Kentucky Derby 2021 Profiles: Odds, Entries and Statistical Analysis

Here are the updated profiles of the 20 horses entered in Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs. The profiles were previously published over the past 10 days by and now include post position and odds following Tuesday’s draw. The profiles were written by contributors Ed McNamara, Margaret Ransom, and Lynne Snierson. Listed in post-position order.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Profiles: Odds, Entries and Statistical Analysis

1 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: KNOWN AGENDA

By Margaret Ransom

Known Agenda, the leading point-earner out of the four from Hall of Fame inductee Todd Pletcher’s powerful arsenal, enters the Run for the Roses off a 2 ¾-length romp in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park last out on March 27 in what was his first stakes victory.

The St. Elias Stable (Vincent Viola) homebred had been training at his winter base of Palm Beach Downs but shipped to Churchill Downs with his Derby-bound stablemates for his final preps 20 days before the main event.

After a dull fifth-place finish in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs in early February, Pletcher put the blinkers on Known Agenda and he responded with focus, winning a Gulfstream Park allowance race on Feb. 26 by 11 widening lengths.

“I think he’s a horse who is improving, and the blinkers have kept him a little more focused and a little more engaged in the race,” Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form. “I think without the blinkers in the Florida Derby he might have been a little intimidated with the position he was in and he might not have made the progress he made from the five-eighths pole to the half-mile pole without them. But experience has also helped him. Time has helped him. The mile and an eighth certainly doesn’t bother him. And I believe the added distance in the Derby is something we feel good about for all our horses.”

Recently, the single most productive Derby prep has been the Florida Derby which could give Known Agenda an edge. Since Barbaro in 2006, Big Brown (2008), Orb (2013), Nyquist (2016) and Always Dreaming (2017) made the successful leap from the Florida Derby winner’s circle to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. Maximum Security would have been another had he not been disqualified from the win in Louisville two years ago. Overall, 24 Florida Derby winners have won the Kentucky Derby.

Also, Known Agenda may have a slight edge in that his sire, Curlin, was a Grade 1 winner at the classic distance (2007 BC Classic) and also won the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Eleven of the last 12 Kentucky Derby winners were sired by a Grade 1 winner around two turns, except Orb in 2013 (Malibu Moon) and California Chrome in 2014 (Lucky Pulpit).

He also has some tactical turn of foot, which can be handy considering he can be used to either sit close to the front or well off it depending on the pace speed. Typically, Derby winners come from within a handful of lengths of the lead through the first half-mile.

Post position: 1

Odds: 6-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Owner: St. Elias Stable (Vincent Viola)

Career record: 6-3-1-1

Career earnings: $541,700

Derby qualifying points: 102 (5th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 112

Pedigree: Curlin-Byrama, by Byron

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Mid-pack

Notes: Known Agenda’s dam Byrama won the G1 Vanity Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2013 over the synthetic and was subsequently sold to St. Elias Stable for $725,000 that November at Keeneland, but never won another race, though she did pick up three more graded stakes placings … St. Elias tried to sell Known Agenda as a yearling but kept him to be a member of their racing program after he failed to meet his reserve when bidding halted at $135,000 at Keeneland in September of 2019 … St. Elias was a partner in 2017 Florida Derby/Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming … Pletcher has two Derbies so far, Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017 … Eclipse Award winning jockey Ortiz is looking for his first Derby win.

Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: LIKE THE KING

By Ed McNamara

If the Kentucky Derby were run at 5 1/2 furlongs on grass instead of 1 1/4 miles on dirt, this wouldn’t be Wesley Ward’s first starter in America’s Race.

Ward’s game is cranking up young sprinters, and nobody plays it better. He’s been a trailblazer in England, where he’s excelled with 2-year-olds at the world’s most prestigious meeting, Royal Ascot.

In 2009 he became the first American-based trainer to win there, his first of 11 victories. Two years ago, he won a stakes and was summoned to Queen Elizabeth’s suite to talk racing.

Like the King, a son of 2013 Belmont Stakes hero Palace Malice, qualified for the Derby with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Jeff Ruby Steaks (not Stakes) on the Tapeta surface at Turfway Park. (The only horse to hit the Turfway-Derby double is Animal Kingdom in 2011.)

Like the King, who was on or near the pace in his first five races, showed a new dimension in the Jeff Ruby. He rallied from seventh early and overcame trouble on the far turn to beat fellow Derby entry Sainthood by a length.

“He’s a big, rangy colt,” Ward said, who on April 17 had Derby rider Drayden Van Dyke breeze him 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 with standout Canadian sprinter Artie’s Princess at Keeneland. “That was a good work, and the filly he worked with is a champion.”

Major concern: Like the King was second and third, beaten a total of 19 3/4 lengths, in his two starts on dirt. Don’t expect dramatic improvement against by far the best field he’s ever faced.

 Post position: 2

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Wesley Ward

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

Owner: M Racing Group

Career record: 6-3-2-1

Career earnings: $200,680

Derby qualifying points: 104 (4th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 95

Pedigree: Palace Malice-Like a Queen, by Corinthian

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Front-runner/stalker

Notes: Ward, 53, won the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice in 1984. In 1991, two years after ending a successful riding career, he took out his trainer’s license. He has four Breeders’ Cup wins, all on turf …  Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, a three-time Derby winner, is the agent for Van Dyke, a Louisville native who has ridden mainly in Southern California. He finished fourth in the 2018 Derby on Instilled Regard and 19th in 2019 on Gray Magician.

3 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: BROOKLYN STRONG

By Ed McNamara

He won two New York-bred stakes before pulling an upset Dec. 5 on a sloppy track in Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes. Finishing third, nine lengths behind, was Known Agenda. They’ve gone opposite ways since then. Known Agenda won the Florida Derby and is considered a serious Derby contender. Brooklyn Strong has run once and showed nothing, plodding to a fifth-place finish in a slow Wood Memorial.

Nevertheless, when defections opened a spot in the Derby field, owner Mark Schwartz and trainer Danny Velazquez decided to take a shot. Why not? Talk about playing with house money. Schwartz, a retired insurance executive, bought the New York-bred gelding for $5,000, $220,000 less than he’s earned.

It will be the first Derby for Schwartz and Velazquez, neither of whom had won a graded stakes until the Remsen. Just being there will be a thrill, even though Brooklyn Strong realistically has no chance coming off a bad race in his only start this year.

