Kentucky Derby alumni take center stage at Saratoga

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 31st, 2021

On Friday afternoon, Dynamic One rallied explosively to win Saratoga’s Curlin S. by 1 3/4 lengths. The performance marked a sharp rebound from Dynamic One’s 18th-place finish in the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1), and he’s unlikely to be the only Kentucky Derby veteran seen in the Saratoga winner’s circle this week.

Indeed, Saturday is shaping up to be a big day for Kentucky Derby alumni at the Spa. Four horses representing the form of three different Kentucky Derbies will see action in a pair of graded stakes at Saratoga.

In alphabetical order, the Derby veterans are:

Essential Quality

Last year’s champion two-year-old male suffered a wide trip when finishing fourth in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, but the son of Tapit bounced right back to defeat a strong field in the Belmont S. (G1), reiterating his ranking as the leader of his generation.

Essential Quality will kick off the second half of his season when he starts in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy S. (G2) at Saratoga, a local prep for the prestigious Travers S. (G1). If Essential Quality brings his A-game to the Spa, you can bet his near-perfect 6-for-7 record will jump to 7-for-8.

Firenze Fire

Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner, is now a stallion with foals scheduled to hit the races next year. Meanwhile, Firenze Fire—who finished 11th behind Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby—is still going strong as a racehorse.

Victorious in 13 stakes (nine of them graded), Firenze Fire has turned into a high-class sprinter, with his 2021 record including victories in the Runhappy S. (G3) and True North S. (G2). On Saturday at Saratoga, Firenze Fire will seek to add the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) to his flashy resume. If he succeeds, the six-year-old star will pick up his first Grade 1 win since the 2017 Champagne S. (G1).


Last year’s Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) hero endured a slow start to his 2021 season, but a rallying seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby marked a turning point. The son of Laoban improved to fourth in the Preakness S. (G1), then finished a game third in the Ohio Derby (G3), beaten just half a length after rallying from dead last.

Bettors are advised to keep Keepmeinmind in mind when he squares off against Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy, since one more step forward could put Keepmeinmind in the hunt for an upset. Don’t forget, he finished just two lengths behind Essential Quality when third in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).


Five years ago, Whitmore failed to seriously factor in the 2016 Kentucky Derby, fading to finish 19th by a wide margin. But don’t hold that effort against him—it turns out Whitmore is actually a sprinter!

The eight-year-old veteran has picked up seven graded stakes wins across his decorated career, highlighted by a runaway score in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Though Whitmore is technically 0-for-3 this season, he was beaten only a head when third in the Churchill Downs S. (G1) last time out and looms as the main challenger to Firenze Fire in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

Enjoy the racing!