2021 Kentucky Derby Preview, Part 3: The Over-bet Pretenders

by Al McMordie

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, and we've been previewing the race over the past few days.  On Wednesday and Thursday, we covered the top contenders and the value plays.  And tomorrow, we'll take a look at the bombs to use in exotic wagers.  For today's article, we'll be zeroing in on the over-bet pretenders.

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 3 of our preview of the 2021 Run for the Roses: 

Over-bet Pretenders: 

Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill, Flavien Prat) 
   
What does it tell you that leading jockey Rosario jumped off of the son of Preakness winner Oxbow to ride Rock Your World this Saturday?  On the surface, a horse that has the second-most qualifying points, ran second to Essential Quality in last Fall’s BC Juvenile and that won the Louisiana Derby in his latest tune-up might seem like a serious contender.  But Hot Rod Charlie was 94-1 in the Juvenile race and he beat a weak field of only seven others at the Fair Grounds while recording a luke-warm speed figure.  He’s opened up as the fourth choice at 8-1, but fair odds would be closer to 20-1 or even higher.  
   
Bourbonic (Todd Pletcher, Kendrick Carmouche) 
   
It’s rare for a horse to go off at lower odds in the Derby than he did winning a big prep race like the Wood Memorial.  But that’s almost certain to happen with Bourbonic.  The son of Bernardini took the Wood in dramatic fashion on April 3 at odds of 72-1.  There are at least a couple of reasons to think that his odds in the Derby could be less than half that.  He has to be considered the top horse from the New York circuit competing, and that means NY bettors and fans of Pletcher could be backing him with plenty of money.  And who doesn’t love a stone-cold closer who comes from out of the clouds?  Those who think there will be a pace meltdown will likely turn in this direction.  But he won’t have to negotiate his way through just eight horses to do it this time, but rather 19 and that's a much taller order. 
   
Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert, John Velasquez) 
   
Here is the lone Baffert entry this year and there are several red flags that go along with this one.  First, Medina Spirit was a $35K purchase at auction and is by a relatively unknown sire named Protonico.  Next is the fact that, despite going off as the odds-on favorite in the Santa Anita Derby he was soundly beaten by Rock Your World and there’s little to suggest that he could turn the tables on that one, let alone the 18 others in here.  Third, although fast, Medina Spirit’s races suggest that he is much more suited to be a miler or even a sprinter.  It’s rare to see a Baffert horse in the Derby at odds of 10-1 or higher, but you should demand 30-1 on this one before diving in and that likely won’t happen.


Our 2021 Kentucky Derby Preview, Part 4:  The Bombs to Use in Exotics will be published tomorrow, on Saturday.

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