Post position: 3

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Danny Velazquez

Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

Owner: Mark Schwartz

Career record: 5-3-0-1

Career earnings: $225,000

Derby qualifying points: 10 (20th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 99

Pedigree: Wicked Strong-Riviera Chic, by Medaglia d’Oro

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notes: Schwartz’s sons, Jonathan and Bryan, wanted to name the gelding after the New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin, whose nickname is “Breadman.” But Breadman was taken, so Mark Schwartz, born and raised in Brooklyn, chose Brooklyn Strong … “The first track I ever went to was Aqueduct,” he said. “I went with my dad when I was seven years old, and I just loved it. Sixty years later, and here we are.” … Umberto Rispoli, who lost the mount on highly regarded Rock Your World to Joel Rosario, will ride Brooklyn Strong. Rispoli, a native of Italy, never has been in the Derby … He’s 14-for-50 this year, an outstanding 28% win rate. He’s based at Parx, outside Philadelphia.

4 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: KEEPMEINMIND

By Ed McNamara

This colt hasn’t approached his strong form as a 2-year-old, when he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in his season finale. Keepmeinmind also was competitive with division champion Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Futurity (second) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (third), losing by a combined 5 1/4 lengths.

He’s been nowhere in his two starts this year, finishing sixth in the Rebel and fifth in the Blue Grass, beaten a total of 24 lengths. He made it into the Derby thanks to a slew of recent defections (Caddo River, Dream Shake, Get Her Number, Hozier, Rombauer, Concert Tour). In the long run, Keepmeinmind probably would have been better off not qualifying, because his recent performances indicate he has no chance.

Post position: 4

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Robertino Diodoro

Jockey: David Cohen

Owners: Cyprus Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith, Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 6-1-2-1

Career earnings: $424,987

Derby qualifying points: 18 (19th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 98

Pedigree: Laoban-Inclination, by Victory Gallop

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notes: Diodoro, a 46-year-old native of Canada, has 2,660 victories, including nine in graded stakes, since taking out his trainer’s license in 1995. He excels at claiming horses and races mainly in the Midwest, with strings at Oaklawn Park and Churchill. He saddled 258 winners in 2019 and 243 last year … He’s come a long way from where he started, at a tiny track in Alberta, Canada, called Trout Springs. He was 19, and at the end of the summer he had to borrow money from his mother to pay the blacksmith … David Cohen, 36, was introduced to racing by his father, Morry Cohen, a California-based owner, trainer and breeder. David has more than 1,550 wins, including a dead heat in the Grade 1 Travers (2012), since beginning his career in 2004. He’s ridden Keepmeinmind in five of his six starts. After being sidelined for three years because of a serious leg injury in 2014 and the deaths of his father and sister, Cohen revived his career … This will be the first Derby for him and for Diodoro.

5 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: SAINTHOOD

By Ed McNamara

The least experienced horse in Derby 147 has so much to overcome. It will be only his fourth start, his speed figures don’t measure up, and his only win was by a nose. On the plus side, he’s never run a bad race, finishing second by a head and a length in his other starts. He shapes up as a horse with potential who would be better off finding a much easier spot.

Sainthood qualified by earning 40 points in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks over the synthetic surface at minor-league Turfway Park. With any luck, the 10-1 shot would have won. According to the Equibase chart’s footnotes, he had a “problematic trip” to the stretch before he “rallied in earnest for the place spot in a gallant effort.” So, he definitely has grit and talent, but the Derby looks like way too big an ask.

“He’s probably the least experienced of our group (of four). He took to the synthetic, but he was a little bit unlucky at Turfway,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner. “He got a little bit of traffic and he was coming on best of all in the end, just couldn’t quite get there in time.”

Can he contend at 1 1/4 miles despite the quantum leap in class and the lack of experience? Strange things happen in the Derby, but I can’t see Sainthood being in the mix at the finish. If you insist on betting him, demand at least 30-1 odds, and that might be an underlay.

Post position: 5

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Owner: WinStar Farm, CHC Inc.

Career record: 3-1-2-0

Career earnings: $91,900

Derby qualifying points: 40 (17th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 93

Pedigree: Mshawish-Lemon Hero, by Lemon Drop Kid

Color: Dark bay

Running style: Front-runner/stalker

Notes: Pletcher, 53, won the Derby with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017), both times on wet tracks … His mentors were his father, J.J. Pletcher, and all-time great D. Wayne Lukas, who calls Todd “my adopted son.” Todd began his racetrack career at the age of 7 as a hotwalker for his father, who trained in the Midwest and Southwest. J.J. and Lukas have been friends since the 1960s … J.J. Pletcher operates Payton Training Center in Ocala, Florida, where he breaks many of the horses Todd trains. It’s named for Payton Pletcher, the oldest of Todd’s three children … Among the horses whose careers began there were Eclipse champions Left Bank, Wait a While and English Channel.

6 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: O BESOS

By Margaret Ransom

This talented son of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb earned his spot in the Kentucky Derby by virtue of his third behind Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon in the Louisiana Derby.

On Thursday, April 23, O Besos had his final pre-Derby work, going a half-mile in 48.00 for trainer Greg Foley over the main track at Churchill Downs. With regular jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr. up, the Orb colt logged splits of :12 for the first eighth and :36.20 for 3 furlongs before galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00 and six in 1:12.60.

“He keeps improving every time I work him, and the gallop out was even better today,” Pedroza said. “I’m excited about the first Saturday in May. Let’s see what happens.’’

Foley is hoping for a hot pace in the Derby, which would give his colt a fighting chance.

“I love this horse, I think he’s a very live horse,’’ Foley said. “We want a good, honest pace and it should be. You know, horses in there – looks like there are two or three horses who like to be up around the front end, you know, a good, honest pace (and) hopefully it’s pretty quick and set up for our horse (who will) come from off the pace so that’s going to be our game plan for sure.’’

Post position: 6

Odds: 20-1

Trainer: Greg Foley

Jockey: Marcellino Pedroza

Owners: Bernard Racing, Tagg Team Racing, West Point Thoroughbreds

Career record: 5-2-0-1

Career earnings: $172,624

Derby qualifying points: 25 (18th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 96

Pedigree: Orb-Snuggs and Kisses, by Soto

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notes: Bred in Kentucky by co-owner L. Barrett Bernard, who will have his first Derby starter, as will Tagg Team Racing. Co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds has had five previous starters, winning in 2017 with Always Dreaming … Marcellino Pedroza is set for his first Derby … Greg Foley’s lone Derby starter was Major Fed, who finished 10th last year … Horse is aptly named, the O for his sire, Orb, and the Besos coming from the Spanish word for Kisses, from his dam Snuggs and Kisses.

