Kentucky Derby Contenders: Medina Spirit returns to top spot

Kentucky Derby Top 10 Contenders

Life is Good's disappearance from the top of the Kentucky Derby Rankings for us at HorseRacing.net has left a bit of a void. Essential Quality is the favorite for many but our in-house handicapper is sticking with Medina Spirit - who is set to race in what should be a very competitive Santa Anita Derby on Saturday.

Our turf-man and editor seem to finally be aligned on some of the top Kentucky Derby contender but our in-house handicapper is still feeling something different including a horse in his top five who doesn't make either of the other top ten's. Still, it is his week so it is time for Sean to shine as he gives us his rundown of the rest of his top ten with all our charts listed below...

Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders
  • Position
  • J.N.
  • Neil
  • Sean

Position

  • 1
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  • 5
  • 6
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  • 8
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  • 10
  • Last Updated:

J.N.

  • Essential Quality
  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Known Agenda
  • Highly Motivated
  • Rock Your World
  • Super Stock
  • Midnight Bourbon
  • Concert Tour
  • Medina Spirit
  • Mandaloun
  • 13 April 2021

Neil

  • Essential Quality
  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Highly Motivated
  • Known Agenda
  • Medina Spirit
  • Rock Your World
  • Super Stock
  • Soup and Sandwich
  • Greatest Honour
  • Concert Tour
  • 13 April 2021

Sean

  • Hot Rod Charlie
  • Medina Spirit
  • Essential Quality
  • Rock Your World
  • Highly Motivated
  • Dream Shake
  • Concert Tour
  • Known Agenda
  • Midnight Bourbon
  • Mandaloun
  • 13 April 2021

#1 Medina Spirit:  The defection of his stablemate Life Is Good leaves Medina Spirit as top dog on this list, and for the life of me I can’t understand why so many people are still sleeping on this horse. Yes, he was beaten by eight lengths by Life Is Good in the G2 San Felipe, but to me that was more a testament to the other-worldly ability of LIG rather than an indictment of Medina Spirit. I still contend that the West Coast contingent is a cut above their eastern counterparts, and I suspect this one will assert his supremacy over that group in the G1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday. Putting my money where my mouth is, Medina Spirit became my first ever Kentucky Derby future wager at an attractive 13-1 in Pool 5.

#2 Hot Rod Charlie:  I’ve always had an affinity for Hot Rod Charlie, who at the beginning of the year I had ranked above the horse who beat him in the 2020 G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Essential Quality, and I’m happy to vault him past that one again following a convincing victory in the G2 Louisiana Derby. He did get a very good trip in the Louisiana Derby, however he again proved he can be effective shipping and also seemed to relish the added ground of that race, which bodes well for the ‘Run for the Roses.’ Perhaps more importantly, his performance at Fair Grounds bolsters the case that the West Coast 3-year-olds are a formidable group.

#3 Essential Quality:  No one is going to confuse the G3 Southwest with a top Derby prep, but it was an excellent starting point for last year’s 2-year-old champ as he returned with gusto in his sophomore debut. I still get the impression that he’s more of a precocious sort than an undeniable talent that will continue to move forward at 3, however it’s hard to argue with his success as he’s now a perfect 4-for-4 in his career. I’m taking more of a wait and see approach to his development, but I can’t deny that right now he’s among the very best of his crop, especially with Life Is Good out of the picture.

#4 Dream Shake:  Obviously putting this horse so high on the list just underscores how strong I think the San Felipe was as a prep and the quality of the California contingent as a whole. Dream Shake finished a well-beaten third in the San Felipe, 10 ¼ lengths behind Life Is Good and 2 ¼ off Medina Spirit, but all in all it was a promising performance for a horse that was making just his second career start and first around two turns following an unbelievably impressive debut win going 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita. I thought he more than backed up that first-out win in the San Felipe and he still has an extraordinarily high ceiling.

#5 Concert Tour:  Bob Baffert kept up his brilliant run at Oaklawn Park in Derby preps with Concert Tour, who dominated the G2 Rebel in his last start. He wasn’t beating terribly much in the Rebel, but Concert Tour proved his mettle around two turns in that spot as no one was able to get within shouting distance of him. I’m still a bit skeptical of him at this point as a true stayer, but it was an encouraging performance that he can easily build upon going forward.

#6 Known Agenda:  I liked this horse in the G1 Florida Derby, which he won by 2 ¾ lengths with a respectable 94 Beyer Speed Figure, but I do think that race represents his peak. Everything went his way that day at Gulfstream, where his trainer/jockey combo of Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz, Jr. have been nothing short of dominant, and I just don’t envision him having the same kind of good fortune at Churchill Downs, particularly not in such a bulky field. Still, he ran fast last out and gives the impression of a horse that will relish a mile and a quarter, so he’s no doubt earned a spot on this list.

#7 Jackie’s Warrior:  This horse was a pretty big disappointment in the Southwest, but I’m not going to give up on him just yet. Although he was soundly beaten by Essential Quality in that race, the track may have played a big hand in that as inner paths appeared to be a distinct disadvantage over the sloppy surface and he was inside throughout. I think his ceiling is somewhat limited, which is why he’s relatively low on this list, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him snag a big prep in his next race.

#8 Midnight Bourbon:  It’s hard to see a path to victory on the first Saturday in May for Midnight Bourbon, but he ran consistently well in all three Fair Grounds preps for the Derby and is absolutely deserving of a spot in the race. He’s also a horse with good tactical speed that has already been acquainted with the Churchill Downs main track, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the exotics mix in the Derby.

#9 Greatest Honour:  His slowish speed figures finally caught up to him in the Florida Derby, in which he finished third after lagging behind the early pace, but I wouldn’t completely write him off as a Derby prospect. Greatest Honour certainly calls to mind Orb, another Shug McGaughey pupil that won the Derby despite rather pedestrian speed figures, though his performance in the Florida Derby was a big blow to his prospects.

#10 Weyburn:  I didn’t think much of the G3 Gotham ahead of time, but the race came back legitimately fast and Weyburn was dead-game in victory. What’s more is that his guy looks like he’ll run all day, and I’m not even sure he was fully cranked for the Gotham since it was his first start of the year for the patient Jimmy Jerkens.

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