A capacity field of 20 entered today for Saturday’s 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and longtime track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia designated unbeaten Essential Quality (post 14) the 2-1 morning line favorite. The run for the roses will be Race 12 of 14 on a program that gets underway at 10:30 am ET. Derby post is 6:57 pm ET.
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The 20-horse starting gate, which debuted last year with only 15 starters in the Derby, could change what we know about the importance of post positions. Gone is the gap between posts 14 and 15 when there was a main and auxiliary starting gate connection. The extra real estate allows for the new gate to be positioned a few crucial feet farther away from the inside rail. This could alleviate some of the inside congestion at the start, as well as the abrupt left-hand intensity of the outside runners crushing down to fill the void.
But the Derby pace is not as clear on paper as some years, and that could make the starting positions very important in terms of jockey intent and how they’ll want to settle into their preferred spot.
Rock Your World (post 15) and Medina Spirit (post 8) were 1-2 throughout the Santa Anita Derby, the former appearing more naturally gifted with early foot. With ex-sprinter Highly Motivated in post 17 off a wire-to-wire Blue Grass attempt when second, that could turn up the pressure on Rock Your World early. Soup and Sandwich (post 19) has trained very aggressively and was forward in the Florida Derby. He’s the most likely to bolt early from that post, again outside of Rock Your World.
To their inside, Hot Rod Charlie (post 9) wrestled command at the start of the Louisiana Derby. He could have the most early foot of anyone in the first 9 starting spots. With hot-training Midnight Bourbon (post 10) next door, that’s a potential pace hook-up as well – with the other principal speeds pressuring from outside. I would say this draw should help pick up the pace of the Derby.
Essential Quality should be midflight early in the Derby, but showed in the Blue Grass he’s capable of pressing the pace and pouncing. Jockey Luis Saez wired the 2019 Derby aboard Maximum Security before being disqualified for interference. That he knows the front-end feeling in this race should not be lost on possible rider intent.
None of the leading contenders are deep closers. Florida Derby winner Known Agenda wants a mid-pack trip, but could find that crowded from the rail and will have to work out a journey under Irad Ortiz Jr. But Todd Pletcher’s Super Saver, a horse Known Agenda stylistically mirrors, carved such a winning run here in 2010 from post 4 while on the rail most of the way.
Kentucky Derby 147 Field:
1. Known Agenda (Irad Ortiz Jr.) 6-1
2. Like the King (Drayden Van Dyke) 50-1
3. Brooklyn Strong (Umberto Rispoli) 50-1
4. Keepmeinmind (David Cohen) 50-1
5. Sainthood (Corey Lanerie) 50-1
6. O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza) 20-1
7. Mandaloun (Florent Geroux) 15-1
8. Medina Spirit (John Velazquez) 15-1
9. Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat) 8-1
10. Midnight Bourbon (Mike Smith) 20-1
11. Dynamic One (Jose Ortiz) 20-1
12. Helium (Julien Leparoux) 50-1
13. Hidden Stash (Rafael Bejarano) 50-1
14. Essential Quality (Luis Saez) 2-1
15. Rock Your World (Joel Rosario) 5-1
16. King Fury (Brian Hernandez) 20-1
17. Highly Motivated (Javier Castellano) 10-1
18. Super Stock (Ricardo Santana Jr.) 30-1
19. Soup and Sandwich (Tyler Gaffalione) 30-1
20. Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche) 30-1