First out of the Gate: How RT sees the 2021 Kentucky Derby – a guide to how the Run for the Roses will be run
Keys to the Kentucky Derby
by The Hooptie Handicapper
As we endure the myriad of armchair prognosticators this time of year, let's take a true look at the race and how it will be run.
The keys to this race lies in the Santa Anita Derby and the configuration of Churchill. As you watch the SA Derby, Rock Your World becomes more determined as Parnelli and Medina Spirit near. Unfortunately, that sort of game determination will not serve him well. Because of the distance and having more than one proven horse vying for the front end, the Derby pace will become the overarching factor. The Santa Anita Derby is a mile and an eighth, and the Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter, so the added furlong, or 1/8 of a mile, does not fare well for front runners making heated competition with one another.
Churchill’s stretch is 1235 feet long, or just shy of two furlongs. When you hear that outside post positions are at a disadvantage, the true answer to that is, it depends. If your horse is a front runner, like #8 Medina Spirit, #9 Hot Rod Charlie, #10 Midnight Bourbon, #15 Rock Your World, and #19 Soup And Sandwich, all coming from the middle to the outside posts, you have approximately two furlongs to angle in and get to the lead.
By the time they make their way through this first turn, they will have already run approximately 3 furlongs. With seven more furlongs to run, the last thing the jockey wants to do is get their horse wide and add extra distance. In the same manner as the above race started, you will see the same in the Derby. Hot Rod Charlie, Rock Your World, Midnight Bourbon, Medina Spirit and Soup and Sandwich will be in similar order like those three pictured above. Right behind them, tucking in, will be Known Agenda, Essential Quality and Highly Motivated, with the rest looking to save ground, yet stay near the pace.
This year's Kentucky Derby is going to be decided on the backstretch. With five horses whose natural proclivity is to be on the lead, and one of them fighting for it as gamely as Rock Your World does, instinctually, the other four are going to follow suit. If you see the 6 furlong mark run at 1:09 to just under 1:10, and your horse is on the lead or less than a length off, tear your win ticket up. He will not last. That pace is much too hot.
As they make their way around the turn, many of the speed horses will fall off. Essential Quality, Known Agenda, and Highly Motivated will be making a keen move, after reserving energy, to be near or on the lead.
The true test this year will be the stretch run. This will not be a front end runaway. Known Agenda, Highly Motivated and Essential Quality will be fighting for the winners circle. As a lifelong fan of horse racing, and as much as I would like to see Essential Quality stay undefeated, and as much as I am not in favor of Irad Ortiz’ tactics, I will give the edge to him and Known Agenda. Given his ground saving rail trip with that wily Ortiz, this Curlin colt, Known Agenda, is going to have a big race.
For you exotic bettors looking for a moon shot, ponder this - whenever you see two or three horses going at it down the stretch, one of them will emerge as stronger. The others will give up. This will allow long shot probabilities such as Hidden Stash, Super Stock, O Besos and Mandaloun to be a part of the chance for a slice.