7 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: MANDALOUN

By Margaret Ransom

Mandaloun earned the bulk of his 52 road to the Kentucky Derby points with his score in the Risen Star in February and should he win the first leg of the Triple Crown would become the first Risen Star winner to also win the Derby.

However, 2002 Derby winner War Emblem and 2019 winner-by-DQ Country House both ran in the Risen Star, where they finished sixth and second, respectively. Risen Star himself finished third in the 1988 Derby and won the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Mandaloun has been the favorite for each of his five career starts and only finished off the board in his last, a sixth place behind Hot Rod Charlie in the Louisiana Derby.

“He’s got the physical make-up of a mile-and-a-quarter horse so we’re optimistic he’ll get better with more ground,” trainer Brad Cox said.

In his penultimate pre-Derby workout at Churchill Downs on April 17 in company with stablemate and maiden winner Colonel Bowman, the son of Into Mischief worked 6 furlongs in 1:11.40. Breaking off at the five-eighths pole, the duo logged splits of :12.40, :24.20, :35.60 and :58.80 with Mandaloun galloping out seven furlongs in 1:25.20 and the mile in 1:41.60. Colonel Bowman’s final six-furlong time was 1:11.80.

“(Mandaloun) worked great,” Cox said. “We were all puzzled after the Louisiana Derby, but he’s been doing great since that race maybe that was just a head scratcher. He’s a really good-looking son of Into Mischief and we know he’s better than what we saw in his last start.”

Post position: 7

Odds: 15-1

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Owner: Juddmonte

Career record: 5-3-0-1

Career earnings: $361,252

Derby qualifying points: 52 (10th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 97

Pedigree: Into Mischief-Brooch, by Empire Maker

Color: Bay

Running style: Front-runner

Notes: Mandaloun gets his name for a type of mullioned (or decorative partition) window from traditional Lebanese architecture … dam Brooch was a two-time group stakes winner, including the 2015 Ridgewood Pearl S. (G2) at The Curragh … the late Prince Khalid Abdullah has been represented by five previous Derby starters (1995 Eltish, 6th; 2000 Aptitude, 2nd; Empire Maker 2018, 2nd; Hofburg, 7th; and 2019 Tacitus, 3rd) … Brad Cox has yet to have a Derby starter … Florent Geroux has ridden in the Derby four times, his best finish was third aboard Gun Runner in 2016.

8 Kentucky Derby 2021  Best Pick: MEDINA SPIRIT

By Ed McNamara

After Concert Tour’s flop in the Arkansas Derby, is this guy Bob Baffert’s best Derby candidate? Could be, and if he is, don’t expect a record seventh victory this year.

Medina Spirit is pretty good but not great. He was overshadowed twice by stablemate Life Is Good — the Derby favorite until he was injured — before running second in the Santa Anita Derby. Medina Spirit was 4 1/4 lengths behind Rock Your World, whose front-running brilliance in his main-track debut convinced a lot of people he could win at Churchill Downs.

One of them was Baffert.

“I was very impressed with John Sadler’s horse Rock Your World,” Baffert said. “He just ran away from us, and he went fast, and he just kept getting faster and faster. He just kept galloping out.”

Medina Spirit is a tough colt who in five races has never been out of the exacta. The $1,000 yearling also already has earned more than $180,000 over his $35,000 price in a 2-year-olds-in-training sale.

On Jan. 30, he won a three-horse photo in which future Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie finished third. Hot Rod Charlie’s 110 Derby qualifying points are second only to undefeated Essential Quality (140), the Derby favorite. But Medina Spirit lost his last two races by a combined 12 1/4 lengths and expecting a dramatic turnaround in Louisville is unrealistic.

Post position: 8

Odds: 15-1

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: John Velazquez

Owner: Zedan Racing Stables

Career record: 5-2-3-0

Career earnings: $315,200

Derby qualifying points: 74 (8th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 109

Pedigree: Protonico-Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed

Color: Dark bay

Running style: Front-runner/stalker

Notes: Medina, a city in Saudi Arabia, is a major Islamic pilgrimage site. Its Green Dome rises above the tomb of the prophet Muhammad … You probably never heard of Medina Spirit’s sire, Protonico, a son of Irish champion Giant’s Causeway. Protonico won four graded stakes and ran second in the 2014 Clark Handicap and the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup … Owner Amr F. Zedan is a Saudi businessman who met Baffert at the 2018 Dubai World Cup. “If it wasn’t for Bob and the confidence I have in him, I wouldn’t be doing this” he told … He bought into 2014 Derby-Preakness hero California Chrome not long before he won the 2016 Dubai World Cup. “The problem is that I first tasted the sport on top with California Chrome,” Zedan said. “I thought that would be the norm.” He soon learned otherwise.

9 Kentucky Derby 2021  Odds: HOT ROD CHARLIE

By Lynne Snierson

Hot Rod Charlie is coming in hot to Kentucky but this time he won’t be flying under the radar in America’s greatest race as he did as a 2-year-old by running second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland at 94-1 odds.

“He’s such a talented colt. He’s a tall, rangy colt,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and in 2016 with Nyquist. “The picture looks pretty clear and pretty nice to me at this time. But as we all know in this sport, it’s one day at a time. I think Hot Rod Charlie has a big, big chance. We think we’re bringing a super talented colt to Churchill and with a little bit of luck we’ll be right there at the wire.”

O’Neill knows his horse, who took the Louisiana Derby last out.  But making the acquaintance wasn’t instantaneous with this colt, who is a half-brother to Mitole, the champion sprinter and four-time G1 winner. Hot Rod Charlie began his career in a pair of sprints, one on dirt and the other on grass, and stayed on the third for his third start. He didn’t break his maiden until Oct. 2 while stretching out to 1-mile on the main track. That win propelled him into the BC Juvenile.

O’Neill knows a bit about successfully running a horse in the Derby, as evidenced by his record of two wins in six starts.

