A short and select list of our top Kentucky Derby contenders for 2021.
This is an interesting group, and not really what you expect to see as we have not one but two horses with just one lone three-year old start on their resumes.
Back on November 27th we published our first look at who was on our Kentucky Derby Radar for 2021. They were still two-year olds at the time, and only a select 6 made it onto our early list. There have been a few changes since then, and the Kentucky Derby preps have begun. Pool 2 of the advance Kentucky Derby wagers is closed. The Lecomte and Smarty Jones have been run, and the Holy Bull is this weekend at Gulfstream. Interestingly enough, the impact on our Kentucky Derby came from two maiden special weight races.
We all know Bob Baffert and Justify made mincemeat out of the Apollo curse with Justify, not only winning the Kentucky Derby without racing at two, he went on to win the Triple Crown. In our first Kentucky Derby Radar for 2021 we had Bob’s Life is Good right on top. He is still on our short and select list, but he is no longer at the top.
We are going outside the box a bit in our current look at who we think are the 2021 Run for the Roses contenders. Fire at Will has been on our list, and we are still not sure he goes back to the dirt to try for the Kentucky Derby, but we think he should and will. We are anxious to see this son of Declaration of War get back to the work tab after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He did win an off the turf With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga last summer, so we know he can handle dirt and turf horses often run well over the main track at Churchill Downs. We like his bottom and grit and he is out of a Kitten’s Joy mare and they run on anything and as far as you ask them to.
Concert Tour checks in at number 2. This at least presently is the other horse from Bob Baffert we mentioned in our first Derby Radar edition for this year. We had Life is Good on top, but we all know there is nobody better than Bob coming up with another runner. Word is there is yet still another fast three-year old of high quality in his barn. Concert Tour can be another who makes a mockery of the whole Apollo jinx thing. He didn’t run at two, but his debut at three was eye catching. He won geared down by Joel Rosario in 1:10.2 and looked like he could have gone around again and even faster. He is by Street Sense out of a Tapit mare. Look out.
The 6th race last Saturday at Gulfstream on the Pegasus World Cup card looked interesting from the get go. There was a half brother to Justify, Stage Raider, trained by Chad Brown and a full field of promising looking colts. 5 of the 12 starters in that race were related to group or graded stakes winners. That is something we would expect to see at Saratoga. Stage Raider ran good, but he did not win. Prevalence, who is by Medaglia d’ Oro out of the Ghostzapper mare Enrichment who is a full sister to multiple grade 1 winner Better Lucky out of the Seeking the Gold mare Sahara Gold, a daughter of 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Desert Stormer did win. He didn’t just win, he won authoritatively. That is the perfect word to describe the win, and his attitude in the paddock, and on the track. He was authoritative. He was also fast as he stopped the clock in 1:23 after splits of :22.66, :46.09, and 1:10.45. Tyler Gaffalione looked like he had a handful of horse and then some in the stretch and he was just getting warmed up after the 7 furlongs. We all know Godolphin has spent more money than a mathematician or CPA can count trying to win the Kentucky Derby and this could be as good a chance as they have ever had. Prevalence looks the goods in every way. Brendan Walsh is an excellent trainer, but at this point he does not have the resume or experience of Bob Baffert. That might be the difference maker and is to a large degree why we have Concert Tour slightly higher than Prevalence. Both are exciting.
Life is Good checks in 4th on our list this edition. He has done nothing wrong since the Sham win, but you just have to constantly evaluate these three-year olds within the body of their work and in comparison of the progress of the others. We like him a lot, but we are leaning towards the others above him more at this point.
Essential Quality is next. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner who we had pegged as special on TRACKING TRIPS since he set foot on the racetrack is scheduled to make his three-year old debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park and is in training at the Fair Grounds. This colt ices this as being Godolphin’s best chance to date for that elusive Kentucky Derby win. He checks all the boxes, especially the one about toughness and being able to overcome adversity. We saw that in his debut and it is reflected in the TRACKING TRIPS notes.
Caddo River is 6th on our list as of today. He won the Smarty Jones, a Kentucky Derby prep race very easily but not against much and a good horse like he is was supposed to win easy. We have no knock of yet, but we haven’t seen the grit we look for just yet. Albeit he hasn’t needed it, but he will at some point. Stay tuned.
We will go 7 deep this edition as we still like Speaker’s Corner from the Bill Mott barn and he should be surfacing soon. We like him too much to take him off the list for not starting at three just yet.
Mandaloun was taken off our list. We still like him, but he disappointed in the Fair Grounds flop at a short price and we are not looking for set-backs or duds at this point on the Kentucky Derby trail.