2021 Kentucky Derby Top 10: Good Timing Propels Known Agenda To No. 3; Essential Quality Still No. 1

By Richard Rosenblatt

The field for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is coming into focus, and it looks like two Hall of Fame trainers, and another who’s a lock to be voted in this year, will be back for their annual quest to win the Run for the Roses.

The lineup of Derby-winner trainers is impressive: Hall of Famer Bob Baffert leads the parade with six; fellow Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey has one; and soon-to-be-elected-Hall-of-Famer Todd Pletcher has two.

Toss in two Derbys won by Doug O’Neill [also on the Hall of Fame ballot this year], and that’s four trainers with 11 Derby victories in the past 25 years.

What does it mean? Either absolutely nothing, or any of the four could add to their resumes on the first Saturday in May.

Pletcher soared into the Derby picture over the weekend when Known Agenda upset McGaughey’s Greatest Honour in the Florida Derby (G1) to shake up this week’s usracing.com Derby Top 10.

Known Agenda, who now owns two wins over one of the leading Derby contenders, gallops into the Top 10 at No. 3 – behind No. 1 Essential Quality and No. 2 Concert Tour [trained by Baffert].

Greatest Honour, though, is not a 3-year-old to disregard – he drops to No. 6 from No. 3 this week.

Baffert is down another Derby contender after Spielberg ran off the board in the Florida Derby, but in addition to Concert Tour, he’ll be sending out Medina Spirit [No. 5 this week] and Defunded in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on Saturday.

O’Neill is Derby bound with Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Hot Rod Charlie, who checks in at No. 4, and O’Neill sends out The Great One in the Santa Anita Derby.

That said, let’s not forget about Brad Cox, the nation’s top trainer in 2020 who still has three Derby contenders – Essential Quality [set for the Grade 2 Blue Grass on Saturday], No. 8 Caddo River [Arkansas Derby, April 10], and Mandaloun, who is Derby bound but not in the Top 10.

Yet another Hall of Famer, Mark Casse, looking for his first Derby win, has a pair of prospects in Florida Derby runner-up Soup and Sandwich and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Helium – Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.

With three major Derby preps set for Saturday – the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Santa Anita Derby — all offering qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the first four finishers, next week should reshuffle the deck. But there’s little doubt that quite a few Derby-winning trainers will be saddling a slew of horses on May 1.

Listed below, in addition to the closing Derby Future wager odds for Pool 5, are the up-to-date odds from BUSR.

US Racing Kentucky Derby Top 10

1 Essential Quality (Brad Cox, Luis Saez)

All signs are go for the top Derby contender heading into his final prep at Keeneland … Arrived at the track Monday after working 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 at the Fair Grounds on March 27 … BC Juvenile winner, 2-year-old champ will have just two 3-year-old Derby preps … Derby points and ranking: 40 (11th) … Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland, Saturday … Derby future wager odds: 4-1 … BUSR odds: 5-1.

2 Concert Tour (Bob Baffert, Joel Rosario)

Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita on March 27, first work since Rebel (G2) win on March 13 … 3-for-3 … Derby points and ranking: 50 (8th) … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, April 10 … Derby future wager odds: 5-1 … BUSR odds: 7-2.

3 Known Agenda (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr.)

Whadda ya know? Vincent Viola-owned colt pulls an upset in the Florida Derby, and Pletcher has a top Derby contender … Addition of blinkers for last two races, both wins, is paying dividends … Has two wins over Greatest Honour, and brings a record of 6-3-1-1 into the Derby … Derby points and ranking: 102 (3rd) … Next start: Kentucky Derby (G1), Churchill Downs, May 1 … Derby future wager odds: 5-1 (mutuel field) … BUSR odds: 14-1.

4 Hot Rod Charlie (Doug O’Neill, Joel Rosario)

Louisiana Derby win a few weeks ago has this guy among the 3-year-olds to watch on Derby Day … Two-time Derby winner O’Neill has himself a good-looking Derby prospect after the colt’s Louisiana Derby win against a solid field … A rider change is likely if Rosario stays aboard Concert Tour … Brings a record of 7-2-1-2 and earnings of more than $1 million into the Derby … Derby points and ranking: 110 (1st) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 1 … Derby future wager odds: 12-1 … BUSR odds: 8-1.

5 Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez)

Two-time runner-up to off-the-Derby-trail stablemate Life Is Good, worked 4 furlongs 48:00 at Santa Anita on March 28 … Baffert looking to add to his record nine Santa Anita Derby wins with this colt … Derby points and ranking: 34 (15th) … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, Saturday … Derby future wager odds: 13-1 …  BUSR odds: 14-1.


6 Soup and Sandwich (Mark Casse, John Velazquez)

A gallant effort to be runner-up in the Florida Derby in third career start after winning first two races … Plus, who doesn’t want a horse with a name like this to be in the Derby … Derby points and ranking: 40 (12th) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 1 … Derby future wager odds: 5-1 (mutuel field) … BUSR odds: 20-1.

7 Helium (Mark Casse, Jose Ferrer)

Hall of Fame trainer Casse seeks first Derby win, after winning the 2019 Preakness (War of Will] and the 2019 Belmont Stakes [Sir Winston] … And he has two horses set to go … Worked 4 furlongs in 49.25 at Palm Meadows on March 27, his first work since Tampa Bay Derby victory … Derby points and ranking: 50 (9th) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 1, Derby future wager odds: 28-1 … BUSR odds: 16-1.

8 Caddo River (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux)

Cox is looking forward to this colt re-establishing himself as a legitimate Derby contender after an inexplicable fifth in the Rebel … Worked 4 furlongs in 48.00 at Oaklawn on March 27, eighth of 107 at the same distance … Plan is to be more aggressive in final prep … Derby points and ranking 10 (30th) … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, April 10 … Derby future wager odds: 33-1 … BUSR.com odds: 25-1.

9 Risk Taking (Chad Brown, Eric Cancel)

Kudos to jockey Cancel for his first riding title at the Aqueduct winter meet … Has a chance to move forward to Derby if Risk Taking puts in a strong effort on Saturday … Withers winner worked 4 furlongs in 49.95 at Belmont Park on March 27 … Derby points and ranking: 10 (29th) … Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, Saturday … Derby future wager odds: 30-1 … BUSR odds: 12-1.

  1. Life Is King (Wesley Ward, Drayden Van Dyke)

OK, he won the Jeff Ruby at Turfway Park on synthetic Tapeta to move into Derby contention, but can he win on the dirt? He’s 0-2 on dirt but his career record of 6-3-2-1 and with a top trainer to boot, he’s worthy of a Top 10 mention. Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 1 … Derby future wager odds: 5-1 (mutuel field) … BUSR odds: 33-1.