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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!
Pros: Trainer Brad Cox; distance pedigree; class of the crop; undefeated
Cons: Paddling running motion seems to be getting worse
Outlook: He’ll go into the Kentucky Derby as an undefeated champion and the post time favorite. This horse has done nothing wrong in any of his starts.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Essential Quality
Pros: Highest speed figure among active contenders; defeated a strong field; running style suited for the Derby
Cons: Only 1 start on dirt
Outlook: There is no doubt his Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory was very impressive, and if he can repeat that type of performance, he’ll have a big shot. Can this horse continue to improve/prove his form on the dirt?
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Rock Your World
Pros: Proven class; Doug O’Neill; win going 1 3/16 miles; high Beyer Speed Figure
Cons: Multiple losses on the resume
Outlook: The son of Oxbow (standing at Calumet Farm) kicked it up a notch with an impressive win in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure that’s now the second-highest among active Derby contenders.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Hot Rod Charlie
Pros: Strong effort first time going two-turns; progressing at the right time
Cons: Distance limitations are possible
Outlook: This guy showed a lot in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2), nearly pulling off the upset. He should be ready to run his biggest race yet; however, will the distance of the Derby be to his liking? That’s the major question mark.
Brown Expects “Improved Performance” from Highly Motivated in Kentucky Derby
Pros: Developing at the right time; distance pedigree
Cons: Just a step slower than his main rivals; multiple losses on his resume
Outlook: Todd Pletcher deserves credit for getting the horse to pop at the perfect time. His Florida Derby (G1) win was solid and his pedigree will give him a chance in Kentucky.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Known Agenda
Pros: Multiple great 2021 efforts; early speed; Bob Baffert
Cons: Multiple second-place efforts by several lengths
Outlook: He’s shown heart and toughness in his last four starts; however, he seems to be a bit below the top horses in the crop.
Medina Spirit Refuses to Wilt in Robert B. Lewis
Pros: Consistent; proven class; Derby-friendly running style; “Big Money Mike” Smith will ride
Cons: Multiple losses on resume
Outlook: He leaves Louisiana as the most consistent horse from that circuit. His toughness and running style should help him in Kentucky.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Midnight Bourbon
Pros: Brad Cox; enough points (52) to make the Derby gate; running style suited for Derby
Cons: Absolute no-show in the Louisiana Derby (G2)
Outlook: You can’t be confident in him now after his non-effort in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He was in the perfect position to win; however, he was empty in the stretch.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Mandaloun
Pros: Improving with each race; solid running style
Cons: Low speed figures; several losses on his resume
Outlook: His Arkansas Derby (G1) victory is a feel good story, while he does seem to be improving with each start. Even he can take another step forward he can be a player.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Super Stock
Pros: Solid running style; rapidly improving with each start
Cons: Horrific name; still lacks experience; speed figures a tad low
Outlook: This guy could be interesting at a big number. He’s trending in the right direction, getting better with each race, and his front-end speed should help him on the first Saturday in May.
Midnight Bourbon, Soup and Sandwich Work at Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby
Pros: Improved in last effort; solid running style
Cons: Low speed figures; inconsistent
Outlook: It was nice to see him rebound with a nice effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1). At worst, he’ll be a pace play if he runs in the Kentucky Derby.
Caddo River Obliterates Smarty Jones
Pros: Undefeated horse; should improve next out
Cons: Very low Beyer Speed Figures; 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.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Helium, Mandaloun Work at Churchill Downs
Pros: He has the points to make the gate
Cons: Everything else
Outlook: He fought hard to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), which is admirable. The test at Churchill Downs will be much tougher for him, though.
Like The King Rallies To Take Jeff Ruby
Pros: Recent win shows he’s improving
Cons: Still very slow compared to the rest of the field.
Outlook: The 72/1 upset Wood Memorial (G2) winner earned his way into the field, but he must take another giant step forward in the Derby to have a shot.
Bourbonic Bombs Wood Memorial
Pros: Solid distance pedigree
Cons: Slow numbers; only one victory on his resume.
Outlook: This Todd Pletcher trainee nearly pulled off an upset in the Wood Memorial (G2), only to be beaten late by his stablemate. Like his stablemate, he’ll need to show improvement to have a shot on the first Saturday in May.
Midnight Bourbon Drills Bullet Work at Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby
Cons: Slow numbers; pedigree leans towards turf
Outlook: He’s slow, but he seems to be getting better with each start, so that’s a positive. He might be a good horse down the line; however, the Derby seems like a stretch.
Pros: Nice closing kick
Cons: No stakes victories; lack of early speed could be problem
Outlook: This is going to be one of the “wise guy” horses, which is never a good thing. He’ll come with a big run down the lane; however, it’s unlikely he can pass them all and get the victory.
O Besos Could Join Rare Company with Kentucky Derby Win
Pros: Showed talent on debut; could still improve
Cons: Wasn’t close to winning either stakes try
Outlook: It’s still very questionable that he runs in the race, but if he does, he’s going to need to show big improvement to have a chance.
Outlook: He seems like a long shot that he makes an impact after failing to win three straight prep races. He had chances at Tampa; however, he couldn’t finish the deal.
Outlook: This horse will be making his third off the layoff, but he failed to make an impact in either of his starts in Arkansas, making it tough to see him doing much in this spot.
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