Sports picksApril 29, 2021

2021 Kentucky Derby Contenders

Kentucky Derby contenders, updated odds, trainers and jockeys to get you set for the first leg of this year’s Triple Crown! 

Kentucky Derby Contenders 2021

Bred by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, Rock Your World is running out of the 15-slot on Saturday at 5-1 odds 


The field is set for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, one of the most difficult races to handicap. During this first leg of the Triple Crown, there is a huge field and for most bettors, it’s their first real look at these thoroughbreds. When the odds move during the week, it’s often based more on the trainer and rider than the horse itself. By Saturday, once the heavy action starts pouring in, having a game plan in place is critical. That’s where I come in. 

I’ll have a special sheet ready for you on Friday with my top predictions from several races. In the 2020 edition, I called Authentic (8-1) and Tiz the Law (6-5) as two of my top three selections, the Exacta box paying back $41 on a $2 bet. 

Today I’m showcasing the top Kentucky Derby contenders with handicapping tips and updated odds for the entire field. I’ll have picks for each leg of the Triple Crown so get in on the action. 

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Kentucky Derby Contenders 

The prize pool in last year’s race ended up at $20,546,159. John Velazquez rode to a win from the outside, and he’ll start from the 9-slot this year. Odds opened at 15-1 and will shorten by race day. While winning the race is a longshot, Velazquez and Medina Spirit will get plenty of looks in exotic wagering. 

Post positions, trainers, jockey’s and this year’s total earnings for each horse are shown. Line moves and capping tips for the Kentucky Derby contenders are noted. 

1. Known Agenda (6-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Earnings: $467,100

Finished first in Florida, one of three wins in six career starts. This colt has an Equibase Speed Figure of 112, which is the best of all 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders. Best Beyer speed figure is 94 and since 1992, 26 of 29 Derby winners hit 95 or higher with this metric. 

2. Like the King (50-1)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke
Earnings: $161,300

Value play at a 50-1 in a decent position with a good start. Winner of the Jeff Ruby and Van Dyke has a fourth place finish at the Derby on his resume. 

3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)
Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli
Earnings: $112,500

Derby is just the second race of 2021 for this gelding. Finished fifth at Wood Memorial on April 3. Three first-place runs last year including Remsen Stakes. 

4. Keepmeinmind (50-1)
Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: David Cohen
Earnings: $409,707

Big longshot for good reason. Finished off the board in two of six career starts and has an E-speed rating of 93 in two races this year. Also Cohen’s first-ever start at the Derby. 

5. Sainthood (50-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Earnings: $47,500

Darkhorse all the way with recognition from Pletcher. Lightly raced and was second at Jeff Ruby Stakes. Traffic is an issue but could surprise in the added distance. 

6. O Besos (20-1)
Trainer: Gregory Foley
Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza
Earnings: $116,000

Strong finisher with solid numbers down the stretch at the Louisiana Derby have earned O Besos a 20-1 payback. Foley knows the track well enough but this is Pedroza’s first Derby. 

7. Mandaloun (15-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Earnings: $270,000

First Derby for Louisville-native Cox, who won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2020. Mandaloun was sixth at the Louisiana Derby but first in February at Risen Star Stakes. Also had two first-place finishes in 2020 out of three races. 

8. Medina Spirit (15-1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez
Earnings: $290,000

Single entry for Baffert this year after an injury to Life is Good. The mile-and-a-quarter distance could pose a problem. Failed to win at Santa Anita but registered four races in second.

9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Earnings: $962,000

Owned by five university pals from Brown, Hot Rod Charlie is one of the clear favorites. As a 94-1 dog in the outside lane, “Chuck” as the owners call him, finished second at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Winner at the Louisiana Derby, Chuck set a track record in the process. 

10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Mike Smith
Earnings: $430,000

Front-runner in a good spot to challenge. Well worth a look in Exotic pairings. In seven career starts, son of Tiznow hasn’t finished worse than third. Ran second in Louisiana with a best Beyer of 96.

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11. Dynamic One (20-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Earnings: $140,000

Didn’t show the finish at mile-and-1/8; will be hard pressed at this distance. Finished second at Wood Memorial. Ortiz does have skill to show. 

12. Helium (50-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Earnings: $255,492

Hasn’t run close to this distance, edging Hidden Stash at 16-1 in Tampa Bay which is only one and one-sixteenth miles on the dirt. Leparoux’s top finish here was fourth in 12 runs. 

13. Hidden Stash (50-1)
Trainer: Vicki Oliver
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Earnings: $130,000

Oliver is looking to become the first-ever female trainer to win the Derby in 146 previous runnings. Three starts this year, no wins. Booked two wins in seven career starts. 

14. Essential Quality (2-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez
Earnings: $2,210,000

Winning pedigree and top ranked favorite, Essential Quality was first at the Blue Grass Stakes with a strong finish. Best Beyer of 97 and also won at Southwest Stakes. Perfect 5-0 record. 

Jockey Saez didn’t race in the Derby last year but was first in 2019 until Maximum Security was disqualified. 

15. Rock Your World (5-1)
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Earnings: $510,000

Easy winner at the Santa Anita Derby, this horse didn’t race as a two-year-old. The only concern here is the larger field. Action has already moved this line from 6-1 down to +500. 

16. King Fury (20-1)
Trainer: Kenneth McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Earnings: $207,595

Hernandez Jr. won the Breeders’ Cup in 2012 but his top finish in two runs at the Derby was eighth. 

17. Highly Motivated (10-1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Earnings: $271,000

Second in Blue Grass with his top Beyer of 97. Challenged Essential Quality and has an Equibase Speed Rating of 108. Hall of Famer Cantellano has a third place finish in 14 Derby mounts. 

18. Super Stock (30-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Earnings: $709,000

Arkansas Derby upset winner with an E-speed of 106. Asmussen has six wins at the Breeders Cup, two Preakness and one at Belmont, but his top Derby finish is second. He’d like to complete the cycle. 

19. Soup and Sandwich (30-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Earnings: $161,000

Best finish here for Casse is fourth in eight tries. Winner of the 2019 Preakness and Belmont with War of Will and Sir Winston. Gaffalione was the rider with War of Will in 2019’s win, which was Casse’s first major. 

20. Bourbonic (30-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche
Earnings: $400,000

Three wins and a second place finish in his past four. Winner of the Wood Memorial on April 3 at 72-1 odds. 

I’ve posted 11 winning days of the past 17 (65%) across all sports, netting +$20,010 for dime bettors. With NBA, MLB, NHL and Soccer picks daily, this is where the action is! 

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