The 19-horse 2021 Kentucky Derby field is set, and jockeys will guide their mounts to the starting post at 6:57 p.m. ET at Churchill Downs. Luis Saez already has a win under his belt this year at the $12 million Dubai World Cup, and he now has a chance to redeem himself in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, where he rode Maximum Security to an apparent victory before being disqualified for aggressive riding two years ago. Saez will be atop Essential Quality, who is the favorite at 2-1 in the 2021 Kentucky Derby odds.
Veterans Mike Smith and John Velazquez are the only riders in the Kentucky Derby 2021 field with multiple wins in the Run for the Roses, but both will be aboard long shots, with Smith on Midnight Bourbon (20-1) and Velazquez on Medina Spirit (15-1). Joel Rosario and Flavien Prat are the only other jockeys with past wins atop 2021 Kentucky Derby horses and will ride Rock Your World (5-1) and Hot Rod Charlie (8-1), respectively. With so much to consider, you'll want to see what SportsLine's Jody Demling has to say before entering any 2021 Kentucky Derby picks and predictions of your own.
A fixture in the horse racing world who has been writing about, talking about and betting on races for years, Demling enters the 2021 Kentucky Derby after a major heater in 2020: At one point last year, he picked the winners of six straight races: the Saudi Cup, Gotham Stakes, Rebel Stakes, Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes.
This is the same handicapper who hit the Derby-Oaks double at Churchill Downs nine times in the last 12 years. That means he held a ticket with the winners of both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby all but three times in his last 12 tries.
He opened last season's Triple Crown schedule on a heater too. At last year's Belmont, Demling said Tiz the Law was clearly the class of the field, and Barclay Tagg's horse pulled away for a convincing 3 3/4-length victory. Anyone who has followed him is up huge.
Now, with the 2021 Kentucky Derby lineup set, Demling is sharing his picks and predictions at SportsLine. Go here to see them.
Top 2021 Kentucky Derby predictions
One shocker: Demling is fading Known Agenda, even though he is one of the top favorites. In fact, Demling says Known Agenda doesn't even hit the board. Known Agenda looked impressive while giving Pletcher his sixth win at the Florida Derby, but he needed to take a wide path down the stretch, which could be difficult to replicate from the No. 1 post on Saturday.
Additionally, while making his sprint to the finish at Gulfstream Park, Known Agenda continued to drift further outside even though he was already clear of the competition. Even if he can navigate a path through the other 2021 Kentucky Derby horses, a line like that could haunt him on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Demling has locked in his 2021 Kentucky Derby picks for Highly Motivated, who is fifth on the Kentucky Derby odds 2021 board at 10-1. Highly Motivated will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who has accomplished just about everything there is for a jockey outside of winning the Kentucky Derby. The Hall of Famer is a member of the exclusive 5,000-win club and has two Preakness wins, one Kentucky Oaks win, and four Eclipse Awards for nation's top jockey.
With Highly Motivated coming off a spirited battle with 2021 Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes, Castellano has to like his chances. It took a hard charge from Essential Quality to catch Highly Motivated by a neck at the wire. Unfortunately, Castellano will have the question of distance to navigate, as Highly Motivated made two turns for the first time in that race at Keeneland and wasn't able to capitalize on a strong trip around.
Demling has locked in his 2021 Kentucky Derby picks for Essential Quality, who is the favorite on the 2021 Kentucky Derby odds board at 2-1. There's a reason Essential Quality is the morning-line favorite entering the 147th Run for the Roses. He's won all five races he's appeared in and will have an experienced jockey handling the reins on Saturday. Luis Saez rode Maximum Security in 2019, who infamously was disqualified for interference after crossing the finish line first. With a win on Saturday, Essential Quality can become the first undefeated horse since Justify in 2018 to win the Kentucky Derby.
Despite being undefeated, Essential Quality will have his work cut out for him if he wants to claim the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Essential Quality drew the No. 14 post position, which hasn't produced a winner since Carry Back in 1961.
How to make 2021 Kentucky Derby picks, bets
Demling has projected exactly where Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie will finish in his 2021 Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He is also high on a double-digit long shot who "has looked amazing" while training. Before you make any Kentucky Derby 2021 picks, be sure to see who it is exclusively over at SportsLine.
Which horse wins the Kentucky Derby 2021? And which double-digit long shot should you bet now? Check out the latest 2021 Kentucky Derby odds below, then visit SportsLine to see Demling's picks for the Kentucky Derby.
2021 Kentucky Derby odds, post positions
|2||Like the King||50-1|
|9||Hot Rod Charlie||8-1|
|15||Rock Your World||5-1|
|19||Soup and Sandwich||30-1|