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Top handicapper Andrew Champagne guides you through the smart betting plays for the 2021 Kentucky Derby

2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Guide

The field is set for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which will take place Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs. 20 3-year-olds will go postward in the Run for the Roses, which is back in its rightful place on the calendar after being pushed to the fall last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take a look at the field!

Kentucky Derby Picks: The Worthy Favorite

It’s tough to poke holes in the resume of #14 ESSENTIAL QUALITY. Last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male has yet to taste defeat on the racetrack and comes in off of wins in the Blue Grass and Southwest Stakes. He draws well, has tactical speed, and is bred to want to go a mile and a quarter. Playing him straight wouldn't be my main Kentucky Derby pick, but the question is, how do we extract value from a logical favorite? Well…

Kentucky Derby Picks: The Flawed Alternatives

#1 KNOWN AGENDA, #9 HOT ROD CHARLIE, and #15 ROCK YOUR WORLD have two things in common: They’ll take money, and I don’t like them as Kentucky Derby picks. Known Agenda took a major step forward in the Florida Derby and was at risk of a bounce even before drawing the dreaded rail, Hot Rod Charlie took advantage of a bouncing Mandaloun (more on him later) in the Louisiana Derby, and Rock Your World may need a lead he might not get.

I think the way to get value out of Essential Quality is to key him in exactas with bigger prices. One of those prices, in fact, could be an upset contender.

Kentucky Derby Picks: The Upset Contender

Humor this hypothetical: If Life Is Good didn’t exist, Medina Spirit wins the Sham and San Felipe, in addition to the Robert Lewis. In that scenario, the Bob Baffert trainee is likely no higher than 8-1 on the morning line.

Instead, he’s 15-1, and I think he’s got a big shot to upset the apple cart and looks a worthy Kentucky Derby pick. He couldn’t catch a loose-on-the-lead Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby, but that scenario shouldn’t replicate itself here. Baffert and John Velazquez teamed up to take last year’s Kentucky Derby with Authentic, and I think they could be in prime position to do so again at a nice number.

Kentucky Derby Picks: Other Longshots to Consider

I mentioned #7 MANDALOUN earlier, and he ran very well two starts back when winning the Risen Star. That was easily the best race of his career, so a bounce in the Louisiana Derby wasn’t shocking. He’s been working well since coming to Churchill Downs, and a return to his February form would make him a player.

I’m also intrigued by #16 KING FURY, who came off a long layoff to win the Lexington at Keeneland in impressive fashion. He’s won at Churchill Downs twice in three prior local starts, and the lone defeat came when he was far closer to the pace than he probably wanted to be. Perhaps he’s in line for regression, but if he improves second off the bench (as Ken McPeek trainees often do) and gets a pace to run at, I think he could play a role in the outcome.

Kentucky Derby Picks & Betting Strategy

I’ll play Essential Quality and Medina Spirit on top in exactas that include Mandaloun and King Fury underneath, and also play cheaper exactas that key Essential Quality above and below the other three horses.

2 UNITS: Exacta, 8,14 w/7,8,14,16

1 UNIT: Exacta key box, 14 w/7,8,16

How To Bet Your Kentucky Derby Picks

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Article Author

Horse Racing

Andrew Champagne is a horse racing handicapper with a specialism in juveniles. One thing is for certain, Champagne gets the party started.

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