The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby will place this Saturday, May 1, with post time at 6:57 p.m. ET.
After being postponed until September in 2020 due to COVID-19, the first race of the Triple Crown is back to its usual May running date. Essential Quality drew the 14-post and is the morning-line favorite at 2-1 odds.
Here is my breakdown of the race:
Ask folks to name the three undefeated horses in the Derby, and chances are they can name one or two, but they will have a tough time with the third. ESSENTIAL QUALITY is the easy one. He will be the big favorite this weekend, even bigger after Mattress Mack gets done betting on him. The horse’s 5-for-5 record includes the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, one of his two Grade 1 wins. ROCK YOUR WORLD snuck in from the turf to win the Santa Anita Derby, and even though he is only 3-for-3, he will attract a lot of money, too. Then there is the forgotten horse HELIUM, who is also 3-for-3. HELIUM has not raced since he won the Tampa Bay Derby, but he will not be among the favorites. Never mind whether he can go 1¼ miles -- he hasn’t even gone 1⅛.
I was all prepared to pick KNOWN AGENDA. I love the connections. I love Irad Ortiz Jr., who has won the last three Eclipse Awards as the best jockey in America. I love the fact that this horse is 2-for-2 since trainer Todd Pletcher put blinkers on him. And I never walk away from a Florida Derby winner. But I will not back a horse coming out of the No. 1 post. Ferdinand was the last to win the Kentucky Derby from there … and that was 35 years ago. I’m going go with the chalk. I’m going to play ESSENTIAL QUALITY despite the fact that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is only 2-for-36, Godolphin ownership has never won in 11 tries in this race and jockey Luis Sáez was a Kentucky Derby winner two years ago for only 22 minutes before he and Maximum Security were DQ’d. I’m going to play him, because he is 5-for-5.
Forget it. Mattress Mack convinced me I have to go with the chalk. My favorite Houston furniture dealer is refunding the $3,000 purchase price on new mattresses if the shortest-priced horse wins the Derby. This is not just some stunt from a billionaire gambler: Jim McIngvale owns more than 50 racehorses. He is also putting $2 million of his own money on Essential Quality. That means I’m not going to get a very good price. Even though my friend Mack is going to hammer the odds, I’m going to bet on that horse to go 6-for-6 for Sheikh Mo. Ordinarily I would make this a win-show bet, but that is when 150,000 people pour into Churchill Downs. There will be only 45,000, so I am going straight on the nose with Essential Quality.
$100 WAGERING STRATEGY:
$100 Win: Essential Quality
TOP 4 PICKS:
1. ESSENTIAL QUALITY
2. HOT ROD CHARLIE
3. ROCK YOUR WORLD
4. SUPER STOCK