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Kentucky Derby 2021 blog: risk taking rewarded with victory in withers stakes at aqueduct

By February 10, 2021January 26th, 2024No Comments

​There were a pair of Kentucky Derby 2021 preps on Jan. 30 and two more on Feb. 6. Greatest Honour captured the Holy Bull (G3) from off the pace, and the improving colt owns a strong route pedigree and is just getting warmed up at a mile and a sixteenth. Medina Spirit set the pace from the inside post in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3), and he shook off two early challenges and a pair of late bids to score by a determined neck. Fast forward to Feb. 6 and Candy Man Rocket and Risk Taking picked up 10 Derby points each in the Sam F. Davis and Withers. This week, the Derby trail rolls on with the El Camino Real Derby and Risen Star Stakes.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Points Race Recaps

Holy Bull Stakes (G3) – Gulfstream Park (1-30-21)

Shug McGaughey’s superbly bred colt Greatest Honour continues to progress nicely, and he should only get better as distances increase. In this 8.5 furlong test, early runner Willy Boi was under pressure from the outset and faded from contention. Tarantino and strong favorite Prime Factor took up the chase and hung in there throughout, but Greatest Honour was always moving sweetly in midpack and swept past those two runners and won by a commanding 5+ lengths. Tarantino was clearly second best and Prime Factor held 3rd over Papetu. The other five runners were well behind.

Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) – Santa Anita Park (1-30-21)

Medina Spirit set sail for the lead from the inside post and Wipe the Slate and Parnelli were in chase mode. Medina Spirit was clear by a length and had to run hard throughout. He put away the two aforementioned chasers, and Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie came after him in the stretch. Medina Spirit appeared to be in deep water but he dug deep and somehow held off the two closers in a gritty neck victory. Roman Centurian was a nose better than Hot Rod Charlie for 2nd, and they were 11-lengths clear of Spielberg. Parnelli and Wipe the Slate finished well behind the rest, and that is significant because Medina Spirit ran them into the ground and won the race.

Sam F. Davis (G3) – Tampa Bay Downs (2-6-21)

This race was disappointing from a final time standpoint. The pace was honest with Boca Boy leading for the first six furlongs and Smiley Sobotka, Candy Man Rocket, and Nova Rags were in chase mode. Known Agenda was the bet-down 3-2 favorite off an unrealistic 6-1 morning line, but he was far back early and never mounted a serious challenge. Candy Man Rocket stalked outside, took over when Boca Boy got tired, opened up by 2+ lengths, and held off Nova Rags to score by a length. The top two finishers are both trainer by Bill Mott. Hidden Stash rallied to miss 2nd by a neck and was 2+ clear of a tiring Boca Boy. Known Agenda missed 4th by a neck and was just too far back under Johnny V. Lucky Law (IRE), Joe Man Joe, Ricochet, Smiley Sobotka, Last Investment, Millean, and Runway Magic completed the order of finish.

Withers (G3) – Aqueduct (2-6-21)

I thought this was the better of the two Derby points races run on Feb. 6, or at least the winner is worth following. Capo Kane carved out the fractions and the three horses chasing him finished at the back of the pack. Risk Taking was my top choice and they made him the post time favorite, and he did not disappoint. He lurked in midpack under Eric Cancel and made steady progress throughout. He swung out turning for home and easily had the measure of Capo Kane. He pulled well clear late to score by a bit less than four lengths. Overtook rallied from last to land the place and Capo Kane was well clear of the rest in 3rd. Royal Number, Eagle Orb, Civil War, Donegal Bay, Shackqueenking, and Doda Bay also ran. I tabbed Risk Taking in my video race of the week and you can watch it below.


Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru Sam F. Davis & Withers 2-6-21)

30 Points: Essential Quality

18 Points: Keepmeinmind

16 Points: Midnight Bourbon

14 Points: Medina Spirit

13 Points: Spielberg

12 Points: Capo Kane, Jackie’s Warrior

10 Points: Brooklyn Strong, Caddo River, Candy Man Rocket, Get Her Number, Greatest Honour, Hot Rod Charlie, Life Is Good, Risk Taking, Sittin On Go

8 Points: Cowan

4 Points: Nova Rags, Roman Centurian, Rombauer, Overtook, Proxy, Smiley Sobotka, Super Stock, Tarantino, The Great One

2 Points: Arabian Prince, Big Thorn, Hidden Stash, Hold the Salsa, Known Agenda, Mandaloun, Parnelli, Pretuchio, Prime Factor, Waspirant

1 Point: Moonlite Strike, Papetu, Pickin’ Time, Red Flag, Santa Cruiser


Upcoming Derby 2021 Points Races

El Camino Real Derby (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 13
Risen Star (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 13
Southwest (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 20
John Battaglia Memorial (10-4-2-1) – Feb. 26
Fountain of Youth (50-20-10-5) – Feb. 27
Gotham (50-20-10-5) – March 6
Tampa Bay Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 6
San Felipe (50-20-10-5) – March 6
Rebel (50-20-10-5) – March 13
Jeff Ruby Steaks (20-8-4-2) – March 20
LA Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 20
Florida Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
UAE Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
Sunland Derby (50-20-10-5) – March 28
Blue Grass (100-40-20-10) – April 3
SA Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 3
Wood Memorial (100-40-20-10) –
Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 10
Lexington (20-8-4-2) – April 10


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders (2-10-21)

(1) ESSENTIAL QUALITY (Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality)

Trainer – Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.60 (4/51) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 7.