Hot Rod Charlie, a son of 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow and a maternal grandson of 1998 Derby third place finisher Indian Charlie, is a frequent flyer and ideal traveler and that is also giving his trainer confidence.

“He’s a real sociable colt. He’s a huge asset to our barn, and he’s shown his maturity in shipping to places like Kentucky already for Breeders’ Cup and to Louisiana,’’ said O’Neill.

Post position: 9

Odds: 8-1

Jockey:  Flavien Prat

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owners: Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing & William Strauss

Career record: 7-2-1-2

Career earnings: $1,005,700

Derby qualifying points: 110 (2nd)

Top Equibase speed figure: 100

Pedigree: Oxbow-Indian Miss by Indian Charlie

Color: Dark bay

Running style: Versatile

Notes: O’Neill had offered the mount to Joel Rosario and was waiting for the rider’s decision whether to stick with Baffert’s Concert Tour. Rosario chose Concert Tour, so O’Neill offered it to Flavien Prat, who was working the colt. When Concert Tour was removed from contention, the connections stuck with Prat. “Both Joel and Flavien are world-class riders. We huddled up and said we’re going to be in great shape whether we have Joel or Flavien,” O’Neill said … Prat (3 1-0-1) won the 2019 Derby aboard Country House after Maximum Security was DQ’d … Roadrunner Racing is a partnership headed by Greg Helm, a former advertising executive and current vice president of Desert Classic Charities. Patrick O’Neill is a 28-year-old Brown graduate and vice president for sales and strategic partnerships at Founder Sport Group. O’Neill, along with Brown University frat brothers and football teammates Eric Armagost, Dan Giovaccini, Reiley Higgins, and Alex Quoyeser, comprise Boat Racing. William Strauss was co-founder and CEO of, an online floral boutique, and currently sits on the board of the Thoroughbred Owners of California … Hot Rod Charlie worked at Santa Anita April 17 and went 6 furlongs in 1:14.20.

10 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: MIDNIGHT BOURBON

By Lynne Snierson

Midnight Bourbon comes into the race as “the other Asmussen” but it might prove unwise to dismiss this colt in favor of Arkansas Derby winner and stablemate Super Stock. That comes straight from the Hall of Fame trainer himself.

“He’s a horse who has incrementally improved. He started off the year very solid. I’m a numbers person and his numbers keep incrementally improving with perfect timing. He’s sitting on the race of his life,” said Asmussen.

Midnight Bourbon thrived at the Fair Grounds all winter, running first, third, and second in the track’s three-race graded stakes and Kentucky Derby qualifying race series for 3-year-olds while stretching out from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles to 1 3/16 miles each time. Last time out in the Louisiana Derby he raced in the path wider than winner Hot Rod Charlie around both turns and was only beaten two lengths.

What is known now is that Midnight Bourbon is peaking at the right time. On April 11, he fired a bullet breeze for 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 and it was the fastest of 15 horses working the same distance.

“He’s an absolutely beautiful specimen. He’s got a high cruising speed in a race that obviously appears to have a lot of pace in it. I love where he’s at in his confidence level right now,” said Asmussen.

Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, the Belmont, the Dubai World Cup, and seven Breeders’ Cups but in 21 tries, the sixth most attempts in history, the Kentucky Derby has eluded him.

Many of the horses he’s led over have been owned by longtime clients, the Winchell Family. Starting with the late patriarch Verne Winchell and now owned and managed by son Ron Winchell, the family is 0-for-13 in the race.

Post position: 10

Odds: 20-1

Jockey:  Mike Smith

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 7-2-2-3

Career earnings: $461,420

Derby qualifying points: 66 (10th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 99

Pedigree: Tiznow-Catch the Moon by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: On the pace

Notes: Asmussen has two chances to win the Derby this year and will saddle Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock for his parents, Marilyn and Keith, and ERV Woolsey…. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith has had 26 Derby mounts from 1984-2020, with a record of 2-4-1. Of those two wins, the most recent was aboard eventual Triple Crown champion Justify in 2018 and the other was when he pulled off the 50-1 upset aboard Giacomo in 2005 … Midnight Bourbon was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet and brought $525,000 as a yearling in the Keeneland September sale … The Winchells owned homebreds Untapable, champion 3-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar and Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly. All were trained by Asmussen. They also own super sire Tapit.

11 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: DYNAMIC ONE

By Ed McNamara

His sire won the Belmont, and his damsire was the father of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, so nobody expected this $725,000 yearling to debut at 5 furlongs. Todd Pletcher didn’t run Dynamic One until mid-November, at 7 furlongs, and he finished ninth. He needed four starts to get his first victory, a 5 1/4-length runaway in March.

“The 1 1/8-mile maiden win, that’s what we needed to get to the Wood Memorial,” Pletcher said. “Going into the Wood, he was lightly regarded, but we thought he was coming in under the radar. He had been training much better than his past performances suggested.”

He went off at 15-1 in the Wood and ran to his workouts, leading at the eighth pole and losing by a head to stablemate Bourbonic, a 72-1 shot.

“Dynamic One, I think, is one that’s still sort of putting it all together,” Pletcher told “He made the lead in the Wood and then got a little bit lost. But he’s another one that’s always shown a lot of promise in the morning.”

Many of Pletcher’s record 55 Derby starters were sprinter-milers for whom 10 furlongs was too far. Stamina is not a big concern with Dynamic One, Bourbonic, Florida Derby winner Known Agenda and Sainthood.

“The one thing I really like about this group is that they’re all bred to get a mile and a quarter,” Pletcher said. “A lot of times you come to the Derby hoping you can get the trip, but with these horses you get the feeling that they’ll handle the distance.”

Dynamic One is still eligible for a non-winners-of-1 allowance, and he’ll need a big forward move to contend with undefeated standouts Essential Quality and Rock Your World. If you like his chances, at least the odds will be very generous.

