It is not just in the UK where there is some elite racing taking place on Saturday. America has one of the biggest races of its calendar too as the Kentucky Derby will be run at Chruchill Downs as the clock ticks towards midnight.
This is one of the showpiece events on the global calendar and the eyes of plenty will be on the Churchill Downs track. We strive to bring you previews of all the best races across the globe so here is our take on this big race.
23.57 Churchill Downs: Kentucky Derby
The greatest 2 minutes in sport, the run of the roses, arguably the biggest horse race in the world, it’s the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. A maximum field of 20 is expected over a mile and a quarter around the sharpish turns of Churchill Downs. The favourite is Brad Cox’s unbeaten colt Essential Quality who has won 5 from 5 but he only narrowly beat bigger priced rival Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass so looks a little short in the betting to me. It was by far the runner up’s best career run & this is his first time in a Grade 1 so he’s another I cannot be backing at the likely odds. Hot Rod Charlie won the Louisiana Derby last time up & was 2nd to Essentia Quality in the Breeders Cup Juvenile back in November but a 6 week absence isn’t the ideal prep with only 2 winners this century having been off the track that long, albeit one was last year but that was an exception with the global pandemic. Medina Spirit should go well but I’m no fan of horses struggling to get their head in front so 3 seconds in 4 starts isn’t for me.
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I’m going to keep this relatively simple. The last 9 winners all came here having won at the very highest level last time out & all of them recorded a RPR of at least 115. There are 3 such qualifiers this year & it’s from those 3 that my 2 bets come. First, the one I’m reluctantly leaving out is Known Agenda. He won the Florida Derby on his last start & would have made the cut but for landing the worst of the draw in stall 1. He’s on the inside but in this big field, he’s surely going to get swamped & will need luck in running to hold any chance. Of those last 9 winners, the lowest drawn winner was in stall 5 & 4 of those 19 have been drawn 15 or higher.
The first of my bets is the current second favourite in Rock Your World. He’s the most unexposed runner in the field having had just 3 starts but he’s won them all, the most recent on dirt when disposing of Medina Spirit by almost 5 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby over 1 mile 1 furlong. He looked very strong at the finish that day & will improve for the extra yardage, I would suspect. Add to that he’s recorded the highest speed figure of any in this field despite his inexperience & you’ve got to think he’s going to improve. This race always attracts a big field but several can be discounted so with bookies paying 5 places, he looks an each way bet to nothing.
Drawn wide in 18 is my second, more speculative bet in Super Stock. He hadn’t pulled up any trees in his first 5 starts although was 3rd behind Essential Quality at the end of last term when pulling hard but he improved massively to win on his most recent start 3 weeks ago. He won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby by almost 3 lengths from Caddo River but back in 3rd was the previous unbeaten Bob Baffert-trained Concert Tour who, had he won that race, would probably have come here & been challenging for favouritism. Many have knocked holes in that form & it could be argued that Concert Tour underperformed but, from what I saw, my selection was a worthy winner & appreciated every yard of the trip, quickening up well & staying on all the way to the line. He should be able to stalk the leaders on the outside & if he’s in the mix off the home turn, I’d fancy him to be there at the line too. At a big price, he rates a nice bet.
Back Rock Your World (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 7.00 William Hill (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back Super Stock (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 17.00 William Hill (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back them here: