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2021 Kentucky Derby horses: All 20 entries ranked


Mud is splashed up on the horses as they make their way past the grandstands at Churchill Downs for the 145th Running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2019. Syndication LouisvilleGet the lowdown on all 20 entries for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Mandatory Credit: Michael Clevenger and Michael Goodwin (Louisville) Courier JournalOur expert handicapper analyses the chances of the 20 Kentucky Derby horses competing in this year’s race and ranks them based on their chances of victory.

Find out which of the leading candidates only makes seventh spot on the list and which decorated trainer he believes will not only win the race for the roses but train the first two home.

Betting on this year’s run for the roses? Read our How to bet on the Kentucky Derby guide.

All 20 Kentucky Derby horses ranked

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20th – Brooklyn Strong

Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
Post: 3
Forecast odds: 50/1

Brooklyn Strong has only raced once as a 3-year-old, an uninspired out-of-the-money finish in Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial. Needed a number of defections in order to get into the field just before post positions were drawn.

Jockey Rispoli was unceremoniously dumped from top contender Rock Your World for a more experienced Derby rider. Brooklyn Strong won a stakes race in the slop at Aqueduct as a 2-year old but the weather forecast suggests finer conditions on Derby day.

19th – Hidden Stash

Trainer: Vicki Oliver
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Post: 13
Forecast odds: 50/1

Hidden Stash has seven races under his belt, making him one of the more experienced entrants. Trouble is, he hasn’t really improved much as a 3-year-old.

He finished in the money against weaker fields in stakes at Tampa Bay in Florida, then was defeated by 10 lengths in the Blue Grass. Hidden Stash did win at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old but it was an optional claiming race. Oliver is the 17th female trainer to have a Derby entrant.

18th – Soup and Sandwich

Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Post: 19
Forecast odds: 30/1

Soup and Sandwich finished second in the Florida Derby, hanging on for the runner-up spot after battling for the early lead. The pace of the race wasn’t particularly taxing and the quality of the Florida stakes races are debatable.

His races suggest that he’ll appreciate a mile more than a mile-and-a-quarter. He should be up close in the early going, perhaps even on the lead for a little bit, but he’ll back up well before the finish line.

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17th – Sainthood

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Post: 5
Forecast odds: 50/1

This one got into a world of trouble while finishing second in the Jeff Ruby Stakes at Turfway Park. That race was contested on a synthetic track, and he barely won a maiden race in his previous outing.

Trainer Pletcher has won two Derbies, most recently with Always Dreaming in 2017, and he’s got four entrants in this year’s running. Unless his run in Turfway was a sign of dramatic improvement, this one seems like the weakest of the quartet.

16 – Like The King

Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Post: 2
Forecast odds: 50/1

Like The King defeated Sainthood in the Jeff Ruby to get enough qualifying points for the Derby. He’s done his best work on synthetic tracks and turf, posting three victories and a second place finish in four starts.

Both of his dirt starts, which came during his 2-year-old campaign, were poor. Ward is a fine trainer but it’s impossible to like this one off his dirt form.

15th – Bourbonic

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche
Post: 20
Forecast odds: 30/1

Another runner from the Pletcher contingent, Bourbonic pulled off a 72-1 shocker in the New York’s Wood Memorial. Bourbonic rallied from last, so the added distance of the Derby won’t be an issue.

As a closer, the wide post won’t be a major disadvantage. The deal-breaker is that the speed figure came up light, suggesting Bourbonic’s victory was the product of weak or underperforming competition.

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14th – Dynamic One

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Post: 11
Forecast odds: 30/1

Dynamic One finished a head behind his stablemate in the slowly run Wood, though he may have a little more upside than Bourbonic. Dynamic One had a wide trip that day and it may have cost him the victory.

Jockey Ortiz is one of the best in the business and this son of Union Rags, a Belmont Stakes winner, should have no trouble with the distance. Beyond those factors, there’s little reason for hope.

13th – Keepmeinmind

Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: David Cohen
Post: 4
Forecast odds: 50/1

This one seemed like a prime contender heading into the winter after a third-place finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, followed by a stakes win at Churchill Downs.

From all appearances, he’s regressed as a 3-year-old. He was soundly beaten in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn and thumped by 16 lengths in the Blue Grass. Perhaps a return to Churchill will provide a wakeup call but it’s an unlikely scenario.

12th – Helium

Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Post: 12
Forecast odds: 50/1

Helium enters undefeated in three starts, much like Rock Your World, but has a lot more to prove. His first two victories came as a 2-year-old in sprint races on a synthetic track in Canada.

In his only 3-year-old start, Helium overcame a wide trip to win a stakes race at Tampa Bay. However, that was nearly two months ago and he probably needed another race under his belt to get ready for the demanding Derby distance. His balloon is bound to burst in Kentucky.

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11th – King Fury SCRATCHED (Fever)

Trainer: Ken McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Post: 16
Forecast odds: 30/1

Lone 3-year-old start came just three weeks ago, when he pulled off an 18-1 upset in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. He got a perfect trip, as a wicked pace set up the race for a closer and King Fury snuck up the rail to pass the tiring speed horses.

