Surveying The Field: Kentucky Derby Favorites And Value Plays To Boost Your Payouts In PA

Posted By Paul Bergeron on April 29, 2021

A year ago – or should we say, eight months ago because the Kentucky Derby was moved to Sept. 5 because of COVID-19 – the Run for the Roses featured a seemingly unbeatable morning line favorite Tiz the Law.

However, Tiz wasn’t the case as the 3-5 favorite finished second to Authentic.

This year, there is no overwhelming favorite. In fact, the horses handicappers thought were the cream of this 3-year-old crop won’t be in the gate Saturday for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Life Is Good (injury) and Concert Tour (trainer’s decision) have missed their chance.

Following this theme of who won’t win, we turn to the leading trainers who are hoping to break through.

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Trainers looking for their first Derby win in 2021

One shocking statement is that no Louisville-born trainer has won the Kentucky Derby. Enter Brad Cox, who has two entries (morning-line favorite Essential Quality at 2-1 and Mandaloun at 15-1).

“It’s about time,” said Cox, 41, of making that happen. He’s been training horses for 16 years. Nothing like snapping an 0-for-147 all-time streak.

Another who’s been shut out is Steve Asmussen, who sits No. 2 all-time on the list of most wins in the history of the sport – a mark he’s expected to break this year. So why not chip away on Saturday by having Midnight Bourbon (20-1) or Super Stock (30-1) stand in the winner’s circle?

Then there’s renowned trainer Chad Brown, who has a spectacular track record on turf. He brings Highly Motivated (10-1) to the gate Saturday.

Also among the most respected trainers is Wesley Ward, known for his outstanding ability to work with young horses. Not only has he not won the Kentucky Derby, he’s never had a horse enter. Ward is superb at getting horses to win at 5 or 6 furlongs, but not 10, as will be the case Saturday. His Like The King (50-1) has two wins in six career starts, and will be making his dirt debut.

Pace Scenarios and the Top Four Contenders

Key to winning the Kentucky Derby, like most races, is the pace. There doesn’t appear to be any true speed horses entered this year. Many assume that Soup and Sandwich (30-1 from Gate 19) will go to the front. Horses that prefer using a closing (rallying) running style need a hot pace to succeed.

Down the stretch, consider this:

  • Winners in 27 of the past 31 Derbies ran 13 seconds or better in the final furlong or 38 seconds or faster in the final three furlongs of their most recent race.
  • Since 1992, 26 of 29 Derby winners recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 or more in at least one of their career races.
  • Since 2000, 18 of 21 Derby winners have delivered a 100+ Brisnet before the Kentucky Derby.

Four horses meet these criteria (according to TheLines) and can’t be ruled out:

Essential Quality (2-1):

Undefeated in four starts, he’s going for the rare Breeders Cup/Kentucky Derby double, something only Street Sense (2006-07) and Nyquist (2015-16) have achieved. Renowned super-bettor Mattress Mack has said he’ll be placing a $2 million bet on the favorite – so if it’s Essential Quality come the 6:57 p.m. ET post time, payouts could be miniscule.

Rock Your World (5-1):

He’s the only horse with a 100 Beyer on his resume (Hot Rod Charlie and Medina each have 99s) and has shown to have tactical speed over a long course. Trainer John Sadler’s best Kentucky Derby finish was sixth (1993, Corby). A top-rated jockey Joel Rosario (one lifetime Derby win) will be on board, mounting this horse for the first time.

Hot Rod Charlie (8-1):

He has strong tactical speed and can find a good position early in the race. He has a strong foundation with plenty of solid 2-year-old form. Given six weeks off, he comes into the big race relatively fresh and ready to fire his absolute best. These are the thoughts of HorseRacingNation’s Brian Zipse, and make a compelling case for me.

Highly Motivated (10-1):

A strong argument can be made that the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland April 3 was this year’s top prep race. It certainly was the deepest as it featured Essential Quality, Hidden Stash (50-1), Rombauer and three other stakes winners. Highly Motivated finished second behind Essential Quality in that one. This distance might not suit Highly Motivated well, but he has posted Brisnet Speed Ratings of 102 in three straight races.

