Derby 2021 Handicapping Analysis

This column likely will confuse you even more than you already are, but I will try to break down the race in as many ways as I can and throw some possible wagers at you. But things change quickly and there are some bets on which I am noncommittal at this point, so I likely will be posting updates in the comments section through Saturday. My Rankings tell you who I believe are the best overall horses based on talent, pedigree, eye test, and rate of improvement. This column will focus more on wagering and finding value. Of course, in many instances they are one and the same. ~ Steve Haskin

Derby Dilemma is Here, 2021 Handicapping Analysis

By Steve Haskin


Let’s get one wager out of the way that I have to seriously consider. With this Derby being so confusing in so many ways, how can I not box the four horses from the Week 1 Rankings who made it to the Derby – Essential Quality, Known Agenda, Medina Spirit, and Keepmeinmind. It could be a trifecta or exacta box, but an exacta will pay nothing if it’s Essential Quality and Known Agenda. These are four solid horses with a lot of back class and a strong foundation and two will be good prices, so why not? It would have been a five-horse box had Caddo River not dropped out at the last minute, but now I can save money with one less horse. More on this later.

OK, now that we got that out of the way, let’s try to unravel this puzzle. First off, how can you truly handicap this Derby when you have three horses who have made only one start this year and four horses who have made only three lifetime starts, including one horse who is going to be no worse than second choice. And you have four horses coming off 6- and 8-week layoffs. So do we really know who many of these horses are? You also have half the field trained by four trainers, three of them Hall of Famers and one potential future Hall of Famer. Add Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and future Hall of Famers Chad Brown and Doug O’Neill and you have 13 of the 20 horses trained by Hall of Fame trainers. So, good luck to Greg Foley, Robertino Diodoro, Danny Velazquez, and Vickie Oliver.

What we’re going to do is break down the race into categories. The first will be speed figures. You have seen many references to Thoro-Graph figures and some of you are still bit confused by them. So I will sort them out and list the horses I feel are on the best pattern, which is more important in many ways than how fast their numbers are. The pattern is what gives you a clue who is going to peak on Derby Day.

Another category will be works, gallops, and overall appearance. Most of these horses look great and are training great, but I will point out the ones I feel are standouts and thriving at Churchill Downs.

And finally we come to handicapping and betting, focusing on potential overlays and longshots that can possibly pull off an upset or be part of the exotics.



There are three standouts for me on Thoro-Graph. Yes, Essential Quality has the two fastest figures, but there is a question, as slight as it may be, whether he has reached his peak. His numbers last year were strong and he began this year improving to a “negative-1/2,” which is still the only negative number run this year. Remember, the lower the number the better. In the Blue Grass he ran the second fastest number, a “0,” which was a slight regression. So, can he maintain those fast numbers or was the ½-point regression a sign that he peaked early and has already reached his level? Either number is fast enough to win the Derby, so we will just have to see if he regresses slightly again, stays around those numbers, or if another horse or horses who are on an improving pattern and projected to run a career-high number can match Essential Quality’s numbers or surpass them in the Derby.

The horse I believe is on the best pattern and sitting on a peak performance is DYNAMIC ONE, who I called my “hidden gem” and “Derby sleeper” after he finished fourth in a maiden race back in January. Although four horses have run faster than him in their last race, his pattern is stronger because he ran an excellent “5” in his second career start and it is that number that provided him with a foundation to fall back on in case he made a big jump this year and you weren’t sure if he was going to regress off it. Well, he started the year off running an “8 ¾” in the aforementioned maiden race and then improved to a “5” breaking his maiden. Having already run that “5” as a 2-year-old it was pretty certain he was going to improve off it, and he did, running a “2” in the Wood Memorial thanks to a very wide trip, running 43 feet farther than the winner. With his rate of improvement, his maturing mentally, and turning in one of the strongest works we saw all week, I am projecting that he has another significant move forward in him that will put him in a position to either win at a big price or finish in the money and be part of the exacta or trifecta. On Brisnet he has run two triple-digit late pace figures, and despite his very wide trip in the Wood Memorial he still ran a solid 96 late pace figure.

