The field around the first turn during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP
There are great sporting events in every sport out there. The Super Bowl is a spectacle. March Madness is an electric factory. The Daytona 500 is a huge event. But for me, nothing compares to the Kentucky Derby. It’s the first Saturday in May (except in 2020), and it signals the start of one of the most difficult challenges in all of the American sports, the Triple Crown. The “Run for the Roses” is the most historic and most watched horse race in the world and this year it returns to its rightful place in May and with fans filling Churchill Downs.
Essential Quality will in all likelihood enter Churchill Downs on May 1, 2021 as the prohibitive favorite to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. The question will become whether one of the other nineteen entrants will be able to beat him.
2021 Kentucky Derby Contenders
Saturday, May 1, 2021 – 06:30 PM EDT at Churchill Downs
How Good Is Essential Quality?
The short answer is he is very good. Excellent, even. The question is not whether he is good, it’s whether he is one of the greats. That’s what winning the Kentucky Derby makes you, an all-time great. He is undefeated coming into the race, but I think there are legitimate questions about the competition he has faced. At +380, if you’re going to bet Essential Quality, that is the best you’re going to get, but I think there’s more value in trying to beat him with one of the ones below.
Louis Saez, riding Essential Quality, celebrates after winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Bobby Ellis/Getty Images/AFP
Who Are the Other Contenders?
There’s going to be quite a few of them coming into this race and some of them are very interesting. The top contender in my book is the Bob Baffert trained, Concert Tour. Concert Tour was a co-favorite with Essential Quality until losing this past weekend in the Arkansas Derby. Still he is a very talented horse and could bounce back with a nice effort in Louisville. Further, he is the type of Baffert horse that could still be improving as the legendary trainer has employed the strategy of lightly racing the colt prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Hot Rod Charlie scored a very nice win in the Louisiana Derby for trainer Doug O’Neill to put himself in the conversation, and he gets the services of top rider, Flavien Prat who has Kentucky Derby experience from his “win” aboard Country House in 2019.
Known Agenda trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher put himself in this field after winning the Florida Derby against a solid field at the end of March. This colt is one who could surprise as he bounced back beautifully from a loss in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs earlier this year to run a very nice race at Gulfstream Park.
The second-place finisher in that Florida Derby, Soup and Sandwich, trained by Mark Casse, is one that I have my eye on. This horse is lightly raced, ran a very strong Florida Derby, and appears to be still improving. If we have not seen Soup and Sandwich’s best effort yet, this horse could find the wire at Churchill Downs on May 1.
I like Essential Quality, but I don’t think he’s unbeatable and I don’t like the price you’re getting on him. The Kentucky Derby is an unpredictable race. You might have the best horse, but a bad trip or an unlucky start could do you in with twenty horses in the field. This is also going to be the stiffest competition any of these horses have faced yet. I think Essential Quality could be beaten here and I have my eye on two horses, in particular, to do so.
The first is Florida Derby winner, Known Agenda. Todd Pletcher was confident about this horse coming into the Florida Derby and apparently with good reason. He ran beautifully, running down Soup and Sandwich and holding off Greatest Honour. This horse appears to be peaking at the right time and Pletcher will absolutely have him ready.
The second horse I like also comes from the Florida Derby and that is Soup and Sandwich. What I like about this horse is that he is on an upward trajectory. He only had three races coming into the Florida Derby and against a good field, ran an excellent race. If he can sit a nice stalking trip, I think he could be in the mix down the stretch, and he offers incredible value at the best online betting sites.
Horse Racing Pick: Known Agenda to win Kentucky Derby (+650) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)
Known Agenda to win Kentucky Derby (+650)
Horse Racing Pick: Soup and Sandwich to win Kentucky Derby (+2800) at Bovada
Soup and Sandwich to win Kentucky Derby (+2800)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.