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May 01 2021

The Run for the Roses

Last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Derby was postponed until September 5. This year the 147th running of the Derby is back to its usual start, the first Saturday in May. It is the first jewel in the Triple Crown of horse racing. It is dubbed “The Run for the Roses”, stemming from the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is also known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” because of its approximate duration.

The Kentucky Derby is only open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds, thus entrants in the 2021 race were foaled in 2018, as part of the North American foal crop of 21,181.[4][a] The field is limited to twenty horses who qualify based on points earned in the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of designated races that was first introduced in 2013. This point system replaced the previous graded stakes race earnings system.

Most positions in the Derby starting gate are earned on the main Road, consisting of 35 races in North America plus one in Dubai. The major preps for the Kentucky Derby are the Louisiana Derby, Jeff Ruby Steaks, UAE Derby, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and Arkansas Derby. Each of these races provided the winner with 100 qualifying points, essentially guaranteeing that horse a berth in the Derby provided the owner pays the required nomination and entry fees. The first four of these major preps were run in late March and were won by Hot Rod Charlie, Like The King, Rebel’s Romance and Known Agenda respectively. The next three major preps were run on April 3 and were won by Bourbonic, Essential Quality and Rock Your World. The last major prep was run on April 10 and was won by Super Stock.

One qualification position is also available via the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, and another via the Japan Road. Due in part to ongoing restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, none of these offers were accepted in 2021. These two positions reverted to qualifiers on the main Road.

The Field

The favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby is expected to be Essential Quality, who is undefeated in five starts including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes. Essential Quality trains at Churchill Downs and has previously won at the track, giving him a potential “home field advantage”. His main rivals will be the Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World, Florida Derby winner Known Agenda, and Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie. There are also several highly regarded horses who were runners-up in these events, including Highly Motivated who was second in the Blue Grass, Midnight Bourbon who was second in the Louisiana Derby, and Medina Spirit who was second in the Santa Anita Derby.

The other major preps were less impressive to handicappers, and the winners will be relative longshots in the Derby. For example, Bourbonic, who won the Wood Memorial at odds of 72–1, is expected to go off at odds of about 30–1.

he post position draw was held at 11 am on Tuesday, April 27

 

Finish Program
Number
Horse Qualifying
Points
Trainer Jockey Morning
Line Odds
Final
Odds
Margin Winnings
1 Known Agenda 102 Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr. 6–1
2 Like the King 104 Wesley Ward Drayden Van Dyke 50–1
3 Brooklyn Strong 10 Daniel Velazquez Umberto Rispoli 30–1
4 Keepmeinmind 18 Robertino Diodoro David Cohen 20–1
5 Sainthood 40 Todd Pletcher Corey Lanerie 50–1
6 O Besos 25 Greg Foley Marcelino Pedroza 20–1
7 Mandaloun 52 Brad Cox Florent Geroux 12–1
8 Medina Spirit 74 Bob Baffert John Velazquez 15–1
9 Hot Rod Charlie 110 Doug O’Neill Flavien Prat 8–1
10 Midnight Bourbon 66 Steve Asmussen Mike Smith 20–1
11 Dynamic One 40 Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz 20–1
12 Helium 50 Mark Casse Julien Leparoux 50–1
13 Hidden Stash 32 Vicki Oliver Rafael Bejarano 50–1
14 Essential Quality 140 Brad Cox Luis Saez 2–1
15 Rock Your World 100 John Sadler Joel Rosario 5–1
n/a 16 King Fury 20 Kenneth McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 20–1 Scratched[c] n/a n/a
17 Highly Motivated 50 Chad Brown Javier Castellano 10–1
18 Super Stock 109 Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana Jr. 30–1
19 Soup and Sandwich 40 Mark Casse Tyler Gaffalione 30–1
20 Bourbonic 100 Todd Pletcher Kendrick Carmouche 30–1

There also Derby Traditions

In addition to the race itself, several traditions play a significant role in the Derby atmosphere. The mint julep—an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup—is the traditional beverage of the race. The historic beverage comes served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup. However, most Churchill Downs patrons sip theirs from souvenir glasses (first offered in 1939 and available in revised form each year since) printed with all previous Derby winners. Also, burgoo, a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork, and vegetables, is a popular Kentucky dish served at the Derby.

