It was official before it was official, but the 2021 Kentucky Derby is, and has been for a while, up for grabs. Race day has a way of opening a race by pressing on it — meaning, to level it, whether for today’s favorite Essential Quality or for any other of the favored horses in the field. That means that they all come face-to-face with their vulnerabilities to their fellow competitors. In short, it’s a horse race and a hard one at a mile-and-a-quarter with twenty highly strung Thoroughbreds gunning it for the $3 million wating at the line.
That sort of weight can be helpful, as shown yesterday by the handle as the odds on Essential Quality came down — presumably as a result of Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale placing all or part of his threatened very large bet on Essential Quality’s nose in nebulous to-be-decided amount between $2 million and $4 million. His odds tanked down into Secretariat territory and then, by the closing of yesterday’s card, showed a measure of resilience in righting themselves and snuck back up to a somewhat realistic 6-5.
Again, the crux of this is that no one — no trainer, jockey or horse-whisperer — has been able to inform Rock Your World, Highly Motivated, Known Agenda or any other of Essential Quality’s lesser rivals of the roller-coaster that the two-legged beings seem to be riding with the favorite’s probabilities. A very good thing.
Before we bring in the Bluegrass Wise Man to help us hone what we think about who might take Essential Quality down, a primer on this Kentucky Derby’s especially entertaining odds, both live track and the morning line.
Suffice it to say that esteemed longtime Churchill oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s odds will be put under some stress today.
We will update the live odds below until post time.
Post Postion, Horse, Live Odds, (Morning Line)
1) Known Agenda, 16-1, (16-1)
2) Like the King, 57-1, (50-1)
3) Brooklyn Strong, 55-1, (50-1)
4) Keepmeinmind, 53-1, (50-1)
5) Sainthood, 43-1, (50-1)
6) O Besos, 45-1, (20-1)
7) Mandaloun, 40-1, (15-1)
8) Medina Spirit, 15-1, (15-1)
9) Hot Rod Charlie, 7-1, (8-1)
10) Midnight Bourbon, 15-1, (20-1)
11) Dynamic One, 45-1, (20-1)
12) Helium, 51-1, (50-1)
13) Hidden Stash, 39-1, (50-1)
14) Essential Quality, 6-5, (2-1)
15) Rock Your World, 9-2, (5-1)
16) King Fury, 20-1 (SCRATCH)
17) Highly Motivated, 16-1, (10-1)
18) Super Stock, 46-1, (30-1)
19) Soup And Sandwich, 30-1, (30-1)
20) Bourbonic, 33-1, (30-1)
(Source: Churchill Downs, 4/30/2021, 4:09 a.m.)
With no further ado, here’s the Bluegrass Wise Man.
Let’s bear down on Rock Your World. He’s the big boy. Do you look at him and think he’s the man, the way you did with Justify?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Don’t think so. Similar in that he’s big and he just wants to run, but I don’t see that extra thing in him that Justify had at this early point in the Triple Crown Season. With Rock Your World, it’s more about his lightly raced status — he didn’t even race as a two-yeare-old. And let’s not forget his very recent transition to dirt. I mean, the first time he ran on dirt, he won the Santa Anita Derby. Not too shabby, and, just thinking about his pedigree, he should be on dirt. They made a good decision. My question about him would be, does he just hafta be up front? In the Derby, it helps if you can take back and then bring a run. So let’s say he doesn’t get a good break and he has to find his spot in the traffic. Is that going to break his mind into a thousand pieces? We don’t know. He’s not confronted that because he just has not raced very much. Three races, all in the front. God only knows. That said, I really like him. Like his energy, looks good, runs fast. I’m gonna use him.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Take some of the top five — Rock Your World or Highly Motivated and Midnight Bourbon, and then take some from the second tier — I like Mandaloun — and then box the hell out of ’em with everybody in the field, for a fun trifecta, for instance. Like that. It’s always a boxing year at the Derby.
Do you think Mattress Mack will cause a “flight” from Essential Quality?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Jury’s out on that one, but bottom line, no, people who come to the Derby wanna play. It’s bigger than Mattress Mack. I think we saw some resilience yesterday in the pool. But I don’t know what Mattress Mack actually did yesterday, or what he will do today. I can say that race day traditionally a long, long roller-coaster ride until post time, so in that sense, I’m not sure Mattress Mack is accomplishing anything but hedging his bet down in Houston on all those $3000-dollar Posturepedics, or whatever he’s selling.
Move on Highly Motivated for us.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Not as fond of Highly Motivated right now as I am of Rock Your World, and don’t quite know why. I mean, he did lose to Essential Quality in the Blue Grass, but he only lost it in the last sixteenth, and he ran a hell of a race that day. I was there, and I liked him in that race. But I guess I have the same questions about him as I do about all of them, can they really take this? Hell, all of them are unproven in one way or another. Meaning, the distance, and especially this competition, this field. Sandwiched in between the also-rans on his outside and Rock Your World and Essential Quality, two stronger horses to his left, Highly Motivated will absolutely have to have a good break. And he’s got to keep it together up the backstretch and into the far turn even to have a prayer. Patience, in other words. I think this is what’s got the trainers worried about pace. Pace is complex. It has to be somewhat reasonable for ’em to have anything in the tank in the last eighth. If one of these front-runners comes out blazing, it stands a chance of burning some or most of ’em out.