A look at the 19-horse field at this year’s Kentucky Derby
It is the first Saturday in May and the field is set, and there were 20 horses on which to bet. A mile and a quarter they have to run, a winner to be determined just before the setting of the sun. NBC will cover it live, with horses breaking from the gate at approximately 6:55 p.m.
On Friday afternoon King Fury, who would have exited post No. 16, spiked a fever after his morning gallop and has been scratched from the Derby.
Here is a look at the remaining 19 entries, starting with the inside, post No. 1 horse, Known Agenda. The Florida Derby winner is a legitimate contender, but will have to work out a good trip as he tries to navigate from a likely mid-pack position. Trainer Todd Pletcher added blinkers two starts back, which improved Known Agenda’s focus and resulted in two impressive victories.
Like The King will also have to work out a trip from off the pace, and prove that he can win on a dirt surface. His morning line odds are 50-1 coming out of the No. 2 hole. Another 50-1 entry is Brooklyn Strong, who just learned Sunday that he was in due to the defection of Caddo River, who spiked a temperature last Saturday. He only cost $5,000 as a 2-year-old, and will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli, who plied his trade in his native Italy before moving to California. This will be the first Derby for the horse’s human connections, as Brooklyn Strong exits post No. 3.
Keepmeinmind will probably be forgotten from the No. 4 hole. He may be closing late, and also has a first time Derby jockey and trainer. He ran better as a two year old and has not kept up with some of the other entries who have kept maturing. Sainthood, coming out of gate No. 5, may try to go to the lead early. He may need divine intervention to win, but does have one win and 2 seconds in 3 starts.
O Besos is the “wise guy” horse from post No. 6. He will be coming from far back, and may hit the top 3 with a clear trip. This wise guy writer would rather choose Mandaloun from post No. 7. He is more of a stalking type, but may not like the added distance. Medina Spirit initially sold for only $1,000 at an early age, but keeps finishing first or second against top quality competition. Exiting the No. 8 hole, he should be prominent early and may hang around late for a piece of the purse. Medina Spirit finished 2nd to Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby, and Rock Your World is 3 for 3.
Hot Rod Charlie has run well as of late, and should again from his No. 9 post. He has shown versatility by running either on or near the lead. He was last seen winning the Louisiana Derby on March 20. He beat Midnight Bourbon in that race, who will exit gate No. 10. Look for Midnight Bourbon to contest for the early lead, with Hot Rod Charlie in mid pack. Of these first ten posts, Known Agenda and Hot Rod Charlie have the best chance to wear the garland of Roses at the end of the day. However, I expect the winner to come from one of the ten outside posts, more specifically post 14 or 15.
Dynamic One has won only once in five starts, but had been the highest regarded of trainer Todd Pletcher’s four Derby entries and drew post No. 11. Helium is 3 for 3 lifetime as he exits the 12 hole. He was last seen winning the Tampa Bay Derby back in early March, and has been training well since. He beat horse No. 13, Hidden Stash, by 3/4 of a length in that race. The No. 13 is a stone cold closer, and finished a distant fourth to favored Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3.
Essential Quality is 5 for 5, has danced every dance, and knows how to win. He was the 2020 Juvenile Eclipse Champion, and exits post No. 14 as the colt to beat. His main competition appears to be right right beside him in post No. 15: Rock Your World. He has won all three career starts in impressive fashion.
Rock Your World could try to set the early pace, or at least be close to the front early on. This almost black colt could also win the best looking award. We could easily see his dark color next to Essential Quality’s gleaming gray coat as they strain for the Churchill Downs finish line.
King Fury would have been interesting from post No. 16. He has won 3 of 6, including the Lexington on April 10 after a four month layoff. Look for him to possibly reappear in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, in two weeks.
Highly Motivated was last seen finishing a strong second to Essential Quality in the Blue Grass by a neck. He will wear No. 17 but exit hole No. 16 with the late scratch of King Fury. Highly Motivated will likely be in mid pack if his jockey does what his trainer, Chad Brown, prefers. His breeding suggests the 1 1/4 mile Derby distance may be just a tad too much, otherwise I would give him more serious consideration.
Super Stock wears No. 18. He was the beneficiary of a perfect stalking trip when winning the Grade One Arkansas Derby on April 10. Although I do not expect him to win, he could come charging late to get one of the top three placings.
Soup and Sandwich is the other gray to keep your eyes on, wearing No. 19. He has two wins and a second-place finish to Known Agenda in the Florida Derby in his last start in late March. There is much to like for this Campbell Soup named thoroughbred, except maybe his next to the far outside post position.
At least he should not get trapped down along the rail and could work out a good, albeit possibly wide around the first turn, trip. If you are looking for a longshot play, Soup and Sandwich may be your cup of tea.
Last to load is No. 20, Bourbonic, who was a huge upset winner in the Wood Memorial in his last start. He is another closer, and should be even longer odds this time, despite his win in the pedestrian timed Wood.
And down the stretch they come!