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Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 3/3/21
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Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 3/3/21

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. 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 squarely the one to beat after a great 2021 debut.

2. 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.

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, but who did he beat? We’ll know more about him when he moves up in class for the Rebel (G2).

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

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. 

8. 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 as a 2-year-old, but we’ll know more in a few weeks when he makes his 2021 debut in the Gotham (G3).

9. 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.

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

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11. 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. 

12. Roman Centurian

Pros: Improving with each race

Cons: Should have won Lewis; low Beyer Speed Figures

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

13. 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? 

14. 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 start in the San Felipe (G2) will tell the tale. He was amazing in his maiden special weight win last time out.

15. Candy Man Rocket

Pros: Distance pedigree; room to improve; Bill Mott

Cons: Questionable back class; low Beyer Speed Figures

Outlook: His Sam F. Davis (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. 

16. 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).

17. 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. 

18. 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 (G3), a smart move because that one-turn mile configuration could suit him really well. 

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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