The infield—a spectator area inside the track—offers general admission prices but little chance of seeing much of the race, particularly before the jumbotron installation in 2014. Instead, revelers show up in the infield to party with abandon. By contrast, “Millionaire’s Row” refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in elegant outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats. Following the Call to the Post, as the horses start to parade before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band plays Stephen Foster‘s “My Old Kentucky Home.” This song is a tradition which began in 1921. The event attracts spectators from a large area, flying in hundreds of private aircraft to Louisville International Airport.

The Derby is frequently referred to as “The Run for the Roses“, because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition originated in 1883 when New York City socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party. Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark, attended that event. This gesture is believed to have led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race’s official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to draping roses on the Derby winner. The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the Kentucky Derby Trophy. Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg composed the song “Run for the Roses“, released in time for the 1980 running of the race.

“Riders Up!” is the traditional command from the Paddock Judge for jockeys to mount their horses in advance of the upcoming race. Since 2012, a dignitary or celebrity attendee recites this phrase.

There is also a Kentucky Derby Festival which starts the two week run up to race day, It was cancelled last year due the pandemic. I’m not sure it took place this year either, since the pandemic is just starting to abate and there has been considerable civil unrest in Louisville where amny of the festivities take place.

ek hornbeck noted the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” is one of the most racist anthems in sports.

 

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay,
The corn top’s ripe and the meadows in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright:
By’n by Hard Times comes a knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky Home, good night!
Weep no more, my lady,
Oh! weep no more to-day!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky Home far away.
They hunt no more for possum and the coon
On the meadow, the hill, and the shore,
They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
On the bench by the old cabin door.
The day goes by like a shadow o’re the heart,
With sorrow where all was delight:
The time has come when the darkies have to part,
Then my old Kentucky Home, good-night!
Weep no more, my lady,
Oh! weep no more to-day!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky Home far away.
The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darkey may go:
A few more days, and the trouble all will end
In the field where the sugar-canes grow.
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ’twill never be light,
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky Home, good-night!
 

The race will be broadcast by NBC, with coverage by NBCSN of undercard races beginning at 12:30 PM EDT and main network coverage of pre-race activities starting at 2:30 PM EDT. It will also be livestreamed on NBCSports.com. The estimated post time is 7:01 PM.

I’ll post the winner and the finish for the rest of the field as it comes available.

The winner is Medina Spirit.

Finish Program
Number[b]
Horse Qualifying
Points[6]
Trainer Jockey[13] Morning
Line Odds[11]
Final
Odds
Margin Winnings
1 8 Medina Spirit 74 Bob Baffert John Velazquez 15–1 12–1
2 7 Mandaloun 52 Brad Cox Florent Geroux 12–1 28–1 +12 length
3 9 Hot Rod Charlie 110 Doug O’Neill Flavien Prat 8–1 5–1 1 length
4 14 Essential Quality 140 Brad Cox Luis Saez 2–1 3–1 1 length
5 6 O Besos 25 Greg Foley Marcelino Pedroza 20–1 38–1 5+12 lengths
6 10 Midnight Bourbon 66 Steve Asmussen Mike Smith 20–1 12–1 8+14 lengths
7 4 Keepmeinmind 18 Robertino Diodoro David Cohen 20–1 45–1 8+12 lengths
8 12 Helium 50 Mark Casse Julien Leparoux 50–1 35–1 10+12 lengths
9 1 Known Agenda 102 Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr. 6–1 11–1 10+34 lengths
10 17 Highly Motivated 50 Chad Brown Javier Castellano 10–1 11–1 10+34 lengths
11 5 Sainthood 40 Todd Pletcher Corey Lanerie 50–1 39–1 12+12 lengths
12 2 Like the King 104 Wesley Ward Drayden Van Dyke 50–1 46–1 10+34 lengths
13 20 Bourbonic 100 Todd Pletcher Kendrick Carmouche 30–1 28–1 15+34 lengths
14 13 Hidden Stash 32 Vicki Oliver Rafael Bejarano 50–1 35–1 16+12 lengths
15 3 Brooklyn Strong 10 Daniel Velazquez Umberto Rispoli 30–1 40–1 18 lengths
16 18 Super Stock 109 Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana Jr. 30–1 33–1 19+12 lengths
17 15 Rock Your World 100 John Sadler Joel Rosario 5–1 9–2 24 lengths
18 11 Dynamic One 40 Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz 20–1 42–1 31 lengths
19 19 Soup and Sandwich 40 Mark Casse Tyler Gaffalione 30–1 24–1 64 lengths
n/a 16 King Fury 20 Kenneth McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 20–1 Scratched[c] n/a n/a