The second best pattern belongs to his stablemate KNOWN AGENDA, another horse who caught my eye early, despite having won only a maiden race by head and being beaten nine lengths in the Remsen Stakes in the slop. I thought so highly of him I ranked him No. 8 in the first Derby Rankings in January. He looked to be going nowhere, running back-to-back “11” Thoro-Graph numbers and having mental lapses where he just wasn’t focused on running. Then a frustrated and desperate Todd Pletcher put blinkers on him and he romped by 11 lengths in a mile and an eighth allowance race, with his Thoro-Graph jumping from an “11” to a “3.” The question was, would he “bounce” or regress off such a big leap? Not only did he not regress he improved to a “1 ½” in the Florida Derby, which he won going away. With five weeks to the Derby and an extra furlong that he should relish, there is no reason why he shouldn’t make another move forward. He has the strongest foundation of all the starters, having already run in four mile and an eighth races.

Even looking at his Brisnet figures, he is one of only four horses to run a triple-digit number last out, along with Essential Quality, Rock Your World, and Highly Motivated. But his late pace figure of 112 in the Florida Derby is the fastest in the field, so he does have a very strong closing kick.

The third horse is HIGHLY MOTIVATED. The reason his Thoro-Graph pattern is so strong is that having started off his career running an “8 ¼” and then a “10 ¾” he jumped all the way to a “3” in the 6 1/2-furlong Nyquist Stakes on Breeders’ Cup day. Making his 3-year-old debut in the one-mile Gotham Stakes he was able to maintain that “3” with a troubled trip, which gave him a launching pad to move forward in the Blue Grass, which he did running a “1 ¼,” second-fastest in the field. Although he should improve a bit off that in this third start of the year and having gone two turns, his pedigree for a mile and a quarter is more questionable than those of Dynamic One and Known Agenda, who are bred to run all day. So he still has to prove he can stretch out in distance and maintain his fast figures, while with the two Pletcher horses there is no doubt they will appreciate the longer distance. However, he has the fastest Brisnet figures on a consistent basis, having run three consecutive 102 figures. And to show how high his cruising speed is, he ran three triple-digit middle pace figures in his first four starts, and then in the Blue Grass ran a 105 late pace figure, indicating a horse who can maintain his speed for a long period of time.

There are several horses who have made big jumps in their Thoro-Graph numbers, such as Rock Your World, O Besos, Soup and Sandwich, Bourbonic, Helium, and King Fury, but they were all in their last start, so we really don’t know in which direction they are going to go, because unlike Dynamic One they don’t have that fast number last year to fall back on. And then we have Hot Rod Charlie and Medina Spirit, whose numbers are OK, but they have not improved at all in their last three starts, remaining stagnant (3 ¾, 3 ¾, 3 ¾ for Hot Rod Charlie and 3 ½, 3 ¼, and 3 for Medina Spirit). Those numbers should not be good enough to win the Derby, so they will have to improve them several points. They both are talented enough to do it, but we’re going by pattern, so it’s pure speculation that they will make that jump after three even performances.

HOT ROD CHARLIE is the biggest enigma. I love so many things about him, including his versatility, his courage under fire, how well he closed in the Louisiana Derby on the lead, and the way he’s been training. And his last Beyer figure of 99 is the second fastest in the field. But it all depends how you interpret his Thoro-Graph numbers. Even on Brisnet, his late pace figures have been significantly slower than his early and middle pace figures. So is he a strong closer or not? Those numbers say no, but the eye test says yes. So I am going to hold off on him until I see how he’s being bet and if there is value.

There is no sense even looking at Beyer figures. All you need to know about this year’s field is that Rock Your World has the highest Beyer at 100. In the past 30 years, only once was the highest Beyer in the field as low as 100 and that was in 2010 when Super Saver beat a mediocre field at best. If you want an alarming statistic how Beyer figures or horses have gotten slower, in 13 years between 1994 and 2006 the average number of triple-digit Beyer figures in the Derby field each year was 24.4. In 13 years between 2009 and 2021, the average is 5.2. To give you another example of the contrast, this year we have one triple-digit Beyer. When Fusaichi Pegasus won in 2000 there were 33. Of the 19 starters, 16 of them had at least one triple-digit Beyer and two of the ones who didn’t were coming from Dubai. So do we really care if one horse has 100 Beyer and the others have in the mid-to-high 90s?



