Who has the best shot to win 2021 Kentucky Derby?

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April 16th, 2021

After the Arkansas Derby (G1) and the Lexington S. (G3) last weekend, the Road to the Kentucky Derby has drawn to a close.

Most years, the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner comes into the big race off of a victory in a 100-point prep. Rebel's Romance, winner of the UAE Derby (G2), has already been declared out. That leaves seven hundred-point race winners.

We'll leave it up to you. Which one of these 100-point prep winners has the best shot to win the Kentucky Derby?


Was Bourbonic on the Kentucky Derby radar of anyone but Calumet Farm before the Wood Memorial (G2)? He broke his maiden for a claiming tag, and his only other win came against starter/optional-claiming company.

But trainer Todd Pletcher knows how to win the Wood, and Bourbonic surged home to catch fellow Pletcher trainee Dynamic One.

He has plenty of classic influence close up in his pedigree, too. Bourbonic is by Preakness (G1) winner Bernardini, out of Delaware Oaks (G2) winner Dancing Afleet, a daughter of dual-classic winner Afleet Alex.

Essential Quality

Two-year-old champions usually do not win the Kentucky Derby, though Essential Quality is in good enough form to buck that trend.

The Brad Cox trainee was undefeated as a juvenile. He broke his maiden under the Twin Spires, then proved his class in both the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). He returned with a dominant victory in a sloppy Southwest (G3), then showed grit to get up over Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass (G2).

Hot Rod Charlie

Despite 94-1 odds in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he came close to defeating Essential Quality.

Hot Rod Charlie has proved that effort was no fluke. He missed by only a neck in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), then held Midnight Bourbon at bay in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Though no Louisiana Derby winner has gone on to win the Run for the Roses since Grindstone in 1996, Hot Rod Charlie keeps running to his company, and his trainer, Doug O'Neill, has won the roses twice.

Like the King

It has been a decade since Turfway Park produced a Kentucky Derby winner. In 2011, Animal Kingdom won the Spiral (G3) before, true to John Battaglia's dreams, "spiraling up" to win the Derby.

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Like the King will attempt to do the same thing. He has been razor sharp in three races at Turfway, but Like the King has been well beaten in two dirt starts.

However, he is by Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice, and his trainer, Wesley Ward, has caught fire at Keeneland.

Known Agenda

Monarchos. Barbaro. Big Brown. Orb. Nyquist. Always Dreaming. The Florida Derby has produced six Kentucky Derby winners since 2000.

This year, Known Agenda will represent this perennially live Kentucky Derby prep. He took a while to develop, but the pedigree explains. He is by Curlin, out of Byrama, both graded stakes horses and both later bloomers.

Known Agenda has gotten good. He got an 11-length confidence builder at Gulfstream, before a clear score in the Florida Derby.

Rock Your World

John Sadler started Rock Your World on turf, but in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), he looked good on the switch to the main track.

He set the pace, was pressured by longshot Parnelli, cleared into the turn, and gave odds-on Medina Spirit no chance to catch him.

Especially since he proved in his turf races that he does not need to make the lead to win the race, the Santa Anita Derby may once again send out a live contender.

Super Stock

Steve Asmussen knows how to win the Arkansas Derby, and two of his four winners have gone on to win classics.

The public dismissed Super Stock at 12-1 in a six-horse Arkansas Derby, but neither Caddo River nor heavy favorite Concert Tour had an answer in the lane. His Arkansas Derby effort was a smart step forward in his second start off a winter layoff.

Though he'll face his toughest field yet, Kentucky surprises run in his family. His damsire is Closing Argument, who finished second in the 2005 Kentucky Derby at 71-1.

Which one of these 100-point prep winners has the best shot leading into the Kentucky Derby?

Looking back at last week, we asked you who the best stallion active today is! There was a runaway winner...though, perhaps, not who some you would think. Though Into Mischief is currently smashing records like Tapit before him, 54% of you chose the mighty Curlin as the best stallion out there! Of course, Curlin is having yet another excellent year: and keep an eye on his son Known Agenda, his grandson Like the King, and his daughter Malathaat leading into Derby week.