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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, April 15, 2021 – With a little imagination and insight, a recent Paulick Report poll asking “which of the Top 10 point earners has the best chance to win the Kentucky Derby” provides insight into how the betting might go.

Empirically, the poll results at once are intuitive and make sense

•     Essential Quality (140)   28.55%

•     Hot Rod Charlie (110)    12.06%

•     Super Stock (109           5.92%

•     Like the King (104)         1.36%

•     Known Agenda (102)     11.13%

•     Rock Your World (100)   20.31%

•     Bourbonic (100)             4.02%

•     Another 3-year-old        16.65%

We’ve rounded the percentages in our personal calculations in order to construct a viable early odds line that might hold ante post. The percentages figure to change as long as the poll remains active but is unlikely to vary in the extreme.

The fact that this exercise is based on crowd-sourcing makes these guesstimates credible. Here’s a look at the Top 7 vote getters, the eighth category including any other three-year-old, listed in points order:

All agree that Essential Quality will be the post time favorite, and since 28% of the pollsters see it that way, he will–in theory at least–be the 5-2 public choice.

If anything, the favorite’s odds are likely to go lower for two reasons, one more valid than the other. The Derby belongs to the public and as such attracts more “square money.” The public loves their favorites, by definition, especially the undefeated, champion kind.

Back in the pre-simulcasting day when virtually handle was on-track, local “Kentucky” horses were bet down, not precipitously, but enough to remove whatever residual value might exist. But this Derby is “wide open” by consensus, so 5-2 is just about right.

Again, based on percentages, Hot Rod Charlie will be in the neighborhood of 7-1 at post time. Empirically, this skews a tad high, but definitely is in the ballpark.

Super Stock is a great story but most bettors won’t know about the Asmussen Family saga until NBC tells the tale, and won’t care when time comes to make a bet. Horseplayers know about his perfect setup, so he is likely to maintain a relatively low profile, making 15-1 fair by the crowd’s standards.

Like the King’s synthetic Steaks win is more likely to work against him than for him, as does the quality of the competition he defeated at Turfway Park, aka Churchill Lite. He has the potential to become this year’s Giacomo; 45-1.

Known Agenda’s stock has risen due to attrition, the growing Pletcher Derby bandwagon, and the favorable training reports. With the exception of Greatest Honour, who suffered an injury during or post-race, the Florida Derby horses were more Grade 2 variety than Grade 1; 8-1 is about right.

Rock Your World is the current Derby buzz horse. He, too, is undefeated, albeit lightly raced, is SoCal-based, the dominant Derby circuit in recent years, and his Santa Anita Derby victory impressed. The “could be any kind” cliché certainly applies. Odds of 4-1 could be spot on—an underlay—but possible, nonetheless.

Bourbonic garnered 4% support, which translates to 20-1 on the line, again in the realm of possibility: Wood winners are no longer in favor, extremely likely to be the case when applied to 72-1 Wood upsetters. But t’s Pletcher with Kendrick Carmouche in the midst of a career year.

An upset beyond the horses listed above is certainly not impossible. It’s the Derby, and strange things happen despite the run of short-priced winners since the advent of the points system. Odds of 6-1 on “All Other 3-Year-Olds” is a bargain compared to the usual Futures Pool pari-mutuel payouts.

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17 Responses

  1. Well, where are they now? Huh? The blue bloods that followed the trail of broken bones to the starting gate of the 2020 Kentucky Derby; the regally bred wonders that were Thoroughbred racing news for months prior to the actual race. The heavy favorite, Tiz The Law, chased the Baffert trained long shot Authentic around the track fruitlessly, not gaining any ground; and another long shot, Mr. Big News gave no ground in the stretch holding off the second favorite, Honor A P for third place. All the ink spewed and few patrons cashing.

    Fifteen three-year-old thoroughbreds entered the starting gate. Five went on to the Preakness and Breeders Cup then poof gone for good – only five have raced this year. Pretty much the same story every year.

    I don’t know much about this year’s qualifiers, though I’m sure that few have ever raced at Churchill Downs or against each other nor gone the 1 1/4 distance – bad data for a ‘capper to digest.

    Is there a new starting gate that will accommodate twenty horses? Bet it costs more to build than an Abrams tank; a gate that will be used for a few seconds then stored for a whole year.

  2. The 20-horse starting gate is already in use.

    Haskell winner Authentic a Derby “longshot” because he wasn’t favored over the 5-length Belmont Stakes winner?

    C’mon man, you’re better than this…

  3. Looks like they will be allowing 20% capacity for racing crowds, effective April 22nd. So fans back for Belmont!! I can’t wait.