Well, we’re back to DYNAMIC ONE, who along with KING FURY, made the biggest impression in their final work, as described in this week’s Derby Rankings. Both works were highlighted by sensational gallop-outs, especially King Fury with the rider up in the saddle and not asking him in the slightest. He has such a smooth, fluid stride, and the way he hugs the rail on the turns you realize how athletic he is and have to consider him in your exotics despite having only one start this year. His work, without company, was one of the best I’ve seen in my 30 years covering the Derby. Dynamic One has been doing everything right since he arrived at Churchill Downs and definitely looks like a horse sitting on a peak effort.

There were a number of other terrific works; way too many to detail. ROCK YOUR WORLD turned in three powerful and identical works in California, with huge gallop-outs and has been an imposing figure on the track at Churchill Downs. And you can’t fault HOT ROD CHARLIE’S Santa Anita works as well, as he’s been his usual steady self, and his back-to-back six furlong works, in which he galloped out strongly, gave him a lot of bottom since the Louisiana Derby. He was particularly strong in his Wednesday gallop, which is typical Doug O’Neill. So he is dead-fit and has a mile and three-sixteenths race under him already.

Some of the other works at Churchill Downs that caught the eye were by O BESOS, who was extremely powerful past the wire going out a strong seven furlongs; MANDALOUN, who has been gliding over the track; and SOUP AND SANDWICH’S first work. He no doubt is maturing quickly. And no horse has made a better physical impression than MIDNIGHT BOURBON, who is flourishing at Churchill Downs and growing into a magnificent-looking horse. His coat is radiant, he’s muscled out and carrying great flesh. And in his five-furlong work in :59 4/5 it didn’t look as if he was going that fast, which is what you want to see. So if you combine physical presence and works he looks like he’s sitting on a big race.

This is not to say that others have not looked terrific working. I’m just trying to pick out a few that stood out. A quick mention must also be made that Pletcher’s longshots, SAINTHOOD and BOURBONIC have been very strong and fluid in their gallops and both are feeling good.

One final work I have to mention because no one else has was the bullet half-mile work in a sizzling :46 1/5 by (the plodder?) KEEPMEINMIND. Churchill finally showed the work several days later and you would never think he was going that fast. I mentioned in the last Derby Rankings why this horse could be a live exotics play at a monster price with the blinkers off.



OK, we’re finished with the window dressing. Now it is time to try to make some sense of this baffling Derby. With the exception of maybe three or four horses, it would not be a shock to see any one of these horses win, that’s how little we really know about most of them and what their ceiling is. There simply are too many questions and too few starts to get a good grasp of this field.

If you’re leaning toward one of the horses with good tactical speed or one of the deep closers, remember this: in 27 of the last 30 Derbys the winner was either first or second at the eighth pole. The only three that weren’t were Animal Kingdom (3rd), Grindstone (4th), and Giacomo (6th). With the last two, the pace was :46 flat and 1:10 flat for Grindstone and :45 1/5 and 1:09 2/5 for Giacomo. So assuming we’re not going to get a pace that fast you better have a horse who has a move explosive enough to pass 18 of the 20 horse by the time they get to the eighth pole. But then again, this 2021 and I must interject the lyrics of a song from the musical The King and I:

“There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!
Is a puzzlement”

So, now that I have eliminated the word expert from this year’s Derby vernacular, we can proceed.

Although I can make a case for so many of them, especially to fill out the exotics, I will just try to make it as simple as possible. With that said, let’s go right to my two early Pletcher pet projects, KNOWN AGENDA and DYNAMIC ONE, who seem like old friends by now having been very high on them since January. Pletcher has started 28 horses in the Derby who were coming off victories in major Derby preps, all graded stakes. He won one, with Always Dreaming, coming off a victory in the Florida Derby. Well, Known Agenda is not only coming off a victory in the Florida Derby, he has the same owner as Always Dreaming. And as for Dynamic One, he finished second by a head in his previous start. Pletcher’s other winner, Super Saver, finished second by a neck in his previous start. So both horses fit the profile of a Todd Pletcher Derby winner. Exacta box anyone?

