The greatest betting race of the year, the 2021 Kentucky Derby, is coming up Saturday, May 1 at Churchill Downs. It is the year’s most important race and features the biggest field in American racing: 20 of the best three-year-olds in the country running for the Roses. The race is 1 1/4 miles on the dirt, and they run for a $3 million purse, the iconic blanket of roses, and a place in horse racing history.
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Kentucky Derby 2021 Field
The expected field for the 2021 Kentucky Derby with jockeys and trainers, in order of preference, is:
- Essential Quality: Brad Cox/Luis Saez
- >Hot Rod Charlie: Doug O’Neill/Flavien Prat
- Super Stock: Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana, Jr.
- Like the King: Wesley Ward/Drayden Van Dyke
- Known Agenda: Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz, Jr.
- Rock Your World: John Sadler/Joel Rosario
- Bourbonic: Todd Pletcher/Kendrick Carmouche
- Medina Spirit: Bob Baffert/John Velazquez
- Midnight Bourbon: Steve Asmussen/Mike Smith
- Mandaloun: Brad Cox/Florent Geroux
- Highly Motivated: Chad Brown/Javier Castellano
- Helium: Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux
- Soup and Sandwich: Mark Casse/Tyler Gaffalione
- Dynamic One: Todd Pletcher/Jose Ortiz
- Sainthood: Todd Pletcher/Jockey TBA
- Hidden Stash: Vicki Oliver/Rafael Bejarano
- O Besos: Greg Foley/Marcelino Pedroza
- Get Her Number: Peter Miller/Jockey TBA
- King Fury: Ken McPeek/Brian Hernandez
- Keepmeinmind: Robertino Diodoro/David Cohen
The final field will be drawn on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. On that date, you will know post positions and United States morning lines.
These are the odds for the top 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders:
Kentucky Derby Handicapping
When getting ready to handicap and bet the Kentucky Derby online, it matters to > that best suits your needs. Many sportsbooks are offering 2021 Kentucky Derby bonus wagers and money-back opportunities, so make sure to learn about those opportunities and choose the sportsbook that best fits your needs.
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Best Picks for the Kentucky Derby
When handicapping the Kentucky Derby, it makes sense to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the contenders.
Essential Quality will be the favorite. He is undefeated, five-for-five, and last year’s two-year-old champion. He had the guts to wear down Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass (G2), though his trainer Brad Cox has never started a horse in the Kentucky Derby before.
Known Agenda is an excellent upset candidate. He comes out of a win in the Florida Derby (G1), a race that often represents well in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Curlin is bred well to go the mile and a quarter Derby distance. His trainer Todd Pletcher has won two Kentucky Derbies already, and his jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. is an excellent big-race jockey.
Known Agenda beat another improving horse in Soup and Sandwich. The Florida Derby was his first stakes attempt for trainer Mark Casse. He cedes experience to some of his foes but has some distance breeding and tactical speed.
John Sadler trainee Rock Your World tried dirt for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He set a fast pace but kept going beautifully to beat Medina Spirit. The Arkansas Derby is another traditionally good prep; Super Stock upset the race, though his trainer Steve Asmussen is 0-for-22 in the Kentucky Derby.
Hot Rod Charlie shipped from California to New Orleans to win the Louisiana Derby for two-time Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill. That day he defeated Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon, the only horse to hit the board in all three Fair Grounds preps.
Both Like the King and Sainthood are longshots from the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). Though Like the King won, Sainthood is more appealing. He overcame a nightmare trip to finish second, he has actually won on dirt, and his trainer Todd Pletcher has won two Kentucky Derbies already.
He punched his ticket to Kentucky with a win in the Lexington Stakes. He should improve second off the lay for Ken McPeek, and he has strong breeding for the stretch out in trip. He should also appreciate the sharp pace and should do well with the return to Churchill, where he already won a stakes last year.
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Helium has only raced once this year. Soup and Sandwich’s stablemate in the Mark Casse barn, Helium has an appealing distance pedigree and has shown enough pace versatility to help him work a trip in a 20-horse field.
Kentucky Derby 2021 Picks
Free Kentucky Derby picks are here:
Though favorite Essential Quality comes into the race undefeated and has proven that unlike some two-year-olds he did train on with the best of his crop at three, he had a close call in the Blue Grass (G2), a race that has not been the most live prep in recent years. And, his trainer Brad Cox has never started a horse in the Kentucky Derby before.
Known Agenda, on the other hand, is coming into the Kentucky Derby on the way up. He has won his last two starts. That includes the Florida Derby, one of the strongest modern Kentucky Derby preps. His trainer Todd Pletcher also has two Kentucky Derby wins to his name.
$20 Win/Place/Show on Known Agenda.
Kentucky Derby 2021 Exotic Bets
There is usually a longshot horse that runs into the Kentucky Derby superfecta or Kentucky Derby trifecta. It is often worth playing exotics since payouts can be huge: tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even hundreds of thousands! But, even if you don’t feel comfortable with those bets, consider the fun of playing a long shot to hit the board.
King Fury won the Lexington Stakes impressively and should be an even stronger second off the lay for Ken McPeek. He should benefit from a sharp pace in front of him. Helium is undefeated after three starts and has the versatility to make his own good trip in a large field.
- $5 Show: King Fury, Helium
The exacta is an easy bet to make. Though a straight exacta requires the horses to finish in order, you can box it and cash a ticket if they finish in any order:
$1 Exacta Box: Known Agenda, Essential Quality, King Fury, Helium
You can also key the bet, playing a few horses around the one you really like:
- $1 Exacta Key: Known Agenda with Essential Quality, King Fury, Helium, Midnight Bourbon
Kentucky Derby Exotic Wagering Opportunities
In addition to the Kentucky Derby, it is worth looking at the races at Churchill Downs all week long. On Derby Day specifically, there will be a Kentucky Derby Pick 6. The bet, which requires you to pick six winners in a row, is traditionally an all-stakes Pick 6 that features the Kentucky Derby and five other stakes races on Kentucky Derby Day, with a $0.20 minimum.
The Kentucky Derby Day card at Churchill Downs will feature six stakes races other than the Derby: the $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (G1), the $500,000 Derby City Distaff (G1), the $500,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2), the $500,000 American Turf (G2), the $500,000 Pat Day Mile (G2), and the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1). It will definitely include the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic, traditionally run right before the Derby.
There is also a special Oaks Day/Derby Day Pick 6. That wager has a $2 minimum and covers three stakes on Friday, April 30 including the Kentucky Oaks (G1), as well as three stakes on Saturday, May 1 including the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to the Pick 6 wagers, Kentucky Derby Day also features four Pick 5 wagers, four Pick 4 wagers, and rolling Daily Double and Pick 3 wagers throughout the day. There will also be a Super High Five (pick the first five finishers) in the Kentucky Derby and win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagering all day long.
You can also play the Oaks-Derby Double on Friday. That wager, which you place on Friday, pays out if you pick the winners of both the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.