Life is Good sits at #1 in our Week 3 Derby Rankings

Bob Baffert trains Life is Good who sits atop of our Road to the Kentucky Derby rankings this week
Bob Baffert trains Life is Good who sits atop of our Road to the Kentucky Derby rankings this week

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

Position

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  • 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

Ahead of the two Kentucky Derby Prep Races this weekend, our in-house handicapper takes us through his Top Ten as we bring you the third week of rankings for the 2021 Run for the Roses...

#1 Life Is Good:  You’d be hard-pressed to find as impressive a debut winner as this guy. While usually I would temper my enthusiasm for a horse who’s only run once, even one as extraordinary as Life Is Good, that rule doesn’t apply to those in the care of Bob Baffert, whose record in the Derby is nothing short of remarkable. For now, this one belongs at the top of the list as he’s already run as fast as anyone in his class and is oozing with upside.

#2 Hot Rod Charlie:  If Life Is Good is the chalk, Hot Rod Charlie is the value play at the vanguard of my Derby Top 10. Obviously it requires some explanation since I have him ahead of Essential Quality, who beat him in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but I thought this horse ran the better race in that spot as he was the first to attack that scorching pace and nearly held on to win. Also, while Essential Quality had home-field advantage in the Juvenile and was already a G1 winner over the track, Hot Rod Charlie had to ship cross-country for the race off just a maiden win. It was a courageous effort to say the least, and one I think sets him up well for a fruitful 3-year-old campaign.

#3 Essential Quality:  Take nothing away from your Juvenile victory, who got a very good trip in the race but ran quite well in his 2-year-old swan song, which all but assured him a year-end championship. Right now I have the runner-up from the Juvenile slightly higher, but there’s no denying this guy has an abundance of talent and one of the world’s best trainers in his corner, Brad Cox. We know he’s precocious, but I believe he’s going to be heard from again as a sophomore.

#4 Jackie’s Warrior:  We’ve already seen the top two finishers from the Juvenile, and now we arrive at the horse I picked to win that race. Everything about Jackie’s Warrior screamed Juvenile winner to me, but unfortunately he was done in by an unreasonably fast pace and finished fourth. I thought he lost nothing in defeat given the circumstances, however, as a son of Maclean’s Music, I think his ceiling is somewhat limited, which is why I have Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality ahead of him.

#5 Never Surprised:  He’s yet to run on dirt (which may seem problematic considering that’s the surface the Kentucky Derby is run on), however he has ample pedigree for the main track and has shown a world of talent on turf through two career starts. Expect him to switch surfaces over the winter at Gulfstream Park, where he will likely solidify his status as a Derby contender for trainer Todd Pletcher.

#6 Mandaloun:  This one hasn’t run a truly fast race yet, at least not compared to the others on this list, but he’s a perfect 2-for-2 for Brad Cox and most recently won a seven-furlong race under the Twin Spires. I think this Juddmonte homebred is only going to get better with added ground.

#7 Highly Motivated:  A brilliant sprinter so far for trainer Chad Brown, Highly Motivated is unproven beyond 6 ½ furlongs. That should change in a hurry, though, as he turned in a devastating performance in the Nyquist on the Breeders’ Cup undercard and looks destined for bigger and better things. His pedigree isn’t without some stamina, and I trust Brown to stretch him out effectively over the winter.

#8 Red Flag:  This one has a very similar look to Highly Motivated after a smashing victory in the G3 Bob Hope going seven furlongs at Del Mar. Interestingly, he entered that race off a maiden win on turf, but he showed enormous potential in the Bob Hope and it’s doubtful he returns to the lawn anytime soon. His pedigree is a bit murky as far as distance goes, but for now I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

#9 Keepmeinmind:  Your third-place finisher from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He’d be higher on this list if not for his last race, which oddly was a win in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. It may seem counterintuitive to punish him for a win on the local strip, however he was all-out to beat a vastly inferior group and regressed sharply speed figure-wise. He could go either way at this point.

#10 Reinvestment Risk:  He followed a promising maiden win at Saratoga with a pair of runner-up finishes to Jackie’s Warrior in the G1 Hopeful and G1 Champagne before bombing last out in the Juvenile. His last race was ugly, but he’s trained by Chad Brown and it would be folly to write him off after one lousy effort given the ability he’s shown thus far. He’s skating on thin ice, but he deserves a spot on this list for now.

Kentucky Derby 2021

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