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Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/18/21: First List Debuts
Life Is Good (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Kentucky Derby Rankings 2/18/21: First List Debuts

Welcome to the 2021 Kentucky Derby Rankings! Each week leading up to the race, we will provide our Top 20 Kentucky Derby Prospects, as well as updates with the latest news on each horse.

You can also visit our Kentucky Derby page for loads of information, including the latest news, rankings, prep race schedules, the Kentucky Derby point standings, and much more!

Let’s take a look at our first list:

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1. Life Is Good

Pros: Tough Luck Bob; running style; highest Beyer in a prep (101)

Cons: Possible distance limitations

Outlook: He’s the best horse we’ve seen run in 2021 so far. If he can stretch out in distance successfully, he will be tough to beat. 

2. Essential Quality

Pros: Brad Cox; distance pedigree; class of the crop

Cons: 2021 debut delayed because of weather

Outlook: If he keeps developing as a 3-year-old, he will be the one they all have to beat. 

3. Medina Spirit

Pros: Two great 2021 efforts; early speed; Tough Luck Bob

Cons: Possible distance limitations 

Outlook: He’s shown heart and toughness in his last two starts, which obviously is important. The stretch out in distance will be the big key. 

4. Caddo River

Pros: Brad Cox; early speed; distance pedigree

Cons: Multiple losses on resume

Outlook: He was really impressive in the Smarty Jones Stakes, but who did he beat? We’ll know more about him when he moves up in class for the Rebel Stakes (G2).

5. Mandaloun

Pros: Brad Cox; enough points (52) to make the Derby gate; great pedigree; running style suited for Derby

Cons: Can Fair Grounds form hold up?

Outlook: The added blinkers in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) really improved this horse. If he can keep progressing, he’s going to be very dangerous. 

6. Greatest Honour

Pros: Excellent pedigree; “The Shugster” Shug McGaughey

Cons: Multiple losses on resume; low Beyer Speed Figures 

Outlook: It’s all about development when it comes to this horse, and Shug McGaughey has improved him with each start. If he continues to do that, then he’ll have a big-time shot. Simply put, Shug is f’ing awesome! 

7. Highly Motivated

Pros: 2 quality wins; Chad Brown

Cons: Possible distance limitations; a little late starting the trail 

Outlook: As of now, it’s a wait-and-see approach. He looked great in the Nyquist Stakes as a 2-year-old, but we’ll know more in a few weeks when he makes his 2021 debut in the Gotham Stakes (G3).

8. Keepmeinmind

Pros: Competed well with the best in the crop; victory at Churchill Downs

Cons: Only 1 victory; 2021 debut keeps getting delayed

Outlook: This seems like a “hit the board” type who’s proven to be extremely classy. We’ll see how much he’s developed once he finally runs in 2021.

9. Jackie’s Warrior

Pros: Fast figures; Grade 1 winner

Cons: Possible distance limitations; poor Breeders’ Cup effort

Outlook: This one’s really interesting because he was far and away the fastest 2-year-old. If he can run back to those numbers, then he’ll be very dangerous, but handling two turns is a major question mark. 

10. Risk Taking

Pros: Distance no problem; Chad Brown

Cons: Running style; low Beyer Speed Figures

Outlook: This solid-looking prospect looked good in the Withers Stakes (G3). He must continue to improve from a speed figure standpoint, though. 

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11. Concert Tour

Pros: Tough Luck Bob; should improve going longer; defeated a next-out winner

Cons: Low Beyer Speed Figures

Outlook: Can this horse get just a bit better when stretching out in distance? If the answer is yes, then he will be tough to beat. 

12. Roman Centurian

Pros: Improving with each race

Cons: Should have won Lewis; low Beyer Speed Figures

Outlook: This horse still has some developing to do but has every right to do so after his runner-up Robert B. Lewis (G3) effort. 

13. Proxy

Pros: Ultra-consistent; distance pedigree; classy

Cons: Hasn’t finished the job in a stakes

Outlook: Simply put, he just hasn’t been able to finish the job in either of his Fair Grounds stakes efforts. Still, this is a solid horse who should make the Derby field. 

14. Hot Rod Charlie

Pros: Proven class; Doug O’Neill; should improve next out

Cons: Shipping away from California; multiple losses on resume

Outlook: I’m on the fence with this guy until we see more. He certainly has proven to be classy, but can he break through and win a big race? 

15. The Great One

Pros: Fantastic last out; Doug O’Neill; seems to have figured it out

Cons: Only 1 victory; possible distance limitations

Outlook: His next race in the San Felipe (G2) will tell the tale. He was amazing in his maiden special weight win last time out.

16. Candy Man Rocket

Pros: Distance pedigree; room to improve; Bill Mott

Cons: Questionable back class; low Beyer Speed Figures

Outlook: His Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) win was very solid; it was his first time facing winners and going two turns. He has to continue developing, though, if he want to move up the ladder. 

17. Midnight Bourbon 

Pros: Consistent; proven class; Derby-friendly running style

Cons: Multiple losses on resume

Outlook: This hard-trying type won the Lecomte (G3) but couldn’t repeat in the Risen Star.

18. Prevalence

Pros: Incredible debut; two-turn pedigree; huge upside

Cons: Late to the game; must progress and move up quickly  

Outlook: Can he go straight from a maiden special weight to winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)? It’s a big ask, but if he does, then he could be a total monster.

19. Rombauer 

Pros: Can run on any surface;

Cons: Speed figures suggest he lacks enough speed

Outlook: His ability to win on synthetic could be key for him making the Derby, but still he has some major improving before he’s considered a prime contender. 

20. Freedom Fighter

Pros: Tough Luck Bob; sharp early speed; improvement likely

Cons: Possible distance limitations

Outlook: Tough Luck Bob is sending him to the Gotham Stakes (G3), a smart move because that one-turn mile configuration could suit him really well. 

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