Kentucky Derby 2021 Picks & Predictions

Quinn Allen
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
Kentucky Derby 2021 Picks & Predictions

The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting and most important horse race of the year in the United States. It attracts the best trainers and jockeys, as 20 of the best three-year-old horses in the country compete. The 1 1/4 mile race is worth $3 million, and the winner gets the iconic blanket of roses and a place in horse racing history.

Essential Quality+315+275+250
Rock Your World+450+500+575
Known Agenda+700+700+1000
Hot Rod Charlie+800+1000+900
Highly Motivated+1000+800+900
Medina Spirit+1400+1200+1600

You can bet on the Kentucky Derby online from the comfort of your own home. Make sure to select an online sportsbook before the big race. Many sportsbooks are offering special bonuses to 2021 Kentucky Derby bettors.

Kentucky Derby Field

The expected field for the 2021 Kentucky Derby with jockeys and trainers, in order of preference, is:

  • Essential Quality: Brad Cox/Luis Saez
  • >Hot Rod Charlie: Doug O’Neill/Flavien Prat
  • Super Stock: Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana, Jr.
  • Like the King: Wesley Ward/Drayden Van Dyke
  • Known Agenda: Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz, Jr.
  • Rock Your World: John Sadler/Joel Rosario
  • Bourbonic: Todd Pletcher/Kendrick Carmouche
  • Medina Spirit: Bob Baffert/John Velazquez
  • Midnight Bourbon: Steve Asmussen/Mike Smith
  • Mandaloun: Brad Cox/Florent Geroux
  • Highly Motivated: Chad Brown/Javier Castellano
  • Helium: Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux
  • Soup and Sandwich: Mark Casse/Tyler Gaffalione
  • Dynamic One: Todd Pletcher/Jose Ortiz
  • Sainthood: Todd Pletcher/Jockey TBA
  • Hidden Stash: Vicki Oliver/Rafael Bejarano
  • O Besos: Greg Foley/Marcelino Pedroza
  • Get Her Number: Peter Miller/Jockey TBA
  • King Fury: Ken McPeek/Brian Hernandez
  • Keepmeinmind: Robertino Diodoro/David Cohen

The final field will be drawn on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. On that date, you will know post positions and official United States morning lines.

kentucky derby betting odds

Kentucky Derby Best Bets

  • $30 Win: Known Agenda
  • $10 to Place and Show: King Fury, Helium
  • $1 Kentucky Derby Exacta Key: Known Agenda with Essential Quality, King Fury, Helium, Midnight Bourbon
  • $1 Kentucky Derby Trifecta Box: Known Agenda, Essential Quality, King Fury, Helium, Midnight Bourbon
  • $1 Kentucky Derby Superfecta Box: Known Agenda, Essential Quality, King Fury, Helium, Midnight Bourbon, Dynamic One 
Known Agenda To win the 2021 Kentucky Derby
Essential Quality To win the 2021 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby Contenders

The likely favorite in Kentucky is Essential Quality. Last year’s two-year-old champion, he has won both his preps this year and comes into the Derby undefeated. He is versatile enough to work a good trip and is already a winner at Churchill. Though, trainer Brad Cox has never started a horse in the Kentucky Derby before.

The best bet to defeat the favorite is Known Agenda. He took a little longer to mature than some of the other competitors, but he has won his last two starts with authority, including the Florida Derby. Florida Derby winners often run well in Kentucky. He will have a lot of pace to run at, and he is bred well for a mile and a quarter.

Other horses likely to be well bet are Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie, Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World and Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock. From those three Hot Rod Charlie has the most to recommend him, since he has run at so many tracks and keeps running to his company. But, Louisiana Derby winners don’t often do well in Kentucky.

Especially for exotic wagers, the 2021 Kentucky Derby is a good place to look for longshots to play.

King Fury won the Lexington Stakes impressively. He is already a stakes winner at Churchill last year, so he will like the Kentucky Derby surface. He is bred well for the stretch out to a mile and a quarter, and trainer Ken McPeek’s charges typically move forward second off a layoff.

Helium is lightly-raced, with only three starts. But, he handled his first dirt try very well when winning the Tampa Bay Derby. And, he has shown different enough running styles in each of his three races to figure that he will be able to carve out his own good trip in a chaotic field of 20 horses.

Others to sprinkle underneath include Dynamic One, a Todd Pletcher trainee who is bred well for the stretch out to the Classic distance, and Midnight Bourbon, the most consistent horse on the Louisiana spur of the Kentucky Derby trail, and one who has both tactical speed and proven grit.

kentucky derby race odds

Kentucky Derby Predictions

Since the points system began in 2013, most of the winners have been well-bet. The only exception, 65-1 shocker Country House in 2019, won by disqualification. The first horse to cross the wire, Maximum Security, was the second favorite in American betting pools.

Because the Kentucky Derby has been so formful, it makes sense to choose one of the logical horses on top. Known Agenda will probably be the second or third choice, and will be a very good bet. He has gotten much better in his last two starts, he won the perennially live Florida Derby, and he is bred very well to run the 1 1/4-mile distance.

Kentucky Derby Pick 6

Churchill Downs features 13 stakes races on Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1. Seven of them will be run on Derby Day, and six of them will be part of a Kentucky Derby Pick 6. The last two races in that Pick 6 are always the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic and the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs will also offer a special Kentucky Oaks Day/Kentucky Derby Day Pick 6. That bet has a $2 minimum wager and will include three races on Friday and three races on Saturday. The regular Pick 6, which will be offered on both Friday and Saturday, has a 20 cent minimum.

Other wagers on Kentucky Derby Day include exactas, trifectas, superfectas, the Super High Five (on the Kentucky Derby only), rolling Daily Double and Pick 3s, four Pick 4s, and four Pick 5s. You can also bet the Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby double on Friday, by picking the winners of both the Derby and the Oaks.

Kentucky Derby Handicapping Tips 

When picking a winner of the Kentucky Derby, one of the best Kentucky Derby handicapping tips to keep in mind is that the winner of the Kentucky Derby usually runs very well in their final prep race. It is best to pick a horse who has been a winner at age 3 and comes into the Derby on strong recent form.

Seasoned horses usually win in the Kentucky Derby, as well. Even Curlin, one of the all-time greats, found the Kentucky Derby to be a bit too much in only his fourth career start. Having more experience helps a horse handle the large field and stay the mile and a half. Lighter-raced horses can finish underneath, but they don’t typically win.

Be sure to pay attention to Churchill Downs form as well. If a horse has run well at Churchill Downs, they are likely to run well at Churchill Downs again. If they have run poorly at Churchill Downs, it often suggests they do not like the track and will run poorly in the Derby.

Meet the author

Quinn Allen

Quinn Allen leverages his broadcast journalism degree and passion for sports in his betting previews and analysis. Based in Kelowna, Canada, he has emerged as an expert voice with picks featured on OSB, MTS, SBD, and as a ClutchPoints editor. With a lifelong fandom of...

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