Almost At The Starting Gates: Breaking Down 147th Kentucky Derby Field

Written By Dave Bontempo on April 23, 2021
Kentucky Derby 2021

An old friend, the famed Kentucky Derby, has returned.

The famed first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown resumes its classic time slot for the first Saturday in May with its 147th running.

The May 1 event has an approximate post time of 6:57 p.m. for this $3 million classic, the first jewel of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown.

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 race to be run in September, the 2021 Derby kicks off a back-to-normal Triple Crown schedule. The Preakness Stakes follows May 15 and the Belmont Stakes on June 5.

New Jersey online bettors can wager on the Derby via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.

Numerous simulcasting facilities throughout New Jersey also will be open to accommodate bets. But a word of caution: they are usually jammed to the point of being uncomfortable for bettors. Shut-outs are possible.

The comfort and convenience of one’s app is an excellent betting venue.

A limited number of spectators will be allowed at the Louisville, Ky, facility. However, it will be far less than the 170,513 watching American Pharoah win the first of his Triple Crown events in 2015.

Several horses appear capable of prevailing among 20 entrants for this 1 1–4-mile test.


Kentucky Derby prestige

It’s called “The Run for the Roses,” for a reason. It stems from the blanket of roses draped over the winner. Others refer to it as  “The most exciting two minutes in sports” because of the race’s approximate duration.

The immortal Secretariat set the stakes record of 1:59.40 in 1973. It stands today.

The large size of the Kentucky Derby field ensures that some quality horses will be overlooked, creating exceptional value.

Authentic nipped heavily favored Tiz the Law in a thrilling stretch duel in 2020.

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Looking at the Kentucky Derby field and odds

Here are some of the major contenders, most recent odds, and reasons why they could win.

Remember that no horse has ever run this distance, so stamina variables can weigh heavily.

Essential Quality 5-2

The favorite is 5-for-5 in his career and has scored narrow-margin victories over two other contenders, Highly Motivated and Hot Rod Charlie. He edged Hot Rod Charlie in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall and outlasted the stubborn Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes prep race.

Essential Quality has done everything that’s been asked. The question is whether this horse has already run his finest race. He is guided by Brad Cox, the Eclipse Award top trainer for 2020.

But will he near the pace or sit back, hoping Rock Your World gets caught in a speed duel?

Rock Your World 8-1

Enjoyed a tremendous victory in the Santa Anita Derby. Rock Your World survived a blistering speed duel and had enough left to eventually wire the field. Winning the Santa Anita Derby, considered more prestigious than the Blue Grass, was impressive for his first race on dirt. He previously held two turf victories.

There seems to be a lot of improvement potential with Rock Your World. If he’s able to run the first half mile a little slower at the Kentucky Derby than the Santa Anita Derby, he will be dangerous.

Highly Motivated  15-1

Engaged in a thrilling stretch duel with Essential Quality before falling just short. If Essential Quality is THE horse, Highly Motivated could be right there and in the exacta and trifecta picture.

If these odds hold, it would be a generous price for a horse of this quality.

Hot Rod Charlie  6-1

Just missed against Essential Quality in the Breeders Cup Juvenile last fall. He was 94-1 that day. Those odds will never be seen again.

Hot Rod Charlie battled gamely and won the Louisiana Derby with a strong effort. There’s no reason to suggest he shouldn’t be in the mix heading for home.

Known Agenda  12-1

Two words: Florida Derby. The winners of the Florida Derby have secured three first-place finishes and one second in the last five Kentucky Derbys. One theory concerns the timing of the Florida Derby five weeks before the Run for the Roses. That may be the ideal time between starts.

Known Agenda has a strong stalking style that would be well suited to the Derby. Significant threat.

Super Stock  20-1

Made a remarkable turnaround in the Arkansas Derby to turn the tables on highly-favored Concert Tour.

After lodging an unimpressive fourth in the Rebel Stakes, Super Stock outkicked Concert Tour in a definitive stretch run to capture the Arkansas Derby. This positions Super Stock on an uptick and another improvement can land him on the Derby board.

Medina Spirit 8-1

Beaten handily by Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby. He was 4-5 for that race and had the opportunity to run down Rock Your World in the stretch. But Medina Spirit managed no more than a distant second. Has he peaked?

Midnight Bourbon 15-1

Ran a good second to Hot Rod Charlie in the Louisiana Derby. Was right there as a threat to win until the final 50 yards. A small improvement would put Midnight Bourbon right in the mix. Midnight Bourbon was heads apart with O Besos in that race. If you like one long shot, play them both.

Mandaloun 15-1

Ran a badly-beaten sixth to Hot Rod Charlie in the Louisiana Derby. Trainer Brad Cox said to chalk it up as a bad day. Still a hard horse to like.

Helium  50-1

The Tampa Bay Derby winner prevailed impressively, stalking a pace that may resemble the Kentucky Derby and then holding off challengers. A duplicate effort could put this long shot in the hunt.

Bourbonic 30-1

Yes, he was 72-1 against a weak Wood Memorial field.

But Bourbonic practically came from another state to circle the entire field in the home stretch and get up just at the wire.

If the Kentucky Derby pace is faster than the Wood Memorial, and it should be, he would be even further back halfway through the race. But if horses tire down the lane, he could make a big run to perhaps hit the bottom of the superfecta.




Photo by AP/Jeff Roberson
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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