- The 2021 Kentucky Derby is just under 100 days away
- Unbeaten Breeders Cup Juvenile champ Essential Quality remains the early favorite
- Now is a great time to find value before major derby prep races begin next month
When the calendar turns to February the Risen Star Stakes and Fountain of Youth Stakes will mark the first major Kentucky Derby prep races of 2021. After those events have been completed the field and favorites for May will be much more clear. If you have your eye on a longshot now, it is advisable to put some cash down before everyone else sees what you do.
Kentucky Derby odds at this point present value on just about any horse you have a strong opinion on. To a degree, that means it is really tough to have a strong stance yet, but a savvy handicapper may have an inkling.
2021 Kentucky Derby Odds
|Life Is Good||+1200|
|Hot Rod Charlie||+2500|
Odds taken January 21st
A word of caution. At this stage in the game factor in not just what horses have done, but the upside they possess, and the fact that some of the top contenders will get hurt.
What horses are on the rise? Who is going to struggle at the Kentucky Derby distance of a-mile-and-a-quarter?
Whoever you like, make sure you bake in the very real chance that they won’t stay healthy. Last year top contenders like Charlatan, Maxfield, and Art Collector all went down before they could make it to Churchill Downs.
Favorites: Essential Quality & Life Is Good
Essential Quality won the Breeders Cup Juvenile, which essentially means in November he was the best two year old racing in the country.
While Essential Quality is three-for-three, and trained by the red hot Brad Cox, winning the Juvenile has not normally foreshadowed roses in May. The Breeders Cup has been taking place since 1984 and only two Juvenile winners, who are always the “early Derby favorite,” have gone on to glory at Churchill Downs.
Look no further than the trainer of Life Is Good and his intrigue makes sense. Bob Baffert has won three of the last six Derby’s, and two of those horses went on to win the Triple Crown. Baffert has saddled six Derby winners.
After winning his debut, Life Is Good was impressive in the Sham Stakes. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, and the ownership groups, China Horse Club and WinStar Farms, are world class.
Top Contenders: Medina Spirit & Concert Tour
Like Life Is Good, Medina Spirit is trained by Baffert, won his debut, and then ran in the Sham Stakes. He ran a solid second behind Life Is Good, who was the overwhelming favorite. Remember, Baffert won the Kentucky Derby last year with Authentic, who was certainly not his most hyped prospect.
Concert Tour is the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Also trained by Baffert, his one race was probably as expected.
There appeared to be plenty left in the tank when he beat maidens. Concert Tour is owned by Gary and Mary West, who also race Maximum Security. Of course two years ago Maximum Security crossed the finish line at the Kentucky Derby first but was disqualified.
Longshots: Jackie’s Warrior, Keepmeinmind, Mandaloun, Bezos, Senor Buscador
Jackie’s Warrior was the Breeders Cup Juvenile favorite after dominating four races last year.
Though he finished fourth in the Breeders Cup, and may not want longer races, you can give him a mulligan for one subpar performance and get terrific value on the chalk not that long ago.
After running third in the Juvenile at 30/1, Keepmeinmind returned three weeks later and beat graded stakes foes.
He has the look of a horse who might be coming into his own at the right time.
After winning his first two races, Mandaloun ran a decent third in his stakes debut.
Trained by Cox, he was the favorite last time out and clearly is very well thought of.
Bezos comes from similar bloodlines as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and is also trained by Baffert. Regally bred, Bezos has yet to make his debut.
Senor Buscador is two-for-two for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
Senor Buscador has not faced monsters thus far, but he has been impressive and you could imagine him winning an early Derby prep and having his intriguing 20/1 price cut in half.