Here is something to ponder as meaningless as it may be. In 1997, Gary Stevens was elected to the Hall of Fame the same year he won the Kentucky Derby on Silver Charm. In 1999, D. Wayne Lukas was elected to the Hall of Fame the same year he won the Kentucky Derby with Charismatic. In 2000, Neil Drysdale was elected to the Hall of Fame the same year he won the Kentucky Derby with Fusaichi Pegasus. Well, as we all know, Todd Pletcher will be elected to the Hall of Fame next week. Just passing that along.

As I said, I can make this complicated by spewing out a whole bunch of exotic bet combinations, but I am going to start off by looking for value win bets. Although ROCK YOUR WORLD is still my No. 1-ranked horse I feel his odds will be too low to bet him to win, unless you’ve got a big bundle of money to spend, so I will save him for the exotics. Remember, this is about wagering picks and finding value more than who is the most talented horse. I still believe Rock Your World is the most talented with the higher ceiling, even though I am still against horses in the Derby with only three lifetime starts. In short, Essential Quality, Known Agenda, and Hot Rod Charlie are your AT&T, the safer and more reliable stock with a longer and solid history behind it. Rock your World is the exciting new company that is just getting started whose stock can take off at any time. But there is also the risk factor due to its lack of experience.

My main win bet has been on KNOWN AGENDA for a while for reasons I have been explaining since January and I was hoping he would be a good value bet. Before the Florida Derby Churchill Downs refused to include him in any of its Derby Future Wager fields, so I was unable to get him at a big price. Now that big price is long gone. With Rock Your World at 5-1 on the morning line and Known Agenda at only 6-1 I’m not sure where the value is with my meager means. Drawing the rail is never what you want and maybe that will push his odds up a little, along with Jim McIngvale’s $2 million win bet on Essential Quality. Maybe enough people will remember his $3.4 million bet on the Tampa Bay Bucs in the Super Bowl and figure he doesn’t lose bets like this. If Known Agenda’s odds are that low on Derby Day I will have to key him and Rock Your World in the exactas with about a dozen horses and use them prominently in trifectas, but more on that later.

As for Known Agenda’s inside post, it’s never ideal in a 20-horse field, but he did win the Florida Derby racing on the rail most of the way and easing out approaching the head of the stretch, so he’s at least shown he doesn’t mind being down on the inside and can negotiate a good trip. And it is still the quickest way around there. This is not like drawing the rail in past years. With the new single gate he will have more room to his inside and the five horses directly outside him have little or no speed, so he should not encounter any traffic problems early on as long as he breaks well. If you like him you don’t want to back off now and have him get a dream trip, so stick with him and let it play out.

I do know that I am making a pretty significant (for me) win bet on my longshot special DYNAMIC ONE and a slightly lesser bet on O BESOS. Those are my two main win bets at a big price. As of right now I likely will also put a win bet on MIDNIGHT BOURBON based on his work and how good he looks physically, and just hoping he gets the perfect trip and has used these six weeks to move forward. I just keep seeing flashes of Tiznow from a physical sense and not knowing when he is going to have that breakout performance. He is going to be much higher odds than his Louisiana Derby conqueror Hot Rod Charlie, but he needs the perfect pace scenario. I’m still trying to make up my mind whether to make a win bet on KING FURY based on his sensational work and gallops. It all depends on the price. I’d love to get at least 25-1 but preferably 30-1 or higher. He’s only had that one start, which I don’t like, and may be a bet-down horse with the buzz growing, so I will have to see how he’s being bet and will just hope for a big price. Worst case scenario is to play him underneath in the exotics, which is more logical.

Just a quick note on pace scenario: with Caddo River out there is no true speed horse, and none of the trainers of horses who do have early speed are planning on their horse being on the lead even though Rock Your World does have the early lick and the ability to run his opponents off their feet. Sadler, however, says he is looking for him to sit just off the pace. That leaves none other than Bob Baffert, who loves to use his horses’ speed and put them right in the mix up. If everyone hesitates he is more than happy to take the initiative. Even though Medina Spirit drew post 8 he is the inside speed and has to go from the start with so much tactical speed outside him. Medina Spirit’s main strength seems to be his willingness to battle in the stretch and not let horses get by him, so if he is going to win his best chance would seem to be to go to the front and try to hold off everyone.

