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Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/21/21
Rock Your World after winning the Santa Anita Derby (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Kentucky Derby Top 20 Rankings 4/21/21

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!

1. Essential Quality

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.

2. Rock Your World

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?

3. Hot Rod Charlie

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.

4. Highly Motivated

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.

5. Known Agenda

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.

6. Medina Spirit

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.

7. Midnight Bourbon 

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.

8. Mandaloun

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.

9. Super Stock

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.

10. Soup and Sandwich

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.

11. Caddo River

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.

12. Helium

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.

13. Like the King

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.

14. Bourbonic

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.

15. Dynamic One

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.

16. Sainthood

Pros: Solid distance pedigree

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.

17. O Besos

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.

18. Dream Shake

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.

19. Hidden Stash

Pros: None

Cons: Many

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.

20. Get Her Number

Pros: None

Cons: Many

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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