Post position: 11

Odds: 20-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Owners: Repole Stable, Phipps Stable, St. Elias Stable

Career record: 5-1-2-0

Career earnings: $194,120

Derby qualifying points: 40 (16th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 103

Pedigree: Union Rags-Beat the Drums, by Smart Strike

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/mid-pack rallier

Notes: Dynamic One’s owners are used to winning big races. Mike Repole and Pletcher took the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Vino Rosso. The Phipps Stable co-owned 2013 Derby hero Orb, and St. Elias Stable co-owned Pletcher’s 2017 Derby champion Always Dreaming … A month ago, Pletcher was hardly mentioned in the Derby conversation. Now he has four contenders in Louisville. “In March we felt we had a couple of chances,” he said, “but I didn’t see four happening. Like everybody at this time of year, you need to have your horses improving.” … Jose Ortiz was riding highly regarded Greatest Honour before that colt was sidelined because of bone bruises in his front ankles. The 2017 Eclipse Award winner never has won the Derby.

12 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: HELIUM

By Ed McNamara

Mark Casse’s remarkable 42-year career has taken him to the American and Canadian Halls of Fame. Two years ago, he trained the winners of the Preakness (War of Will) and Belmont (Sir Winston). He’s had five Canadian Horses of the Year and won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. His runners have taken five Eclipse Awards and five Breeders’ Cup events.

If unbeaten Helium (3-for-3) wins the Kentucky Derby off a 56-day layoff, it will rank among those achievements.

Authentic scored last year following a 49-day hiatus, so maybe an extra week isn’t such a big deal. Authentic, however, had a much more impressive resume, and Bob Baffert already had won the Derby five times. Needles (1956) and Animal Kingdom (2011) won it off 42-day breaks.

Helium hadn’t run since Oct. 18 before taking the Tampa Bay Derby on March 6. That’s a 140-day rest, far longer than he’ll have May 1. Shortly after his 15-1 upset, Casse decided to train Helium up to Derby 147 because he thought the hard race after a long time off might have taken too much out of him.

Jon Green, general manager of D.J. Stable, said: “We’re going to go an unconventional route and bypass the rest of the Derby preps. It’s not unreasonable in history to give a horse eight weeks off and ask him to run in a big race like this.”

Problem areas: He’s raced only three times, never beyond 1 1/16 miles, and only once on dirt. He makes a quantum leap in class and never has beaten a top 3-year-old. Casse has a terrific track record, but this is a gigantic ask.

“He’s a beautiful horse,” Casse said. “He’s a perfect gentleman, does everything nice. Good mover, great attitude. He’s bred to run all day long and he looks like a Derby horse, so it’s exciting.”

Post position: 12

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Owners: D.J. Stable

Career record: 3-3-0-0

Career earnings: $287,763

Derby qualifying points: 50 (13th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 94

Pedigree: Ironicus-Thundering Emilia, by Thunder Gulch

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Helium’s sire, Ironicus, was a multiple-stakes winner on the turf. His damsire, Thunder Gulch, won the Derby and Belmont in 1995 … Julien Leparoux replaces Jose Ferrer, who rode an excellent race in the Tampa Bay Derby. Leparoux is 0-for-12 in the Derby, with his best finish a fourth on Casse’s Classic Empire in 2017. That was also Casse’s best result in eight attempts … Casse also will saddle Florida Derby runner-up Soup and Sandwich, to be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.

13 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: HIDDEN STASH

By Ed McNamara

His come-from-behind style should be helpful in a field loaded with early speed, but his final figures and closing numbers are weak. He did win last fall going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, but he’s never beaten a Derby contender. Hidden Stash has to make remarkable improvement to be in the Derby mix.

He’s 0-for-3 in graded stakes for Vicki Oliver and comes off a fourth-place finish, 10 lengths behind Essential Quality, in the Blue Grass. The pace was slow (48.21-second half-mile), so closers had little chance to make up ground.

His best race this year was a rough-trip second in the Tampa Bay Derby, where he missed by three-quarters of a length against undefeated Helium. It’s hard to gauge what that meant, because Helium hasn’t run since and is being trained up to the Derby.

Hidden Stash turned in a bullet half-mile workout at Keeneland on April 14, breezing in 47 4/5 seconds, with the final furlong in a zippy :11 1/5. reported he caught two workmates at the wire after breaking eight lengths behind them. “I thought he worked really well,” said Oliver, who plans another work before shipping to Louisville on April 27.

If the pace collapses, Hidden Stash could pick up the pieces and slip into third or fourth. Can’t see him in the exacta, but if you want action at 50-1 or so, play him $2 across the board and hope. Two years ago, that approach produced a massive score with 65-1 shot Country House.

“We feel like having the right pace and an extra eighth of a mile, anything can happen in the Derby,” lead owner Brian Klatsky told

Many times, it has.

Post position: 13

Odds: 50-1

Trainer: Vicki Oliver

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Owner: Bbn Racing

Career record: 7-2-1-2

Career earnings: $231,062

Derby qualifying points: 32 (17th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 94

Pedigree: Constitution-Making Mark Money, by Smart Strike

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notes: Oliver is in an 0-for-43 slump in graded stakes. She would be the 17th woman to saddle a Derby starter and the first since 2015. She is married to trainer Philip Oliver … Bbn Racing stands for Big Blue Nation, the nickname for the University of Kentucky’s massive fan base. Klatsky’s partners are his longtime friends and business associates Brendan O’Brien and Braxton Lynch. Klatsky attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. He was introduced to the sport as a child on trips with his father to Saratoga Racecourse.

14 Kentucky Derby 2021  Best Bet: ESSENTIAL QUALITY

Unlike some other highly rated 3-year-olds, this undefeated colt has stayed healthy and kept getting better. Life Is Good and Greatest Honour are sidelined with ankle problems, and Concert Tour’s reputation took a big hit in the Arkansas Derby.

Essential Quality improved his Equibase speed figure in each of his four races since he broke his maiden last September. Yet because no race is scrutinized and overanalyzed like the Kentucky Derby, many handicappers question whether he can repeat Justify’s 2018 feat of winning the Derby while unbeaten. Even though Essential Quality won a tough fight in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass Stakes, immediately doubts were expressed.

He showed courage by edging front-runner Highly Motivated by a neck. Essential Quality was bumped at the start and stalked fractions slow enough (48.21-second half-mile, 1:12.08 for 6 furlongs) that the leader should have been able to hang on. Yet the heavy favorite overcame adversity and edged away in the final yards to win by a neck.

Skeptics suggested that the race may have taken too much out of Essential Quality. They wondered whether not winning by daylight might mean the Derby’s 1 1/4 miles are too far. Yet sometimes a hard race toughens a horse and moves him forward. We’ll find out the answers May 1.

