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Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 3/10/21
Life Is Good after winning the San Felipe (Credit: Benoit Photo)

Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 3/10/21

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 (G1) page for loads of information, including the latest news, rankings, prep race schedules, the Kentucky Derby point standings, and much more!

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1. Life Is Good

Pros: Tough Luck Bob; running style; elite talent; two highest Beyers (101, 107) in the crop

Cons: Possible distance limitations

Outlook: It’s pretty simple at this point with him, he has the most talent. Can he handle pace pressure is the biggest question mark still left with him.

2. Essential Quality

Pros: Brad Cox; distance pedigree; class of the crop; solid 2021 debut

Cons: Hard-pressed to find a con at this point

Outlook: He’s easily better than those behind him on this list, plus he has a better distance pedigree than our top ranked horse.

3. Medina Spirit

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

Cons: Can’t beat his stablemate 

Outlook: He’s shown heart and toughness in his last three starts, but he’s just no match for his stablemate Life Is Good.

4. Caddo River

Pros: Brad Cox; early speed; distance pedigree

Cons: Multiple losses on resume

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

5. Mandaloun

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

Cons: Will Fair Grounds form hold up this year?

Outlook: The added blinkers in the Risen Star (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; 3-race winning streak

Cons: Low Beyer Speed Figures remain an issue

Outlook: This guy keeps winning without earning fast speed figures. Further stretching out in distance should help him.

7. Concert Tour

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

Cons: Low Beyer Speed Figures; Freedom Fighter did not flatter him in the Gotham.

Outlook: Can this horse improve even a bit when stretching out in distance? If the answer is yes, then he’ll be tough to beat. The Rebel Stakes (G2) will tell us a lot this weekend.

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 this weekend in the Rebel Stakes (G2).

9. 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 (G3). He must continue to improve from a speed figure standpoint, though. 

10. Proxy

Pros: Ultra-consistent; distance pedigree; classy

Cons: Hasn’t finished the job in a stakes

Outlook: Simply put, he wasn’t 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. 

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11. 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? 

12. Dream Shake

Pros: Plenty of talent; ran well in his stakes debut

Cons: Behind schedule wise; no match for the best horse in California

Outlook: His effort in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) was admirable. It’s hard to see him turning the tables on Life Is Good, though, which puts him in a tough spot.

13. 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 (G2).

14. Roman Centurian

Pros: Consistent runner

Cons: Should have won Lewis; low Beyer Speed Figures; no match for top 3 in the San Felipe

Outlook: At this point, his ceiling is being a “hit the board” type in the big races.

15. Helium

Pros: Undefeated horse; should improve next out

Cons: Very low Beyers; defeated a weak field; training up to the Derby

Outlook: It was impressive that this horse could win the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) off a layoff, plus it was his first start on dirt. This will be his only race before the Kentucky Derby, though, which is not ideal.

16. Weyburn

Pros: Massive improvement in the Gotham; distance pedigree

Cons: Still has some proving to do; Gotham could have been a fluke

Outlook: I’m squarely on the fence with him at this point. He made a huge progression in the Gotham (G3), but can he repeat that effort? The Wood Memorial (G2) will tell us a lot about him.

17. Highly Motivated

Pros: 2 quality wins; Chad Brown

Cons: Possible distance limitations; lackluster 2021 debut 

Outlook: I’d like to give him one more chance in a final prep before writing him off completely. He was so-so in the Gotham (G3), but he has a right to improve next out.

18. 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 to do before he’s considered a prime contender.

19. Spielberg

Pros: Tough Luck Bob; pedigree

Cons: Very inconsistent; overall talent level very questionable

Outlook: He’s the horse that just won’t go away. Every time you try to write him off, he comes back with a decent effort, so you have to keep him on the list. Baffert will probably get him to the Derby, but he really shouldn’t have much of a chance.

20. Brooklyn Strong

Pros: Solid as a 2-year-old; proven at longer distances

Cons: Late to the game; long layoff  

Outlook: It looks like he’s shooting for the Wood Memorial (G2) as his first race as a 3-year-old. That will be a tough ask, but he owns a win over the track and at the Wood’s distance.

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