It’s the 1st Saturday in May this weekend, which means Kentucky Derby time! This year’s renewal will be the 147th running and thankfully will look a lot more like normal than last year’s COVID-affected classic schedule. A limited but welcome crowd will see the full field of 20 competitors race over 1m2f at Churchill Downs. I’m going to pick the winner.
Essential Quality +225 – (pictured) He ticks a lot of the boxes that you want for a Kentucky Derby winner without being so good as to scare the opposition. A Churchill Downs winner, this unbeaten Godolphin horse will try to give trainer Brad Cox his first Derby. He had a dream trip last time out in the Grade 2 Bluegrass, but I don’t see him getting things his own way this time so for me he’s a pass at the short price.
Rock Your World +500 – Santa Anita Derby winner in his only start on dirt, staying on well to beat Medina Spirit. Remains to be seen if his inexperience will cost him in a rougher race. I think he needs to get to the front early.
Highly Motivated +900 – Battled all the way to the line when just beaten by Essential Quality in the Bluegrass. There may still may be improvement in him and he goes on the short-list.
Known Agenda +900 – Irad Ortiz rides the Florida Derby winner for Todd Pletcher here. That victory looked cozy to me and he displayed a willingness to run amongst traffic, which is a Kentucky Derby must. He even looked a little green in the stretch, which tells me there’s more to come. Big chance.
Hot Rod Charlie +1000 – His name suggests he can run fast, but I’m a pro, I need more. Trainer Doug O’Neill has a couple of Derby wins to his name. Proven stamina is also a plus. The last time a Louisiana Derby winner won the Run for the Roses was in 1996. He’s another frontrunner and they can’t all get there.
Medina Spirit +1200 – Bob Baffert’s only inmate here has a touch of seconditis. He’ll stalk the pace and is tough. Has a habit of finding one too good which is a hard one to shake. His win in the Robert B Lewis stakes in January was absolute nails, and if it comes to a dogfight you want this one in your corner.
Super Stock +1300 – Has been relatively busy and took advantage of a sweet trip to land the Arkansas Derby at 12/1. Luck in running is at a premium and you can pick holes in this form.
Bourbonic +1400 – Another Pletcher horse that sprung a 72/1 surprise when he won the Wood Memorial. He came from two towns over that day, and while it was fun, it’s not happening again.
Mandaloun +1700 – Disappointed when favorite in the Louisiana Derby, and as a result his price is much bigger than it was. If you’re brave enough to draw a line through that piece of form, you might get a good run for your money here.
Helium +2100 – A low Beyer figure and negative trainer stats immediately raise the alarm. Throw in the fact that the horse is inexperienced on the surface and it’s a hard pass for me.
Like The King +2100 – Trained by Wesley Ward, his first runner in the Kentucky Derby, Like The King has qualified for this due to a quirk in the rules. I think he will be outclassed.
Dynamic One +2100 – Second in the Wood Memorial, the Todd Pletcher horse has been trained patiently and as a result, will be ready for this assignment. A positive jockey booking, Jose Ortiz, is another nudge in the right direction. Will stay. Chance.
Midnight Bourbon +2600 – Relatively exposed Steve Asmussen horse, has regularly ran with credit without looking top class. Happy to overlook this time.
Soup and Sandwich +2600 – Great looking grey whose inexperience might not be a big negative here. Stuck on well whilst looking naïve in the Florida Derby, but as a front runner will need to be left alone at the head of the field.
Sainthood +2600 – If you’re looking for an improver at a price, this could be the one. He’s won on the surface without tackling any opposition this tough. Would have won the Jeff Ruby stakes last time had he not been absolutely barricaded in at the top of the stretch. Race should run to suit and I think he gets involved.
Keepmeinmind +3400 – Has some nice form in the book, running third to today’s favorite in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He’s over-priced, but that doesn’t make him a selection.
O Besos +3400 – Third in the Louisiana Derby, this strong finisher has been the subject of positive vibes trackside this week. If you’re looking for a fun outsider, O Besos will be arriving on the scene late and fast.
King Fury +3400 –Slooshed home in the slop to win a Grade 3 last time, which was lovely for him.
Hidden Stash +4000 – Consistent type who will need luck in running here.
Brooklyn Strong +5000 – Grade 2 winner whose speed figures to stand up ok, but he hasn’t beaten much and I don’t think he can spring the shock today.
Race Analysis and Picks
Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie, and Soup and Sandwich are just three of those who want to be at the front, and there is a raft of stalkers too, meaning things could get out of hand early. I’m looking at the winner coming from further back.
Essential Quality has really done nothing wrong to date but he looks vulnerable to improving horses. I think he’ll get turned over. Medina Spirit is tough and will hang about when others have cried enough. At the prices, you have to look at Highly Motivated on a line through Essential Quality. He should be there at the business end. Sainthood is a long shot and has not yet ran up to this class, but eagle-eyed observers will have seen the traffic problems he had last time. Had he shaken loose he’d be getting more attention here. However, the selection is Known Agenda. I loved how he won the Florida Derby, and this well-bred horse couldn’t ask for better connections with which to win a Kentucky Derby.
Win – Known Agenda +900