There are great sporting events in every sport out there. The Super Bowl is a spectacle. March Madness is an electric factory. The Daytona 500 is a huge event. But for me, nothing compares to the Kentucky Derby. It’s the first Saturday in May (except in 2020), and it signals the start of one of the most difficult challenges in all of the American sports, the Triple Crown. Three year old horses will attempt to win three races in five weeks, all with their own sets of unique challenges. From the twenty horse fields of the Kentucky Derby, to the tight turns of the Preakness Stakes, to the grueling distance of the Belmont Stakes. This year will be no different.
Essential Quality will in all likelihood enter Churchill Downs on May 1, 2021 as the prohibitive favorite to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. The question will become whether one of the other nineteen entrants will be able to beat him.
2021 Triple Crown
Kentucky Derby 2021
Saturday, May 1, 2021 – 06:30 PM EDT at Churchill Downs
How Did Essential Quality Get Here?
Essential Quality is a three year old colt trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Luis Saez. He is a striking gray colt and is undefeated in his young career thus far. He is five for five and has some impressive wins on his record. Already he is a champion of the Breeders’ Futurity, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Southwest Stakes and the Bluegrass Stakes. The horse has five wins in five starts and four graded stakes wins among them. That is impressive.
Further, the most impressive of his wins may have been his last one in my opinion. He dueled with Highly Motivated down the backstretch and at the top of the stretch, Highly Motivated stuck a head in front and it looked like it might be his day. Yet, Essential Quality found another gear, re-rallied and pulled away to win by a length. It was a remarkable win and one that sealed his fate as the Kentucky Derby favorite.
Who Are the Other Contenders?
There’s going to be quite a few of them coming into this race and some of them are very interesting. The top contender in my book is the Bob Baffert trained, Concert Tour. Concert Tour was a co-favorite with Essential Quality until losing this past weekend in the Arkansas Derby. Still, he is a very talented horse and could bounce back with a nice effort in Louisville.
Hot Rod Charlie scored a very nice win in the Louisiana Derby for trainer Doug O’Neill to put himself in the conversation. Known Agenda for Todd Pletcher did the same by winning the Florida Derby at the end of March, as did the second place finisher in that race, Soup and Sandwich for trainer Mark Casse. All are contenders and would not be huge surprises if they stole the win from Essential Quality.
When analyzing whether a horse can win the Triple Crown, you have to start with the Kentucky Derby. That is piece one. If they can defeat nineteen other competitors who are the toughest they have faced yet, then they are on their way and one third of the way home. Essential Quality will be a deserving favorite on May 1, 2021. However, I will be betting against him in that race, so no I do not think Essential Quality will win the Triple Crown. However I think there are better ways to bet, rather than taking -800 on a “No” to that question.
There have been 146 Kentucky Derbies before this one and only fourteen times has someone won the Triple Crown. It’s incredibly hard to do, and I’m not saying Essential Quality can’t do it, but it would be surprising. The reason it would surprise me is because I think this is a talented group of three year olds. Concert Tour is still very talented. Hot Rod Charlie may be peaking at the right time. Soup and Sandwich is still improving and if he takes another step forward could win the Kentucky Derby at a price. All of these are reasons why I would say not to bet Essential Quality to win the Triple Crown, rather take that money and divide it amongst some prices in the Derby.