Like all things in 2020, the Triple Crown of horse racing was disrupted by the pandemic. The premier event in the racing calendar had to be delayed and moved, which caused the rarest of scenario of a September running of the Kentucky Derby. That will likely never happen again, and now things are back to normal in the racing world. The first Saturday in May once again takes center stage as the 147th Kentucky Derby is set to run from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. What better way to christen the first weekend in May than with some expert Kentucky Derby betting picks and a look at some of the best odds for Saturday’s race?
2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Picks at Churchill Downs
Twenty horses look to take the first step towards a triple crown and a permanent place in racing history. There are many bets to break down, so let’s dive into the field and the potential wagers.
Post Time: 6:57 p.m. EST Saturday, May 1 at Churchill Downs
- Known Agenda 6-1
- Like the King 50-1
- Brooklyn Strong 50-1
- Keepmeinmind 50-1
- Sainthood 50-1
- O Besos 20-1
- Mandaloun 15-1
- Medina Spirit 15-1
- Hot Rod Charlie 8-1
- Midnight Bourbon 20-1
- Dynamic One 20-1
- Helium 50-1
- Hidden Stash 50-1
- Essential Quality 2-1
- Rock Your World 5-1
- King Fury 20-1
- Highly Motivated 10-1
- Super Stock 30-1
- Soup and Sandwich 30-1
- Bourbonic 30-1
The 20-horse field makes handicapping this incredibly difficult. On the positive side, this many horses means massive payouts on the winner and possibly a few other horses who are going to be a threat. The odds above will change as more money piles in leading up to post time, so keep that in mind before making any Kentucky Derby betting picks.
Essential Quality 2-1: Coming out of the 14 spot as the favorite, this horse is unbeaten in five career starts and has answered every challenge so far. Luis Saez gets the mount, and another bonus is that this horse has already run at Churchill Downs, which gives them a little extra boost. These odds are probably too short to be worth investment.
Rock Your World 6-1: At a perfect 3-for-3, Rock Your World started his career on the turf and showed he can handle any surface by winning the Santa Anita Derby. Joel Rosario gets the mount on a horse that most likely will look to set the pace and go wire to wire like he did in his last start. Breaking from the 15 hole isn’t ideal, but if he can get out cleanly, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
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Known Agenda 6-1: The Florida Derby champ fits a lot of the criteria of a potential Kentucky Derby winner. The big question here is if Known Agenda can survive breaking out of the No. 1 spot, which is a horrendous place to be in a 20-horse field. If he breaks well, it could be a non-issue, but any hesitation and he will find himself blocked behind a ton of horses.
Highly Motivated 10-1: Highly Motivated lost to Derby favorite Essential Quality by a nose last time out in the Blue Grass Stakes, and there are much longer odds on this horse because of that. He is 5-for-5 in hitting the board in his career and had three triple-digit speed figures, including a 108 in that last race out. He will need a top-end showing to get it done in this field, but he can avenge that earlier loss to the class of the field.
Longshots to Watch
King Fury 20-1: King Fury is a deep closer, so don’t worry if he isn’t in the picture early in the race. This son of Curlin is going to need a perfect trip to pull the upset, but he should be closing, especially if the fractions are fast. Brian Hernandez Jr. gets the mount, and this horse has three wins in six starts, including one in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes. He will need to run the race of his life and get a speed duel in front of him, but he works in exotics underneath some of the favorites.
Midnight Bourbon 20-1: Mike Smith is the jockey and Steve Asmussen the trainer, so right off the bat this horse has some intrigue. He has finished in the top three in all seven career starts, which is impressive even if he is just 2-for-7 in career wins. He finished second in the Louisiana Derby, which is why he is here. But like most, he will need a bigger effort in this spot. The big concern is that Midnight Bourbon has never registered a triple-digit speed figure in his career, and that will need to change Saturday for him to stay in contention.
Kentucky Derby Betting Picks
Although there is always appeal to targeting a horse at long odds, it’s hard to see major longshot being able to beat all the talent in this field. This is more wide open than years past, so it’s a good idea to go against the favorite in Essential Quality.
Kentucky Derby Winner: Highly Motivated (10-1)
Highly Motivated will get revenge on that favorite here, and this is a great price. He should be around this 10-1 mark come post time, which is a significant gap between him and Essential Quality, who could end up around just 2-1. Highly Motivated lost his last race to the favorite, but losing by a head isn’t enough for this big of a difference in price. Highly Motivated should be stalking the pace and sitting a in decent position throughout the race. The 17 post isn’t great, but if he breaks cleanly, it should not impact his trip at all. With Javier Castellano aboard and Chad Brown training, everything checks out.
Kentucky Derby Exacta: Highly Motivated/Known Agenda/Rock Your World
Some exotic options for this race could be picking the first- and second–place finishers (exacta) or first, second and third (trifecta). Both provide opportunities for huge payouts, as these are much harder to hit and thus have much longer odds. Highly Motivated would be the preferred pick as part of any exotic. Depending on risk tolerance and bankroll, a number of horses could be included, but the two best options are Rock Your World and Known Agenda. They each have the talent and skill to take down this race with the right trip. Known Agenda in particular is interesting despite breaking from the rail. For those looking for the massive payday, then including one of the longer shots in the mix can certainly do that. But as the odds indicate, they have an uphill battle on Saturday.
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