If you want to be the one at your Kentucky Derby party (virtual or not) who wants to brag about having $10 on the winner of the race, the choice is easy: Essential Quality.
If you tend to shy away from betting on the heavy favorite (like myself) and are looking for a pony to include in some combinations (perfecta or trifecta), then there are plenty of good choices.
Keep in mind that in a 20-horse field, anything can and will happen.
Undefeated And Impressive: Essential Quality has never lost a race. After going 2 for 2 in his rookie campaign, the colt is 5 for 5 as a 3-year-old. In fact, he has won most of his races by a healthy margin. The exception would be his last race, the Bluegrass Stakes, which he won by only a neck but in a blazing-fast time. He may have won by more if he had not drifted to the outside while coming down the stretch.
One other potential detriment for the colt may be his outside post position coming out of the 14 hole. It’s not that huge of a negative, but the colt will have to use some speed out of the gate, to be in early contention. If he encounters mega traffic and gets hung out to dry on the outside, he may have less gas in the tank for the long stretch run in the grueling 1 1/4 mile race.
It’s a distance most of the entrants have never encountered.
Host Of Other Contenders: Over the years, the winner of the Kentucky Derby has for the most part won one of the major prep races (Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby). Interestingly, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes has only won the Run for the Roses two times: Spectacular Bid in 1979 and Strike the Gold in 1991.
The Florida Derby winner, Known Agenda, is coming out of the one hole, which hasn’t produced a winner in the Kentucky Derby since 1986, when Ferdinand pulled a major upset. Furthermore, since 1987, the win rate for posts 1, 2, or 3 is just 1.01% (1-for-99).
The Arkansas Derby winner, Super Stock, won easily, though his time was unimpressive. Burdened with post position 18, the colt will have some work to do, to gain early contention. He will also likely have to duel with Essential Quality early-on, to get to the rail.
Bourbonic, at 73-1 odds, was a historic winner of the Wood Memorial. Unfortunately, the feat will be much tougher in the Derby, as he will be starting from the number 20 post position. During the long history of the race, only one horse has won from that post (Big Brown in 2008).
The winner of the Louisiana Derby, Hot Rod Charlie, deserves some consideration but over his career, he has never won in back-to-back races.
It’s Not Just The Name: Newbies to wagering on the ponies may favor a horse by name, or whether or not the horse does a number on the track before the race. Neither of those are reasons I’m going with Rock Your World.
Being one of three undefeated horses, the other one besides Essential Quality being Helium (who has been victorious against much lower class horses), Rock Your World is fresh and ready to run. With two of his three races on the turf, he’s fit and ready to go.
Not to overdo it with the name thing, but Joel Rosairo will be riding Rock Your World.
We Are All Winners: Following a tumultuous 2020, which included the Derby being run as the last leg of the Triple Crown instead of the first, as well as being contested in October, we are all winners in this year’s Derby, where an expected attendance of 48,000 enjoying all of the usual festivities.
Tune in Friday at 4 p.m. ET for a “live” Benzinga broadcast to learn more about handicapping the Kentucky Derby.
Photo credit: Bill Brine
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