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2021 Kentucky Derby Odds & Picks to Win, Place & Show – Essential Quality Favored

Dave F.

by Dave F. in Horse Racing

Apr 30, 2021 · 8:37 AM PDT

Kentucky Derby
Trainer Steve Asmussen, right, leads Kentucky Derby hopeful Super Stock on the track at Churchill Downs Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. Asmussen's parents co-own the horse along with a partner. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • The $3 million Kentucky Derby is Saturday at Louisville’s Churchill Downs
  • Betting to win gets all the attention, but place and show wagering offers value too
  • What horses can get in the money and make your day by scoring at a price?

Being the Kentucky Derby favorite has been a sweet spot recently. Six of the last eight have won, and seven have been in the money. If you think that makes handicapping the race no fun, think again.

In five of the last eight Run for the Roses a horse of at least 35/1 has finished in the top three. When Maximum Security was disqualified in 2019, Country House cashed win tickets at 65/1.

Remember, if you bet to place, you win if your horse finishes first or second. A show wager cashes if your horse is among the top three. Sure the payouts aren’t as high as betting a horse to win and having them triumph, but a big price to hit the board has serious value.

Let’s look at the field and their odds to finish in the money.

Kentucky Derby Win, Place, Show Odds

Horse Win Odds Place Odds Show Odds
Known Agenda +800 +340 +220
Like The King +6600 +2500 +1400
Brooklyn Strong +5000 +2000 +1200
Keepmeinmind +7000 +2500 +1400
Sainthood +4500 +1600 +1000
O Besos +2500 +1000 +600
Mandaloun +2200 +900 +500
Medina Spirit +1400 +550 +350
Hot Rod Charlie +800 +340 +220
Midnight Bourbon +2200 +900 +500
Dynamic One +4000 +1600 +900
Helium +5000 +1800 +1100
Hidden Stash +7000 +2500 +1400
Essential Quality +275 +125 -115
Rock Your World +450 +200 +130
King Fury +4000 +1600 +900
Highly Motivated +1000 +425 +270
Super Stock +2500 +1000 +600
Soup And Sandwich +2500 +1000 +600
Bourbonic +4000 +1600 +900

All odds taken April 28

For the second time, the Derby is featuring a now relatively new starting gate. Because it is able to house the entire field into one gate, and with narrower stalls for each horse, the negative reputation of the extreme inside and outside stalls could be minimized.

Our Kentucky Derby quick betting guide can help you learn where and how to wager on the Run for the Roses.

Handicapping is all about gathering quality information. Take a deep dive on the top contenders and their most recent races, and make sure you read about the human connections. Here we are looking for prices, and with 20 horses set to run, there are plenty of intriguing ones.

Who Can Win At a Price?

It does not take a genius to recognize that unbeaten Essential Quality or Rock Your World have big chances on Saturday. You’re not going to get rich wagering on them either.

There are several moderate longshots who are very realistic contenders too. They have big-name connections too.

Highly Motivated is trained by Chad Brown, who has taken the throne from Todd Pletcher as New York’s winningest conditioner. His top owner is Klaravich Stables. If you think Essential Quality has a big chance, Highly Motivated was right with the big favorite last time out.

There are reasonable questions about pace and distance, but you are getting five times the price betting on Highly Motivated to make up that advantage from his last duel with the chalk. Highly Motivated beat top contender Known Agenda when they matched up in September too.

No trainer has had more success in the Triple Crown than Bob Baffert. While he doesn’t have his normal stable of favorites this year, Medina Spirit has not finished worse than second in five starts. If you like Hot Rod Charlie a bit, Medina Spirit beat him in January.

Two of Medina Spirit’s three losses came against Life is Good, who if not injured would have been a favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Jockey John Velazquez won the roses along with Baffert last year on Authentic.

Mandaloun probably lacks in hype because trainer Brad Cox also is readying Essential Quality. Cox was the top trainer in the US last year. Mandaloun’s first four races were all strong.

The issue with Mandaloun is you need to excuse his most recent race. He was a non-factor as the favorite in the Louisiana Derby that Hot Rod Charlie won. He is working well, and if you can give him a mulligan for March, value is present.

Fishing for a Big Longshot

The recent past tells us the huge priced horses can win, and frequently hit the board. Let’s look at some contenders to consider both small win wagers on, but serious place and show options.

Midnight Bourbon is trained by Steve Asmussen, who has won more races at Churchill Downs than anyone else. He has hit the board in all seven of his career races.

Having Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in your corner doesn’t hurt, he cost more than half a million dollars, and while not wins, he has been solid in back-to-back longer races. His dad Tiznow won the Breeders Cup Classic twice.

Dynamic One and Bourbonic are trained by Pletcher, who has won the Derby twice. They finished first and second at big prices in the Wood Memorial.

Dynamic one cost $725,000 but has just one victory. Bourbonic cost only $35,000 and won his first race in a maiden claiming event, meaning anybody could have purchased him. If either improves at Churchill Downs, they’ll be dangerous at a big number.

King Fury ran three weeks ago and was very impressive in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes.

That was his seasonal debut, so is he radically improved, or maybe just liked the slop? He cost $950,000 but was 18/1 in that prep because his last two races of 2020 were weak.

Finally, how about a feel-good story? Steve Asmussen’s father Keith owns a piece of Super Stock. Steve gets to train a Derby horse for his dad, who has been in the business for years. Super Stock earned his way into the field.

His $70,000 price, and seven races prior to Arkansas with just a single win, in a restricted sprint in Texas, don’t give many reasons to support Super Stock. That said, if he found something at Oaklawn Park, maybe just maybe he can make dreams come true under the twin spires at Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby Win, Place, Show Best Bets

Win: Mandaloun (+2200)
Place: King Fury (+1600)
Show: Midnight Bourbon (+500)

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