The biggest and most prestigious horse racing event of the year happens this Saturday with the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs — the 147th time it will be staged. They also call the first leg of the Triple Crown “The Fastest Two Minutes In Sports” for obvious reasons. Horses are naturally fast land animals but if you filter down the fastest of the fastest among these mammals, you’d likely end up with the bunch that is about to break out of the gates Saturday.
Most eyes are currently on the heavy favorite, Essential Quality. It’s the safest pick out there, considering this three-year-old colt’s resume. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Brad H. Cox, Essential Quality will gallop at Churchill Downs with an undefeated record. After winning its Maiden Special Weight race in 2020, it won four more races — all graded stakes types, including the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 2) earlier last April.
But favorites don’t always win horse racing events. You also have to keep an eye out on those with longer betting odds to win but have a significant potential to win. Let’s take a look at three of them.
1. 2021 Kentucky Derby sleeper: Midnight Bourbon
Midnight Bourbon is currently priced at +2000 to win the Derby. This horse doesn’t have a track record that’s as impressive as Essential Quality’s, but one that’s not too shabby either. Midnight Bourbon, in fact, has not failed to show in any of its seven career starts. In its last run, the Steven M. Asmussen-trained horse finished runner-up at the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (Grade 2) in March. Midnight Bourbon also has a graded-stakes win, when it topped the field at the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. ‘Midnight Bourbon bettors could have a reason to drink after the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
It took Bourbonic (+2800) three races to break maiden. But since winning its first race, Bourbonic has managed to show in all three succeeding starts. That includes the last one it entered — the Wood Memorial S. Presented (Grade 2) race in April. Bourbonic has actually won twice in its last three races. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Bourbonic is its trainer, the renowned Todd A. Pletcher. Pletcher has two Kentucky Derby wins under his belt as a trainer, winning the first one in 2010 with Super Saver then the second in 2017 with Always Dreaming. If anything, Pletcher has also trained three Belmont Stakes winners (2007, 2013, 2017).
3. Super Stock
Super Stock (+2500) didn’t have a memorable debut in the racing circuit, as it only finished 10th at Keeneland in July 2020. However, that’s completely behind its handlers. See, Super Stock has placed inside the top three in all but one of the next seven races. It blew the competition away the last time it saw action, winning the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) at Oaklawn Park last April. Super Stock also had back-to-back third-place finishes at the Iroquois S. presented by Ford (Grade 3) and Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Grade 1).
The 2021 Kentucky Derby is expected to attract millions of eyeballs. People are excited that the first leg of the Triple Crown is back to its original schedule after it was knocked off its usual May slot last year by the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Derby, the Triple Crown will head next to the Preakness Stakes, which will come two weeks later.