    Irad Ortiz won 4 races today at Aqueduct including an 8/1 shot. He now has 139 wins on the year, and has opened up an inconceivable lead of 56 wins on the #2 winner in the country. Joel Rosario, and Luis Saez are also really riding in great form right now. This Belmont meet with the increased purses might really be something else – weather permitting.

  4. Ah yes, Doc, weather permitting…

    Thought of you when I posted that item; have heard privately too from other friends making plans.

    I’m curious about the price of the tickets post Covid-lockdown.

    Disappointed Doc; you didn’t find anything interesting about the crowd-sourced possible odds? Thought there were things to glean from the data.

    1. I would be very happy to accept 8/1 on Known Agenda. My feelings on the Derby are this: if either Highly Motivated or Known Agenda does not win, I will be surprised. Highly Motivated was made to do the heavy lifting up front in the Blue Grass, which isn’t really his preferred style – and it still took the entire length of the stretch for Essential Quality to squeak by. This won’t be the case in the Derby. Motivated will get a comfy position off the real speed tracking a target like te enjoys, and will get the drop on Essential. I don’t see Essential being able to run down Motivated in that scenario. The one that does scare me is Known Agenda – the lightbulb seems to have come on. Gun to my head – Javier Castellano gets his first Derby. But I’ll have Known Agenda covered up top in some bets as well. Anyone else wins, it’s on to Sunday.

      1. A cogent, thoughtful analysis Doc and cannot disagree with anything you said. By all means, given the trips and dynamics, Highly Motivated is supposed to out-finish Essential Quality this time. The question is the 18 other rivals, of course. But hey, don’t throw in the towel and wait for Sunday; there could be some undercard goodies that can make your day!

  5. Almost all of these horses seem to be a one hit wonder, Essential Quality while a good horse barely won last out and if they don’t rest him he will be off the board in the Derby. But they won’t rest him no trainer has has ever heard of that. The winner will most certainly be a long shot, afresh horse, not one overworked. Men think they are masters of the universe, working and working horses due to the fact that their IQ is too low to understand the Laws of Physics. K. Price , TB Owner, Trainer and Breeder

    1. Thanks for checking in Kat. It appears you might have had some bad experiences with over-raced horses.

      Essential Quality did have a hard race but he passed the eyeball test the first time he was asked to do so, that impressed. And there will be no more races for him until the first Saturday in May.

      IMO, the reason for the one-hit wonders is that this is a deep and talented class and trainers tried to figure the best way to accrue qualifying points for their horses.

  6. This years Wood Memorial’s track condition was quite different than the usual cement fast surface we see during grade 1’s in NY. I am pondering whether it could benefit the horses coming out of this race, giving them a better conditioning.
    Excited to hear the good news about Belmont opening to the public, and don’t mind having to show Covid proof of vaccines, or negative test results.
    But someone has to explain to me as to why when every patron attending is Covid free, masks will still be required(unofficial info).

    1. Yeah I will gladly show my little CDC card that shows the Janssen dose (Johnson & Johnson). Very small price to pay. Next week is too busy, but barring unforseen work pileup circumstances, I am tentatively planning to take the day off the following Thursday the 29th and heading over to Belmont. Hopefully there won’t be massive portions of the track sectioned off and inaccessible. if anything, more open space to separate, the better.

      1. I’m interested to see if absence made racing hearts grow fonder, otherwise wouldn’t expect there to be a logjam of people on a Thursday. Obviously curious to see how a Saturday crowd supports a high quality race card.

    2. As for masks, the CDC and Dr. Fauci still recommends mask use even for those who are vaccinated. Personally, I’m from the better safe than sorry school.

      As for the deep, very tiring Wood Memorial surface–winner came from last–I agree that racing over that surface could add some “extra” conditioning. Certainly worth considering anyway…

  7. Very interesting piece-I do think Essential Quality will and should be the Favorite. He’ll be 2-1 or less. He won the Blue Grass and the Derby is run in Kentucky. I’d love 8-1 or better on Known Agenda. Where can I bet?

  8. Tony, I too would sign for 8-1, refundable if horse withdrawn, of course. But as you believe EQ will be 2-1 or less–I say 2-1 but not less–I see KA being close to 8-1 but not quite. Fun exercise…

  9. I said Essential Quality would get tired and looks like he did, I had Mandaloun after they took King Fury out, funny he did not look sick on Friday, standing there eating hay. Bob Baffert is the luckiest man alive because he is not that smart. I did enjoy the Derby but the Campbell
    soup horse they should have asked about was about Souper Spectacular a horse they paid 1.15 million for and then he ended up in a kill lot in Georgia, this was all reported in the Bloodhorse. I am sick of this abuse by people who have means to care for these animals, they are not disposable! Kat Price

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