As I said in the intro, I will be making updates through Saturday in the comments section depending on late observations and revelations over the next few days.

Those updates will include final thoughts on exotic bets because it is too early to commit to those. But in the exactas, using the safe horses Essential Quality, Rock Your World, Known Agenda, and Hot Rod Charlie on top, the horses to back them up at a good payoff will be, in addition to Dynamic One, O Besos, and Midnight Bourbon, the real bombs Keepmeinmind, King Fury, Bourbonic, Brooklyn Strong, Sainthood, Soup and Sandwich, and Super Stock. I need to see the odds on Medina Spirit to decide if it’s worth it. These are just $2 exactas for $20 or $1 exactas for $10, so you have to look for a monster payoff.

Just getting back to that Week 1 trifecta or exacta box of Essential Quality, Known Agenda, Medina Spirit, and Keepmeinmind, it’s not just a gimmick play based on the initial Derby Rankings. I think this is a pretty interesting combination of favorites, a mid-priced horse, and a huge bomb, all of whom have won Grade 1 or 2 stakes, with the shortest and longest priced horses having finished first and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. You also have one horse who will be on or close to the pace, two horses probably around midpack, and one coming from far back. So we’ll give it a wild shot for a $1 trifecta box for $24. The key will be how Known Agenda beaks from post 1 and if he can settle into a good position without running into traffic down on the rail. I normally hate equipment changes for the Derby, especially with blinkers, but Keepmeinmind is sharp and sneaky and blinkers off isn’t as bad as blinkers on.

So I hope you’ve been able to digest all this. Right now the keys are my win bets on Dynamic One, O Besos, and Midnight Bourbon and possibly a small bet on King Fury and how much I want to bet on Known Agenda. I won’t know that until Saturday when I see his odds. And there are the four exactas with the bombs underneath, and of course the Week 1 trifecta box just for the heck of it. I am also looking at a Pletcher Oaks/Derby double of Malathaat with Dynamic One and Known Agenda. The rest will have to be sorted out, as I am totally baffled when it comes to the trifectas and may lay low on them. It could deprive me of a lifetime score, but more likely would cost me a month’s paycheck.

Good luck to everyone. It’s been quite a ride.

Leave a Reply

423 Responses to “Derby 2021 Handicapping Analysis”

  1. Ian Douglas says:

    This is my wrap Steve:
    1) The best horse won. He didn’t set easy fractions. It was the fastest half (46.70) around 2 turns for the 2 day period and the final 1/2 in 25 is why they couldn’t pass him. In the Alysheba, Maxfield was a comfortable 3 lengths off a 47.48 pace. (By the way Maxfield has finally arrived)
    2) The interviews before and after the Derby complete the picture of what we cant see reading the PPs. After winning with Gamine, Johnny V essentially confirmed that he was going to try for the lead. How could that be a bad thing after Jackie’s Warrior and Dream Shake dueled one two in a 21.75, 43.68 and nobody closed? Future Hall of Famer Chad Brown was concerned about HM’s ability to get the 10 furlongs in another interview
    3)It’s always amazing to me how many handicappers complain about how wide trips and ground loss. Brad Cox had more to say about EQ trying to bear out in the stretch than anything else. They don’t run horse racing in staggered lanes like the Olympics. Furthermore even though the track was playing relatively fairly note how Johnny V didn’t hesitate to do what he had to do with Malathaat in the Oaks.
    4)Going forward, I will not hesitate to bet a horse in the one hole who has positional speed. The new gate has helped tremendously
    5) If you have to take anything with you going forward is Brad Cox’s answer to can you imagine winning 7? He answered without thinking an emphatic “YES” I will definitely be back
    6) Like has happened very often in the past Pletcher will be a factor in the Belmont.