His elite trainer, Brad Cox, knows that having the Derby favorite is the “good kind of pressure.” He’s upbeat about his chances.

“He showed a lot of grit and determination and a will to win,” Cox said five days after the Blue Grass. “He’s got a lot of fight about him, and I was glad he was able to come out on the right end. And he came out of it in good order.”

Essential Quality has done everything right in five starts, displaying excellence and versatility — one front-running win, two by stalking, two coming from behind. His world-class sire, Tapit, never has produced a Derby winner. Essential Quality’s owner, Godolphin’s Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, doesn’t have one after more than 20 years of trying. This could be the colt who ends those streaks.

“We got him to Churchill and everything’s going the right way,” Cox said. “We’re very happy with how he came out of the race, and on to the Derby.”

Post position: 14

Odds: 2-1

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Luis Saez

Owner: Godolphin

Career record: 5-5-0

Career earnings: $2,265,144

Derby qualifying points: 140 (1st)

Best Equibase speed figure: 109

Pedigree: Tapit-Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality

Color: Gray

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Worked 5 furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Churchill Downs on April 17, fourth fastest of 40 at the distance … Cox, last year’s Eclipse Award winner, grew up a few blocks from Churchill. His father took him there for the first time when he was “5 or 6.” He lives and breathes racing, acknowledging it’s a career requiring obsessive attention to achieve maximum results. He never has run a horse in the Derby … Saez, one of the country’s top riders, never has won it even though he finished first in 2019. After a 22-minute stewards’ inquiry, Maximum Security was disqualified for interference, the first on-track DQ in Derby history … Dubai-based Godolphin Racing is named for the Godolphin Arabian (1724-53), one of the three foundation sires of the modern thoroughbred.

15 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries:  ROCK YOUR WORLD

By Margaret Ransom

Rock Your World is an undefeated son of Candy Ride, who is owned by California powerhouse Hronis Racing in partnership with Talla Racing. He made his first main track start a winning one in the Santa Anita Derby after making his first two starts over the grass.

California-based runners have had the most recent success in the Kentucky Derby and six runners over the past decade (Authentic, Justify, Nyquist, American Pharoah, California Chrome and I’ll Have Another) all called Southern California tracks home before winning the Derby. Also, Exaggerator (2016), Firing Line (2015) and Bodemeister (2012) finished second after wintering in California, while Battle of Midway (2017) and Dortmund (2015) earned third place finishes under the Twin Spires after shipping into Louisville from the Golden State. Rock Your World will attempt to become the 20th horse to win the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer John Sadler has only sent out four horses in the Derby, including two in 2010. His best finisher was Corby, who was sixth in 1993.

“I’ve never won the Derby, but last time I was there we won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (in 2018 with Accelerate), so I’m looking forward to going back to Louisville.”

Rock Your World last week represented what was probably the first dose of Derby drama this year after his connections decided to replace Santa Anita Derby-winning jockey Umberto Rispoli with Joel Rosario, who has won hundreds of races for Sadler. Rosario was aboard Accelerate for Sadler’s first Breeders’ Cup victory (2018 Classic) and a number of other top runners, including Gift Box, Catalina Cruiser, Combatant, Flagstaff, Twirling Candy, Switch, Sidney’s Candy and many more.

Rosario has ridden in the Kentucky Derby nine times and won aboard Orb in 2013.

Post position: 15

Odds: 5-1

Trainer: John Sadler

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Owner: Hronis Racing (Pete and Kosta Hronis) and Talla Racing (Michael Talla)

Career record: 3-3-0-0

Career earnings: $546,600

Derby qualifying points: 100 (6th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 103

Pedigree: Candy Ride-Charm the Marker, by Empire Maker

Color: Dark bay

Running style: Front-runner

Notes: This colt comes from a long line of horses bred and/or owned by Hall of Fame conditioner Ron McAnally and his wife, Debbie. His dam, Charm the Maker, was a stakes winner and multiple graded stakes placed. His granddam and great granddam were also graded stakes winners and owned and bred by the McAnallys … Colt will be a first Derby starter for the partnership of owners Hronis Racing and Talla Racing … Rock Your World was a $650,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2019, with Sapphire Stable signing the sales slip, the moniker representing a partnership of bloodstock agent David Ingordo and Sadler.

16 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: KING FURY

By Ed McNamara

After King Fury rallied to win the Lexington in the slop, trainer Ken McPeek said he thought he could get 1 1/4 miles but probably wouldn’t get into the Derby. A slew of defections put his 20 qualifying points at No. 18 on the list, so he’s in.

Positives: He’s 2-for-3 at Churchill Downs, with both wins around two turns, and he has a stayer’s pedigree.

Negatives: He’s never run farther than 1 1/16 miles and starting in 1950 every Derby winner has had at least one race at 1 1/8 miles. His speed figures also are weak.

McPeek never has shied from going against the grain. Last year he won the Preakness with Swiss Skydiver, only the sixth filly to do that. His other Triple Crown win was the ultimate shocker, Sarava’s 70-1 upset in the 2002 Belmont. That was the final win in his injury-plagued, 3-for-17 career.

I can’t envision King Fury winning the Derby, but if the pace falls apart and he has some racing luck, he might slip into the bottom of the superfecta.

Post position: 16

Odds: 20-1

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Jockey: Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Owners: Fern Circle Stables, Three Chimneys Farm

Career record: 6-3-0-0

Career earnings: $262,739

Derby qualifying points: 20 (18th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 103

Pedigree: Curlin-Taris, by Flatter

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notes: McPeek, 62, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where he and former trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, 60, knew each other. Their colts Golden Ticket (McPeek) and Alpha dead-heated for the win in the 2012 Travers. McLaughlin retired in March 2020 to become the agent for Luis Saez, the rider of undefeated Derby favorite Essential Quality …    Brian Hernandez, Jr., the 2004 Eclipse-winning apprentice, won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Fort Larned. He is winless in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

17 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: HIGHLY MOTIVATED

By Lynne Snierson

Chad Brown is a numbers guy and heading into the Kentucky Derby the math is adding up in the column of Highly Motivated.

The four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer (2013-2016) said of the Klaravich Stables homebred, “His numbers are good. I’ve always followed the numbers of my horses as they’ve developed in their careers. I try to stack them against the field. He’s definitely one of the faster horses, and in the top handful of horses in the field on his figures. It’s a good feeling.”

