Over the four days leading up the Kentucky Derby, we'll be previewing this first leg of the Triple Crown. Yesterday, we took a look at the top contenders. Later this week, we'll focus on the over-bet pretenders (Friday) and the bombs to use in exotic wagers (Saturday). Today, we discuss the value plays.
In many ways the 2021 Kentucky Derby could be subtitled "back to normal". After going way off course in 2020, the Derby will look like the Derby again this coming weekend. It will be run on the first Saturday in May; it will likely top the headlines for the weekend; and there will be real fans in the stands. But one thing will yet again be different. For the first time in a long time, Bob Baffert will not have a strong favorite in the race (and he will only have one horse entered as well). In fact, the California-based trainer's Medina Spirit will likely be no better than the fourth-favorite when the gates open at about 6:55 pm ET this Saturday.
So does this mean that the 2021 version is a wide open Derby that could yield a winner such as Mine that Bird or Giacomo? Not likely, but you could still get a decent price (as was the case last year when Baffert's Authentic won at odds of 8-1). So who are the most likely winners? Where will the value lie? Who will be over-bet? And what longshots are the ones to include in your exotics (exactas, trifectas, etc). We now present Part 2 of our preview of the 2021 Run for the Roses:
Highly Motivated (Chad Brown, Javier Castellano)
Any time you have a Chad Brown runner in a big race, he’s almost certainly worth a long look. The problem is that nine times out of ten, you’re probably going to get 2-1 at best as Brown has become the pre-eminent trainer for many of the big stables in the east. Here’s your chance to get at least 10-1 on a Brown entrant with very few, if any, knocks against. This well-bred son of leading sire Into Mischief only lost to Essential Quality by a neck in the Toyota Blue Grass last time out and he was well clear of the rest of the field. A slight improvement since that last race could put Brown in the Derby Winners Circle for the first time.
Mandaloun (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux)
This year’s “forgotten horse” will likely be this son of Into Mischief owned by the prestigious Juddmonte Farms. Mandaloun has gone off as the odds-on favorite in virtually all five of his races. And after winning the Risen Star impressively, it seemed the Louisiana Derby was his to lose. And lose he did, finishing an uninspired 6th. Trainer Cox has called that one a real head-scratcher and since then Mandaloun is reportedly doing great and his workouts seem to back that up. Last year’s Derby winner Authentic was also by Into Mischief, and with a Dam by Empire Maker, this boy is bred to run all day so the 1 ¼ mile distance should not be a problem. After going off no higher than 2-1 in any of his previous races, you’ll likely be looking at 15-1 on Saturday.
King Fury (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez)
Another Curlin runner, Kenny McPeek’s colt doesn’t have to worry about what to do from the #1 post like Known Agenda does. He drew post #16 which would seem to fit his running style perfectly. Coming off a 4 ½ month break, King Fury ran by far his best race in winning the Lexington at Keeneland with regular rider Brian Hernandez aboard. Hernandez may not be one of the household names when it comes to jockeys, but he’s proven time and time again that he can hold his own in the big races. He won the Lexington at 18-1 and you’re likely to get at least that on Derby Day making King Fury a very usable horse for a saver win bet.
Our 2021 Kentucky Derby Preview, Part 3: The Over-bet Pretenders will be published tomorrow, on Friday.