2021 DERBY PREPS
AND THEY'RE OFF...
UPDATED APRIL 12, 2021
Last weekend was the Arkansas Derby's turn to show us the best of the remaining group of three-year olds. The field was led by the seemingly unbeatable 1-5 favorite, CONCERT TOUR. Well seemingly and actually are two very different concepts when speaking about this year's Derby preps. Once again, a favorite fell to a longshot. The winner was the super-tracking SUPER STOCK, trained by Steve Asmussen, who tracked the favorite and runner-up CADDO RIVER to win in Arkansas. CONCERT TOUR finished a disappointing third in a small field. SUPER SAVER paid $26.40 for the win.
And just when you thought trainer Asmussen was having a great Derby prep weekend, along comes the G-3 Lexington Stakes. There, Asmussen brought his favorite SWIFTFIRE to the track for what was expected to be a nice, clean Derby prep. The colt was the 2-1 betting favorite as you would expect upon review of the charts. Not so fast... literally. SWIFTFIRE pressed the pace, then tired, finishing a disappointing 7th in a field of 9. The winner was yet another longshot to light up the prep board with trainer Ken McPeek's KING FURY. The winner paid $38.40, only outdone by the second place finisher, UNBRIDLED HONOR. Another Pletcher-trained colt to run well at 20-1.
So, that completes most of the Derby prep races.
3/20 - The Louisiana Derby, with 5/2 HOT ROD CHANCE defeating favorite MANDALION.
The Tampa Derby, with 15-1 HELIUM defeating favorites CANDY MAN ROCKET and HIDDEN STASH.
The Gotham Stakes, won by 46-1 WEYBURN, defeating favorite HIGHLY MOTIVATED.
3/27 - The Florida Derby, with 5-1 KNOWN AGENDA defeating favorite GREATEST HONOUR.
4/3 - The Blue Grass Stakes, giving us the only prep favorite to win, ESSENTIAL QUALITY.
Santa Anita Derby, with ROCK YOUR WORLD upsetting Baffert's favorite MEDINA SPIRIT and DEFUNDED.
The Wood Memorial stunner BOURBONIC winning at 72-1.
In the past month we have watched nine Derby preps, with only one favorite a winner in the bunch. Makes for an exciting Derby, less than three weeks away.
Here is last weeks recap of the three preps run on April 3.
April 3rd brought us three key prep races for the 2021 Kentucky Derby: The Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes. These races gave us an opportunity to witness some of the best competitors we expect to see at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May.
The Santa Anita Derby gave us a wide-open field, with Bob Baffert's 4-5 favorite in MEDINA SPIRIT the clear public betting choice. Interesting to find New York-based leading jockey John Velasquez on board this horse out west. For Velasquez and Baffert, however, their favorite was clearly out done by the winner ROCK YOUR WORLD. This John Sadler trained horse out of sire Candy Ride had been undefeated in two previous starts on the turf. This was his first try on the dirt and he handled the new surface with ease. He wired the field with impressive splits. MEDINA SPIRIT tracked him into the stretch and seemed to be well placed for a victory. Just could not catch the speedy winner on this day. Baffert's second horse, DEFUNDED, went off at 6-1 and ran fourth. Main takeaway was that we have two good horses to watch for the Derby: ROCK YOUR WORLD and MEDINA SPIRIT.
The Wood Memorial produced a stunner. Reminder that when you see a Todd Pletcher trained horse with odds at 72-1 in any race, especially a big Derby prep in which the trainer has won five previous times, it is worth a bet. Had you lived by that rule, you would have won big because Pletcher's 72-1 BOURBONIC won the Wood by a head. Even better, Pletcher's other longshot in the race, DYNAMIC, finished second at 16-1. The Pletcher exacta paid... ready for this?... $453 on a $1 wager. The tri gave you a $1,710 return on a 50 cent bet. Ouch. While the winning horse and his trainer deserve the accolades, the jockey Kendrick Carmouche deserves the credit. Carmouche carved his way through the field like a master chef preparing the main course at a Michelin Star restaurant. Beautiful to watch. Fluke or talent? Time will tell.
The Blue Grass Stakes at Keenland may have given us a glimpse of the next Derby winner. ESSENTIAL QUALITY is now five wins in as many starts with an impressive hard-fought victory. This good-looking colt sired by Tapit, went off as the 1-2 favorite. He tracked second favorite HIGHLY MOTIVATED around the 1 1/8th distance until using his last ounce of effort to win the race by a head. These two were clearly the class of the field, with others trailing by more than five lengths. Todd Pletcher's entry, UNTREATED, laid an egg and came up empty finishing well behind the winner.
So, that's where we stand one month before we finally see a Kentucky Derby return to its rightful place as the first race in the exciting Triple Crown series.
More to come...