Highly Motivated, who gave Derby favorite Essential Quality a run for his money in the Blue Grass last out, was trying two turns for the first time that day. While he passed the two-turn test at 1 1/8 miles, the Derby distance remains a question.

Highly Motivated is by super sire Into Mischief, who fathered 2020 Derby and BC Classic winner Authentic. His dam is Strong Incentive, who won one stake at 7 furlongs, and she is by Warrior’s Reward, who excelled in graded stakes sprints.

“He came out of it (the Blue Grass) well and he’s had one work since and he worked super,” said Brown, referring to the colt’s April 18 bullet at Keeneland when he went 4 furlongs in 47.20. “I think this horse is really going to move forward off that race.

Klaravich Stables owner Seth Klarman had two charges earn enough points to be in the starting gate, but Brown opted to only run this one and point Crowded Trade to the Preakness.

Brown is looking for his first Derby win. He came close when Good Magic was second in 2018.

Post position: 17

Odds: 10-1

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owner: Klaravich Stables

Career record: 5-2-2-1

Career earnings: $320,050

Derby qualifying points: 50 (12th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 108

Pedigree: Into Mischief-Strong Incentive by Warrior’s Reward

Color: Bay

Running style: Fron-trunner/Just off the lead

Notes: Hall of Famer Castellano has not won the Derby in 14 tries (0-0-1), though he did win the Preakness for these connections on Cloud Computing … Klarman and Brown have enjoyed phenomenal success together, winning the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2018 with Newspaperofrecord and five Grade 1s with 2019 BC Turf victor and Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. That one was co-owned with William Lawrence … Brown will saddle the undefeated Search Results for Klarman in the Kentucky Oaks. The owner and trainer have not yet won that race either … Klarman, a billionaire investor and hedge fund manager from Boston, names his horses with financial terms or for Boston landmarks like Yawkey Way and Fenway Park … Brown has been the leading trainer on the New York circuit for six straight years and won his latest title at the recently concluded Aqueduct meet.

18 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: SUPER STOCK

By Lynne Snierson

There is a bull market for Super Stock these days after the colt with deep Asmussen family roots saw his stock skyrocket when he was the 12-1 upset winner of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 10.

The victory was his first of the year and his first top level score, and when he grabbed the 100 points in his last chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, he vaulted from 31st to third on the leaderboard with 109 points.

In the winner’s circle, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said the experience isn’t just a family affair, it’s a story made for Hollywood. He wasn’t kidding.

Super Stock, a $70,000 yearling, is owned by his father, Keith Asmussen, and Keith’s best friend, Nashville icon Erv Woolsey, who is the manager of George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, and other country music stars.

Steve’s son Keith J. Asmussen, named for his grandfather, was in his first year as an apprentice jockey last year while his University of Texas-Austin classes were moved online and was aboard Super Stock when they won the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity at Lone Star for the colt’s only other win and Keith J’s only stakes win and fourth overall.

Asmussen has trained three Horses of the Year in Curlin (a 2-time winner), Rachel Alexandra, and Gun Runner and won the Preakness twice, the Belmont, the Dubai World Cup, and seven Breeders’ Cups but has never won a Kentucky Derby in 21 tries, the sixth most attempts in history. The two-time Eclipse Award winner has long maintained it would be a dream come true to take a horse to the Derby for his parents, and now he has the chance to wrap it up in a bow for the Hollywood ending.

“You think about the scenario of winning a race of that caliber (Arkansas Derby) for your parents, and the story with the horse, and then it happens,” he said. “I’m experiencing all of the emotions afterward.’’

Post position: 18

Odds: 30-1

Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owners: Erv Woolsey, Keith Asmussen

Career record: 8-2-2-2

Career earnings: $804,762

Derby qualifying points: 109 (3rd)

Top Equibase speed figure: 106

Pedigree: Dialed In-Super Girlie, by Closing Argument

Color: Bay

Running style: Off the pace

Notes: Asmussen has two chances to win the Derby this year and will saddle Midnight Bourbon, a very solid second in the Louisiana Derby for longtime clients Winchell Thoroughbreds. The Winchells have come up empty in 11 previous tries … Super Stock, a classic late bloomer, got a dream trip in the Arkansas Derby when the expected speed duel between the previously undefeated Concert Tour and Caddo River developed and he was in the garden spot to overtake his exhausted rivals … Keith J Asmussen didn’t ask his dad or his granddad if he could get the mount back for the Arkansas Derby or the Kentucky Derby. He’s back at UT, which had shut down the campus due to COVID-19, now that in-person classes are in session again … Santana is 0-for-6 in the Derby … Super Stock is bred to get the distance. His maternal grandsire is Closing Argument, second to Giacomo in the Derby and on his paternal side descends from 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

19 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: SOUP AND SANDWICH

By Margaret Ransom

Lightly raced Soup and Sandwich went into the Florida Derby undefeated in two starts. Although he lost for the first time, he did so with a solid performance — 2 ¾ lengths behind Known Agenda at odds of 12-1 after a strong effort on the front dueling for the early lead.

The gray son of Into Mischief got a later start than most of his fellow Derby hopefuls and didn’t debut until the end of January at Gulfstream Park, but debut he did by posting an eye-popping 7 ¼-length score in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight test against fellow Florida breds.

A month later, trainer Mark Casse shipped the colt to Tampa Bay Downs where he again impressed by an open-length victory, winning a 1-mile, 40-yard allowance by 2 ¾ lengths. Though he defeated just two rivals in his second start, it was an impressive win.

Soup and Sandwich had spent the winter with Casse’s Palm Meadows string but has been training at Churchill Downs for the past couple weeks and the colt breezed twice now under the Twin Spires, the most recent on April 17 in his second-to-last pre-Derby workout. With jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard, the colt posted 5 furlongs in 59.80 after logging early splits of 12.40, 24.20 and 35.20 for three-eighths. He galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:12.40, 7 furlongs in 1:25.20 and a mile in 1:41.60. He went in company with stablemate Colonel Bowman, who earned a final 6-furlong time of 1:11.80.

“This horse is just starting to figure things around the racetrack,” Casse’s assistant, David Carroll, said. “Tyler was in cruise control around there and that gallop out was great.”