    • Jeff says:

      A few more trends continued still after this KD:

      *Tapit sire still doesn’t have a winner in the KD;
      *Blue Grass Stakes still is struggling as a KD prep an not attracting top class quality (not good enough to win the KD);
      *Pletcher horses running 9th place or worse continuous…

      Any other?

  2. pro vet says:

    Time to change the triple crown…….no good horseman should run in 2 weeks……only the winner……….if you ran bad?…..ok….because this race didnt take alot out of you………..the preakness is always weak . Time to change the triple crown…… is too easy to win the crown today…….

  3. Lynda B King says:

    Yes, I am disappointed. Several days before the Derby I found myself becoming more and more endeared to Hot Rod Charlie. Have to hand it to Johnny V and Medina Spirit. When is the last time a thousand dollar colt won the Derby? Gotta love this colt’s backstory! It brings to mind California Chrome. Johnny V gave Medina Spirit the perfect ride.
    A 20 horse field or in this case a 19 horse field is a challenge to these young, lightly raced colts. Every Derby I have watched more than one gets bumped, squeezed or is forced to run three or four wide to get into a good position.
    There is no shame at all in the way Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie ran, they threw down their best effort and it just was not quite good enough on this particular day. Looking forward to a match-up of these 3 again.
    Per Doug O’Neil, Hot Rod Charlie is skipping the Preakness and will pointed to the Belmont.
    The big winner was that as far as we know, all came out of the race in good order including Soup & Sandwich (there were concerns when he was eased).

  4. Steve Haskin says:

    One note about handicapping the trainer. I have been friends with Baffert for 25 years and wrote his autobiography. I have been texting back and forth with him all year and he never once sounded excited about Medina’s chances of winning he Derby. It was always Life is Good then Concert Tour and then oh well weve got one left lets just give it a shot. Believe me he was not expecting this.

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks for all you do… I listened to your information on MS on 2 things; missing workout prior to SA Derby and your analysis of his gameness in his genes…I figured that MS would try hard for the lead.

    • Angela Whyland says:

      Thanks Steve. I am a writer not an racing analysist so no surprise that I was surprised. But that’s good to know. I really expected that MS would be overtaken at the end. From a fan of racing, and writer’s, perspective, I thought Mr Baffert did the best he could to draw a connection to Seabisquit. And strictly from a fan of racing’s perspective, I was not disappointed that Medina held on at the end.

  5. SoloSolo says:

    Steve, I hope we see your analysis of the race, and your thoughts on Known Agenda. I was very disappointed in his draw and his race. A bright spot for me on Derby Day was Jackie’s Warrior , an El Paso horse, who ran a great race in the Pat Day Mile, and we’re so proud of him.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      There will be a column today but no analysis. You cant analyze what makes no sense

      • SoloSolo says:

        Lol. What a wacky Derby, but your thoughtful remarks on the Dervy trail were a pleasure to ponder.

      • Davids says:

        As always, Steve, the prep races are the enjoyment. The Kentucky Derby, apart from the spectacle, is inevitably a let down. On to the next one…

    • EddieF says:

      Would you like my thoughts on Known Agenda? You can get 100 of them for one Haskin Thought at the currency exchange. As KA was the main focus of my Derby wagering yesterday, you can rest assured that my thoughts are unbiased and honest. 😉 He broke from the gate in good order and seemed to settle in a nice position, which appeared to be a midpack position as expected. Then Like the King on his outside seemed to intimidate him (“him” could be the horse or rider, or both). Regardless, he then had no excuse to not move forwardly. When asked entering the final turn, KA had no response. He just wasn’t good enough.

      Was it not his day or is he the rare disappointing Florida Derby graduate? Like many of yesterday’s runners, there just wasn’t a lot to go on. He had one impressive stakes performance. His workouts prior to the Derby didn’t impress anyone, though it was said that he has never been an inspiring worker. I hope he comes out of the race in good shape so that we can see what kind of runner he really is.

      • SoloSolo says:

        Thanks for the pearls of wisdom, EddieF. I agree, tho I was grasping at straws there for a while to excuse his lackluster performance. Hopefully he’ll rebound. What a wacky Derby!

