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We are just over a week away from the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby. As the race draws nearer we’ll try to get you more acquainted with the field. Here are just a few things you will hear before Steve Buttleman performs the Call to the Post.
Essential Quality is the Favorite
Since American Pharaoh ended the decades-long Triple Crown drought, it feels like every year there’s a new super horse put to the test at the Kentucky Derby. Justify bunked conventions as an undefeated, un-raced two-year-old that remained unbeaten until his career concluded. Last year Tiz the Law played the part until Authentic played spoiler.
This year’s super horse is Essential Quality. Trained by Louisville native Brad Cox, the gray out of Tapit is the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champion. Only two two-year-old champions have won the Derby, Street Sense (2006) and Nyquist (2015). Of Essential Quality’s five wins, four were stakes victories, most recently battle tested by Highly Motivated in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes.
Lots of Long Shots
The Kentucky Derby prep race season started chalky. Down the stretch some lucky bettors cashed enormous tickets. Weyburn was the first big winner, taking home the Gotham Stakes as a 46-1 long shot. Bourbonic, trained by Todd Pletcher, was 72-1 when the colt won the Wood Memorial. If precedent holds, this year’s Derby may blow up the Churchill Downs’ toteboard.
Brad Cox’s First Derby
The trainer that attended Iroquois High School just a couple miles down the road from Churchill Downs played spoiler in last year’s Kentucky Oaks with Shedaresthedevil. He followed that up by winning four Breeders’ Cup races at Keeneland, including the Juvenile win with Essential Quality, to earn the Eclipse Award for trainer of the year. Entering horses into the Kentucky Derby for the first time, along with the favorite Cox will race Mandaloun (Risen Star) and Caddo River (Smarty Jones, Ark. Derby runner up), two speed horses that could set the pace for an Essential Quality win.
Baffert is not Center Stage
The West Coast Silver Fox is the biggest name in the horse racing business. Last year Authentic became the trainer’s sixth Kentucky Derby winner, tying the legendary Ben Jones for the most wins in the race’s history. To win an historic seventh run for the roses, Baffert will need some help.
Life is Good was expected to be the best in his stable this year, but an injury took him off the Derby trail. Concert Tour was the next horse up until it finished third in the Arkansas Derby. Baffert has made Hozier a candidate, even though the horse is No. 21 in the standings, leaving Medina Spirit (Santa Anita runner up) as possibly the trainer’s only chance at a seventh win.
A First for Steve Asmussen?
In 2020 Steve Asmussen surpassed Dale Romans to become the winningest trainer in Churchill Downs’ history. He has more than 700 wins beneath the Twin Spires but has never won the big one. This year Super Stock could change that. The colt secured an impressive win over Caddo River and Concert Tour in the Arkansas Derby.
South Carolina Connection
Hot Rod Charlie
— Stephen Panus (@Man_o_PR) April 21, 2021
The horse with a Gamecock blanket is Hot Rod Charlie. The winner of the Louisiana Derby who finished second to Essential Quality in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (at 94-1!) is second in the Derby points standings. He wears the Gamecock blanket to support South Carolina’s Jake Panus Walk-On Football Scholarship. A die-hard South Carolina football fan, when Jake prematurely passed away at 16, his family set up the scholarship to motivate and inspire the football team’s walk-on players that embody Jake’s determination and grit.
Hidden Stash is owned by BBN Racing, a Central Kentucky based horse racing conglomerate. If you couldn’t tell by the name, they’re big UK fans. You better believe those Cats’ fans are all in on the blue and white checkerboard.
— Keeneland Racing (@keenelandracing) April 14, 2021
If Hidden Stash can pull off the upset, trainer Vicki Oliver would become the first female to ever train Kentucky Derby Champion.