Post position: 19

Odds: 30-1

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Owner: Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation

Career record: 3-2-1-0

Career earnings: $203,875

Derby qualifying points 40 (15th)

Top Equibase speed figure: 108

Pedigree: Into Mischief-Souper Scoop, by Tapit

Color: Gray

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Soup and Sandwich comes by his name quite honestly as owner Weber is the heir to the Campbell’s Soup company … Colt is a grandson of Grade 3 winner Scoop, who Weber purchased for $2.1 million at Keeneland in 2005 in foal to El Prado and who she sold for just $80,000 through the same ring nine years later, three years after she produced this colt’s winning dam, who Weber kept in her breeding program … A son of Into Mischief, who is currently sitting second on the general sires list through the end of March after taking top honors in 2019 and 2020 … Into Mischief is also the sire of last year’s Derby-BC Classic winner Authentic and 2018 Florida Derby winner Audible, who was third in the Derby, among dozens of other stakes winners … Weber’s Live Oak Plantation has been represented by four previous Derby starters —Win Win Win (2019), Brilliant Speed (2011), High Fly (2005) and Laser Light (1982) … Laser Light is the only one to have hit the board, finishing second behind Gato Del Sol in 1982 … Casse has sent out eight runners without hitting the board … Gaffalione is looking for his first Derby win with his fourth starter.

20 Kentucky Derby 2021  Entries: BOURBONIC

By Ed McNamara

Todd Pletcher has built a historic career with horses that can set or track the pace. Bourbonic, the 72-1 hero of this year’s Wood Memorial, is an outlier.

“He doesn’t have any early speed,” Pletcher said. “We always knew this horse would handle added distance. He was able to get a perfect trip, sit back and make one run. It was a big effort.”

Hot rider Kendrick Carmouche fit Bourbonic perfectly on April 3 over Aqueduct’s deep, tiring track. They made the last move to get up by a head over 15-1 stablemate Dynamic One after a slow 1 1/8 miles (1:54.49).

“Todd asked me what I was going to do, and I told him I wouldn’t move,” Carmouche said. “I was just going to sit, sit, sit, sit and hopefully get the last quarter of a mile. I knew he would go on from there.”

Unlike many in the prospective Derby field, Bourbonic has the pedigree to handle 1 1/4 miles. His sire, Bernardini, won the 2006 Preakness, and his damsire, Afleet Alex, would have swept the 2005 Triple Crown if not for a brutal trip in the Derby.

Bourbonic was sixth and 11th in his first two starts last year but has three wins and a second in his next four, all at a mile or longer. The Wood transformed him from a nobody to a Derby dark horse.

“Sometimes the worst thing you can have is a hot hand in January and February,” said Pletcher, who went from empty-handed to having four of the top 20 in the Derby qualifying points standings. “We were hoping things would come together, and we always thought Bourbonic had the potential to step up.”

The last deep closer to take the Derby was Orb in 2013. Since that rainy day, no winner has been farther back than third at any point in the race. Maybe we’re due to see a horse finish first after being far back.

“There’s a lot of speed this year for the Derby,” six-time winner Bob Baffert said. “It’s still wide open. This could be one of those Giacomo years. You never know.”

Baffert was referencing the 50-1 shot who came from 18th at the first call to get up by a head with a wide rally. That’s how Bourbonic pulled his shocker in the Wood. If the fractions are hot and contested, maybe he can do it again May 1. Difficult, but not impossible.

Post position: 20

Odds: 30-1

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 6-3-1-0

Career earnings: $465,880

Derby qualifying points: 100 (7th)

Best Equibase speed figure: 100

Pedigree: Bernardini-Dancing Afleet, by Afleet Alex

Color: Dark bay

Running style: Closer

Notes: Carmouche, a 37-year-old native of Louisiana, is one of the country’s hottest riders. He earned his first Grade 1 win last fall in the Cigar Mile on the way to leading the Aqueduct meeting, his first title on the New York Racing Association circuit … He’s a bright, articulate guy who moved from Parx to New York in 2015. He could become the first African-American jockey to win the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902 … Pletcher has trained a record 55 Derby starters, winning with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017) … Calumet Farm has campaigned eight Derby winners. Brad Kelley has owned it since 2012. Oxbow’s Preakness victory the next year was Calumet’s first in a classic since 1968.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds:

Kentucky Derby 2021 Odds
PP Horse Odds Trainer Jockey Owner
1 Known Agenda 6-1 Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz St. Elias Stable
2 Like the King 50-1 Wesley Ward Drayden Van Dyke M Racing Group, LLC
3 Brooklyn Strong 50-1 Daniel Velazquez Umberto Rispoli Mark Schwartz
4 Keepmeinmind 50-1 Robertino Diodoro David Cohen Cypress Creek LLC and Bennewith, Arnold
5 Sainthood 50-1 Todd Pletcher Corey Lanerie CHC, Inc. and WinStar Farm LLC
6 O Besos 20-1 Gregory D. Foley Marc Pedroza Bernard, L Barret, Tagg Team Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds
7 Mandaloun 15-1 Brad Cox Florent Geroux Juddmonte Farms, Inc.
8 Medina Spirit 15-1 Bob Baffert John Velazquez Zedan Racing Stables Inc
9 Hot Rod Charlie 8-1 Doug O’Neill Flavien Prat Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC and Strauss Bros Racing
10 Midnight Bourbon 20-1 Steve Asmussen Mike Smith Winchell Thoroughbreds
11 Dynamic One 20-1 Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz Repole Stable, Phipps Stable and St. Elias Stable
12 Helium 50-1 Mark Casse Julien Leparoux D. J. Stable LLC
13 Hidden Stash 50-1 Victoria H. Oliver Rafael Bejarano BBN Racing, LLC
14 Essential Quality 2-1 Brad Cox Luis Saez Godolphin, LLC
15 Rock Your World 5-1 John W. Sadler Joel Rosario Hronis Racing LLC and Talla Racing LLC
16 King Fury 20-1 Kenneth McPeek Benjamin Hernandez Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm, LLC
17 Highly Motivated 10-1 Chad Brown Javier Castellano Klaravich Sables, Inc.
18 Super Stock 30-1 Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana Jr. Woolsey, Erv and Asmussen, Keith
19 Soup and Sandwich 30-1 Mark Casse Tyler Gaffalione Live Oak Plantation
20 Bourbonic 30-1 Todd Pletcher Kendrick Carmouche Calumet Farm
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