Mucciolo: How I am playing the Kentucky Derby

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

April 30th, 2021

A full field of 20 will head to the gate in Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1). Champion #14 Essential Quality (2-1) is a most deserving favorite in the cast but offers little value in the win pool. I fully respect the Tapit colt, but I am siding with another gray in the field to post the upset on Saturday.

The Mark-Casse trained #19 Soup and Sandwich (30-1) has left a fine impression on me during his brief three-race career, and while the youngster is still green and mostly inexperienced, I am tabbing him to put it all together on the first Saturday in May.

Soup and Sandwich has a fine stride, good gate presence, a solid pedigree, and he exits a race that I feel that was as good as any prep from a top-three standpoint this campaign. Into Mischief colt gets paired with Tyler Gaffalione, which is ideal, too.

I know that I am in the vast minority with #20 Bourbonic (30-1), but I thoroughly loved his Wood Memorial S. (G2) upset and don’t consider him to be a fluke. Pletcher pupil ran by a talented field (Weyburn, Risk Taking, Crowded Trade, Prevalence, Brooklyn Strong, et al) with relative ease, and he was tons clear on the gallop-out through the wire after the nine-furlong test, too. Going last-to-first from the 20 post is as hard as it gets, but I must have a saver wager or two on the stayer, who will thrive with the added ground on Saturday.

Unbeaten champion #14 Essential Quality (2-1) is a top-three must-use for Brad Cox. The consistently excellent three-year-old drew well and possesses the versatility to be placed virtually anywhere in the early going. I think that #10 Midnight Bourbon (20-1) could be rounding up toward a peak showing on Saturday despite his recent antics at the barn. Hard-knocking son of Tiznow has a lot of qualities that bode well for the Derby.

Bob Baffert will aim for his record-breaking seventh Derby score with #8 Medina Spirit (15-1), who could be the pacesetter in the field under Johnny V. Protonico colt could surely grab a minor award with his best performance.

I don’t have a perfect reason for omitting #15 Rock Your World (5-1) in the top two other then I am going with my gut feeling. Sadler trainee was awesome in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and on the gallop-out following it, but I have a hunch that he will not thrive when facing adversity for the first time on Saturday. Florida Derby (G1) star #1 Known Agenda (6-1) might have been the top pick if not for drawing the rail. The Pletcher trainee will have to be much the best to finish in the top three, and I am not sure there is a lot of separation between him and his foes.

Kentucky Derby Wagers on a $100 budget:

  • $30 win #19 Soup and Sandwich ($30)
  • $15 win #20 Bourbonic ($15)
  • $3 exacta key box: 19 with 8,10,14,20 ($24)
  • $1 exacta key box: 20 with 8,10,14,19 ($8)
  • $1 trifecta 19 with 8,10,14,20 with 1,8,10,14,15,20 ($20)