  6. EddieF says:

    Medina Spirit — First winner since Super Saver (2010) to lose his last prep; first Florida-bred winner since Silver Charm (1997)

    Mandaloun — First 2nd-place finisher since Bet Twice (1987) to have been off the board in his final prep.

    It was the closest Derby finish since Giacomo (2005) won by the same ½-length margin over Closing Argument.

    It was the third consecutive Derby in which the first-place finisher led gate to wire.

  7. pro vet says:

    Eq might have been best……..HRC might have been best…..Mand might have been best…… was CLOSE RACE!

    The horse with the perfect trip won…….it doesnt matter who was best………bob won….

    • EddieF says:

      It was exciting. It may have been the closest 4-horse finish in Derby history. Certainly the closest in any of our lifetimes. The 1966 Derby had a 4-horse finish that was nearly as close.

  8. Matthew W says:

    Brad Cox had two who ran huge…BUT…stop complaining, Brad! Essential was sitting right off the pace, sure he was wide, but on dirt its nowhere near as important as turf, and I don’t know why that is, but MANY Derby winners came wide…and he was right there with 3/16 left in the race….better to just regroup, and come back and win….than to whine about losing ground, I thought Essentual was going to win, and he didn’t.

    • Jeff says:

      in the KD, i would think it would be expected to have a bit of trouble but champions do figure out how to win. Both Cox horses had all the chances to win, but were not good enough.

    • Matthew K W says:

      John Sadler is in shock—but I didn’t hear him whine….he just took off his suit and changed back into his “Revenge of the Nerds” tight fitting short sleeve button down shirt—and is going to try and win the Belmont–I think he can…

      • perimeister says:

        You know what they say about old age and cunning. But John Sadler will have a much better shot, I think, if he can get Rock Your World more race experience. Quickly.

    • Mike Relva says:

      So many times when BB “whines” about drawing post 1, or other dynamics-he gets a pass. Why? How exactly does that work?

  9. Jeff says:

    Something has to be said about the Pletcher effect. His records is dismal at best. 4 more horses run 9th or worse making it a total of 33 horses he has ran that finished worse then 9th. He needs to re consider who he runs and change his program to not just run horses.

    • Gold Rail says:

      Pletcher would have run Caddo River in the Derby if he trained him. Meanwhile, Baffert brings one 3rd stringer and wins.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      I was SO disappointed in all his horses especially the two I liked.

      • Davids says:

        Steve, in a race like the Kentucky Derby what percentage does luck play in winning? One colt wins and 19 or so don’t- the end. Lol.

    • EddieF says:

      Jeff, what trainer or owner wouldn’t have run any of these four colts in the Derby? It’s not like Pletcher knew they’d all finish poorly.

      • Jeff says:

        Chad Brown is a trainer who doesn’t just run horses. He understands that they aren’t good enough. Obviously he hasn’t won a KD but he eliminates unnecessary horses in the starting gate. Sainthood, any Wood Memorial horse? Just slow slow and more slow. KA was the only he horse he should’ve ran.

        • EddieF says:

          I’ll rephrase the question. What trainer, Chad Brown included, who has a healthy horse that won or ran a close second in a final DERBY PREP doesn’t run in the Ky Derby?

          Five years ago, the aforementioned trainer brought two horses to the Derby: My Man Sam (second in the BG Stakes) and Shagaf (fifth in the WOOD MEMORIAL). Sam finished 11th and Shagaf didn’t finish.

          • Jeff says:

            Answer me this question: after pletcher results through the decades, do you think he’s in tune with his animals and the competition? I think he’s almost lost to be honest. Did he over evaluate the wood memorial when all so called experts said it was awful?

        • Mike Relva says:

          No even him for fact of 1 post.

  10. Matthew W says:

    If they decide to go in the Preakness…Essential Quality will be favored again….wide trip but they were lined up outside Medina, and like in the Lewis he turned them back….