The No. 1 Post Position

Known Agenda (6-1) would have been given better odds had trainer Todd Pletcher not drawn the 1 hole. TV analysts all day will discuss the perils of being stuck all the way inside. But a year ago, Churchill Downs changed its gate so that it sits 15 feet further from the rail. Known Agenda added blinkers in an allowance race a few months back and “the light went on.” His stalking style should do him well.

Under the Radar

Dynamic One (20-1): In the Wood Memorial, he made a strong closing move, took the lead in the stretch and looked like a winner until his stablemate and a 72-1 longshot that day, Bourbonic (30-1 on Saturday), caught him at the wire.

Bob Baffert’s Only Chance

It’s been a rough 3-year-old season for elite trainer Bob Baffert, but he does bring in Medina Spirit (15-1) so bet against him at your own risk. (Baffert trained Life Is Good and Concert Tour). Baffert called Medina Spirit a “top 10” horse in this field. A win Saturday would be Baffert’s seventh in the Derby, making him the winningest Derby trainer all-time.

Live Long shot

Looking at the longest shots on the board, one that could shock the field is Sainthood (50-1). Perhaps he’s the horse that could turn your trifecta or superfecta bet into a huge score. He’s one of four horses racing for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Who’s Going to Win?

Hot Rod Charlie.*

*This is not betting advice, but merely the opinion of the writer.

Betting the Kentucky Derby online in Pennsylvania, new TVG features

If you don’t want to venture to a PA race track or OTB to bet the Derby, TVG is here for you. PA horse players can wager from anywhere on the TVG horse betting app, PABets. Sign up using our links and bonus code for a $300 risk-free first bet.

Just in time for the Derby, racing fans will find enhanced betting features on the TVG app, which should help with making informed horse bets.

Right on the app, bettors can now access past performance data for every horse in the race. You’ll also find starting prices, runner comments, trainer and jockey information, betting trends, and other insights. The enhanced “bets” section now includes a re-bet feature for multi-race bets (Pick 5 and Pick 4), approximate payouts, personalized will-pays directly on the betting ticket, and improved navigation.

The upgraded app also allows fans to watch live video, check pools, access handicapping data and place wagers all on one screen.

“A lot of hard work has gone into these improvements over the past year by the team,” VP of Racing Product, Stephen Kennelly, said in a press release. “We’ve focused on two key themes with our app, ease of use and presenting the right info at the right time. Customer research and feedback has been great on both the handicapping info and Bets improvements and we are looking forward to even further improvements later this year.”

2021 Kentucky Derby post positions and odds in PA

PostHorseOpening OddsJockeyTrainer
1Known Agenda6-1Irad Ortiz, Jr. Todd Pletcher
2Like the King50-1Drayden Van DykeWesley Ward
3Brooklyn Strong50-1Umberto RispoliDaniel Velazquez
4Keepmeinmind50-1David CohenRobertino Diodoro
5Sainthood50-1Corey LanerieTodd Pletcher
6O Besos20-1Marcellino PedrozaGreg Foley
7Mandaloun15-1Florent GerouxBrad Cox
8Medina Spirit15-1John VelazquezBob Baffert
9Hot Rod Charlie8-1Flavien PratDoug O'Neill
10Midnight Bourbon20-1Mike Smith Steve Asmussen
11Dynamic One20-1Jose OrtizTodd Pletcher
12Helium50-1Julien LeparouxMark Casse
13Hidden Stash50-1Rafael BejaranoVicki Oliver
14Essential Quality2-1Luis SaezBrad Cox
15Rock Your World5-1Joel RosarioJohn Sadler
16King Fury20-1Brian Hernandez, Jr.Kenny McPeek
17Highly Motivated10-1Javier CastellanoChad Brown
18Super Stock30-1Ricardo Santana, Jr. Steve Asmussen
19Soup and Sandwich30-1Tyler GaffalioneMark Casse
20Bourbonic30-1Kendrick CarmoucheTodd Pletcher

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

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