That race was also contested over a sloppy track and the track is expected to be dry and fast on Derby day. King Fury has won twice at Churchill but still seems a cut below the top runners.

10th – Super Stock

Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Post: 18
Forecast odds: 20/1

The upset winner of the Arkansas Derby, Super Stock has a Hall of Fame trainer and plenty of experience with eight races on the resume. The horse is also familiar with Churchill Downs, having run there twice as a 2-year-old.

Speed figures suggest the horse simply doesn’t have the talent to win the Derby. The Arkansas win was the product of a dream trip – sitting behind a couple of dueling speed horses with a ground-saving ride, then going around them in the stretch. That can’t be duplicated in a 20-horse field.

9th – Highly Motivated

Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Post: 17
Forecast odds: 15/1

Highly Motivated gave race favorite Essential Quality a tough battle before getting caught at the wire in the Blue Grass.

Several factors point to that being a product of pace rather than being EQ’s equal. Highly Motivated set a slow uncontested pace and that won’t happen on Saturday.

There are also major questions about this one handling the added distance. Brown entered him in three sprint races as a youngster, suggesting he didn’t think Highly Motivated was a stayer.

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8th – Midnight Bourbon

Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Mike Smith
Post: 10
Forecast odds: 15/1

In terms of trainer-jockey combo, it doesn’t get much better than Asmussen and Smith. The horse, though, needs to improve a few lengths to reach the winner’s circle.

Midnight Bourbon possesses good tactical speed but hasn’t been able to finish the job in Louisiana’s top prep races. All three of Midnight Bourbon’s 3-year starts have been solid but it doesn’t appear he can turn the tables on the serious contenders.

7th – Known Agenda

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Post: 1
Forecast odds: 6/1

The connections were crushed to draw the dreaded inside post. A new starting gate further out from the rail and the presence of top American jockey Ortiz could mitigate the disadvantage.

Known Agenda earned his way into the field with a mild upset in the Florida Derby. He’s improved significantly in his last two starts with the addition of blinkers. If Ortiz can extricate himself from the traffic on this closer, it’s conceivable – though unlikely – Pletcher can capture his third Derby.

6th – O Besos

Trainer: Greg Foley
Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza
Post: 6
Forecast odds: 30/1

This deep closer will look to emulate his daddy, Orb, the 2013 Derby winner. Only two jockeys since the 1970s have won with their first Derby mount but the connections opted to keep Pedroza, who has ridden the horse the last two outings, in the saddle.

O Besos showed a nice late kick in the stretch run of the Louisiana Derby, slipping up the rail and losing by just two lengths. Deep closers haven’t won many Derbies lately but this one could certainly grab a share of the purse.

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5th – Hot Rod Charlie

Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Post: 9
Forecast odds: 8/1

O’Neill has won two Derbies and has a legitimate chance to win another with this versatile runner. Prat backed into a Derby victory two years ago on longshot Country House when Maximum Security was disqualified.

Hot Rod Charlie finished second at 94-1 in the Breeders Cup Juvenile but proved that wasn’t a fluke with a Louisiana Derby victory in his second 3-year-old start. Went wire-to-wire that day but will likely use different tactics on Saturday.

4th – Medina Spirit

Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez
Post: 8
Forecast odds: 12/1

Baffert’s top 3-year-old, Life Is Good, was injured in a workout. Most of his other 3-year-olds have disappointed during the prep campaign.

That leaves the two-time Triple Crown winning trainer with one shot for another Derby victory. Medina Spirit has only won one of four two-turn races but his conquerors were Life Is Good and Rock Your World. He appears to have plateaued but it’s never wise to underestimate Baffert.

3rd – Rock Your World

Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Post: 15
Forecast odds: 5/1

Some feathers were ruffled when the connections replaced Santa Anity Derby winning jockey Rispoli with the more seasoned Rosario but this colt can definitely fly.

Rock Your World ran the California horses off their feet by setting a quick pace and pulling away in the stretch. That was his first journey on dirt – his first two starts were grass victories.

Front-runners and pace pressers have won a majority of Derbies in recent years and Rock Your World is the best in that category.

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2nd – Mandaloun

Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Post: 7
Forecast odds: 15/1

With the addition of blinkers, Mandaloun won the Risen Star Stakes at Louisiana, beating Midnight Bourbon in the process. Mandaloun was a colossal disappointment as the favorite in the Louisiana Derby, inflating his odds for the first Saturday in May.

Mandaloun has trained spectacularly at Churchill Downs since that non-effort, suggesting he’ll bounce back and run a big one. Mandaloun has good tactical speed and Geroux knows him well – he’s been on the horse’s back in all five starts.

1st – Essential Quality

Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez
Post: 14
Forecast odds: 2/1

Indeed, it’s possible that Cox will run 1-2 in America’s most celebrated race. Essential Quality has the look of 2016 Derby winner Nyquist, who didn’t blow away the competition but always took care of business.

Essential Quality showed another element by stalking the slow pace in the Blue Grass but he’ll probably be in mid-pack before kicking into gear on Saturday. This Godolphin homebred has no apparent weaknesses and will be tough to beat with decent racing luck.

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