  11. El Kabong says:

    Top three finishers got dream trips but they earned them. Helium and Sainthood got dream trips too but were no match for these guys. O Besos had a great trip but again no match. Essential Quality ran furthest for sure and I have not looked at Trackus but I’m sure he did. Rough start and 4 wide left him a tad less to the wire, but more racing will decide. I question why Florent kept such a strong hold on Mandaloun, definitely lost some energy doing this. Looking at Johnny’s arms and Florent’s you see quite a different method employed. RYW’s gate maul was a terrible misfortune but I really thought Rosario would have better luck getting him going and I could not have been more wrong. Highly Motivated actually veered out into Super Stock who at the same time veered in towards Highly Motivate. Castellano reacted and yanked Highly Motivated hard left, right into RYW causing him to pinball with HQ and it kinda looked like Joel’s foot might have slipped out or nearly out of his stirrup. Anyway, it was game over. The conveyor belt of CD was unforgivable. I drizzled some tapatio sauce on my tickets as they went around the first turn knowing I would be eating them all. Gulp!

    • Ms Black Type says:

      Lost it at your last line. Did they taste good?

    • EddieF says:

      Ironic that EQ from Post 14 and RYW from Post 15 had the kind of start that many were saying would be eliminated by not having a slanted auxiliary gate.

      • El Kabong says:

        I’ve never felt it was the gate but rather the reactions that occur around you. In 2009, Friesan Fire who ironically had the chance to pick the 9 or 6 post chose 6. The 9 horse veered in drastically and driving the 8 and 7 into Friesan, stomping on his foot, tearing his hoof and scrapping his right front leg to pieces. Game over. Yesterday was the same. I noticed in the Blue Grass, EQ kind of veered out in his start so I was concerned about that but I did not expect to see what happened yesterday. I wonder if King Fury had not scratched if that would have made a difference to have him between RYW and Highly Motivated? Probably not but you never know.

  12. EddieF says:

    “I never imagined last night I was going to be sitting here,” Baffert said at the media conference. “He’s a fighter, but the way he ran today, I didn’t know he had that in him.”

    Neither did I.

  13. Matthew W says:

    Can’t help how the race was run….or wasn’t!…I think the top four 2021 Derby are going to make their mark….think the race will stand the test of time!

    • Matthew W says:

      Rock’s sister She’s Our Charm is a favorite of mine, she also folds up in races sometimes…

    • EddieF says:

      The top 4 all ran well. It’ll be interesting to see if 2/3/4 come back in the Preakness.

      • Matthew W says:

        Be interesting to see if Concert Tour does, too.

        • EddieF says:

          I’ll be surprised if he isn’t entered in the Preakness.

          • Matthew W says:

            Just a prediction….that Essential will do the Preakness, not Hot Rod or Rock….O Besos ran HUGE…but he can’t get that last furlong, they need to keep him at 9 furlongs or less, but those four were BOOKING down the lane, one of the best Derbies I have seem (on TV), despite several bad trips there were four lined up down the lane! Do I think the best horse won? I think the best horse ran 17th.

            • Dewey Hebert says:

              Sheik Mo would never allow it. He nurtures his horses. Plus, as long as there are only two weeks between the Derby and Preakness, there will never be more than 3 or 4 horses from the Derby racing in the Preakness. In addition, there are usually enough fresh new hitters in the Preakness to scare off the tired runners from the Derby.

              I’d take that bet on EQ running in the Preakness Matthew, but the Derby wiped me out. Sigh!

          • Matthew W says:

            and run against Medina?

  14. pro vet says:

    keepmeinmind came from last… get 7th…..only closer that moved maybe hes returning to form

  15. DavidD says:

    Did anyone else think they were watching a replay of the War Emblem Derby? Soup and Sandwich couldn’t hold his position and faded badly, but the other top horses basically kept their order. O Besos was the only closer doing much in the stretch.

    What happened to Midnight Bourbon? For a frontrunner who ended up toward the back of the pack, sixth place was not a bad result.

    • EddieF says:

      Similar to WE in that MS led gate to wire. That 2002 Derby was the only one in memory in which the 1/2/3 horses after a half mile finished in the same order. Yesterday, Mandaloun was third after a half mile, and HRC was fifth.

      MB didn’t break well. Much like the expected co-pacesetter in 2002, Medaglia d’Oro. One thing I was right about…You can’t predict how horses come out of the gate. 🙁