the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 20.
Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, Hot Rod Charlie will start this race from the highly favorable No. 9 gate.
Other Top Favorites
Rock Your World opens as a 5-1 second-favorite following a victory in this year’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. This colt’s trainer is John Sadler and his jockey is Joel Rosario to form a strong combination. He will break right next to Essential Quality in the No. 15 post position.
Known Agenda also earned high marks for his impressive win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. This is famed trainer Todd Pletcher’s best shot at a third-career Kentucky Derby victory. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will lead this Curlin-sired colt out of the dreaded No. 1 gate to drain some value from his opening 6-1 odds.
One to Watch
Moving further down the betting board, my ‘one to watch’ in Saturday’s featured race is Super Stock at 30-1 odds on the morning line. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by jockey Ricardo Santana, the son of Dialed In is coming off an impressive first-place run in this year’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park earlier in April.
Drawing the outside No. 18 post is not ideal but this colt has more than enough stamina and speed to finish near or even at the front of the pack.