Comments: Recently named 2-Year-Old Champion went a perfect 3-for-3 last year and his last two victories were G1 triumphs at 8.5f. He is wintering at Fair Grounds and got back to work on 12-20-20. He is classy and versatile and they have started to map out his sophomore campaign. His first start of 2021 will come in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 20. The Southwest was originally scheduled to be run on Feb. 15, but Oaklawn canceled their upcoming holiday weekend programs due to impending winter weather.


(2) CADDO RIVER (Hard Spun – Pangburn, by Congrats)

Trainer – Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 4f in :50.60 (39/46) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 5.

Comments: Landed the place in his first two starts at seven panels and put it all together at one mile Nov. 15. That sharp maiden victory was at Churchill Downs and he dominated throughout. He controlled the race from the outset and ran away from his rivals in the Smarty Jones Stakes at OP on Jan. 22, and he earned a solid speed rating that day. He is fast and talented and we will find out how much stamina he has in the coming weeks and months.


(3) LIFE IS GOOD (Into Mischief – Beach Walk, by Distorted Humor)

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Latest Workout: 6f bullet in 1:12.00 (1/9) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: From a speed figure perspective he is one of the fastest Derby hopefuls, but the caution signs were flashing after his Sham Stakes (G3) victory. As I said in my recap of that race, he was goofy, green, and lugging out in the stretch. His final quarter took almost 26 seconds and clear runner-up Medina Spirit was definitely getting to him. Medina Spirit came back and won the Robert Lewis Stakes and his speed figure dipped. At this stage Life Is Good looks like a miler, but 2020 Sham hero Authentic appeared to have distance limitations as well after the SA Derby (G1) and Haskell (G1), and Baffert worked his magic and got him to win a pair of G1 races at a mile and a quarter in September and November last year (Kentucky Derby, BC Classic). I want to watch his upcoming workouts closely to see if he is able to ration his speed better. The March 6 San Felipe Stakes is the logical next step.


(4) MANDALOUN (Into Mischief – Brooch, by Empire Maker)

Trainer: Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.80 (1/35) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 6.

Comments: Another well-bred colt trained by Brad Cox, and this one is 2-for-3. The Juddmonte Farms runner overcame a troubled trip to capture his Keeneland debut at 6.5f, and stalked outside and got better as the race wore on in an extended sprint at Churchill Downs second time out Nov. 28. He stalked tepid fractions from the outside post in the LeComte and ended up just missing the place in a solid effort. He may have run the best race of the top three finishers that day. He will add blinkers for his next engagement in the Risen Star Stakes at FG on Feb. 13, and you can see a big difference in his last two works. His earlier works at FG were not flashy, but his last two moves were a second best of 99 breeze on Jan 30, and a best of 35 bullet on Feb. 6.


(5) GREATEST HONOUR (Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry)

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Comments: I profiled this one as a hot prospect in my Jerome/Sham video. He finished in the trifecta in all five starts and overcame some trouble from off the pace in his winning dirt route maiden victory at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 26. He made his stakes debut in the Holy Bull (G3) at GP on Jan. 30, and he rolled from off the pace and won by a decisive 5+ lengths. He has a classy pedigree and appears to want more ground, and the Fountain of Youth at the Gulf on Feb. 27 might be his next target.


(6) KEEPMEINMIND (Laoban – Inclination, by Victory Gallop)

Trainer (Robertino Diodoro)

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.60 (13/23) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 8.

Comments: Landed the place in his special weight debut in a one mile race at Churchill Nov. 2, and that was the only time he raced in the maiden ranks. In his second career start, he stretched out to two turns and rallied for the place in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and he was along for the show in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He broke through with his first career victory in a last-to-first triumph in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs Nov. 28. He racked up 18 Derby points last year. He lacks early speed but the solid late runner has plenty of stamina. He was entered in the Risen Star at FG on Feb. 13 but is expected to scratch and run in the Southwest Stakes (G3) at OP on Feb. 20.


(7) THE GREAT ONE (Nyquist – Little Ms Protocol, by El Corredor)

Trainer – Doug O’Neill

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.40 (42/59) at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 6.

Comments: This one was a bit slow to develop as a juvenile. He was unplaced in his first three starts, and seemingly out of the blue he almost upset Spielberg in the Los Al Futurity (G2) Dec. 19. He throughout dusted three opponents in his flat mile maiden win at Santa Anita Jan. 23. He won that race by 14-lengths and has shown excellent progress in his last two starts. These Derby trail runners can get good in a hurry and his next start might come in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 6.


(8) HIGHLY MOTIVATED (Into Mischief – Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward)

Trainer: Chad Brown

Latest Workout: 4f in 49.20 (6/21) at Payson Park on Feb. 6.

Comments: Earned a strong number in the Nyquist Stakes Nov. 6 and that was the best speed rating of any juvenile during the 2-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships. We know he is a talented sprinter and they are going to give him a chance to route this year. He returned to the worktab in Florida on Jan. 16 and is scheduled to make his first start of 2021 in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 6.


(9) MIDNIGHT BOURBON (Tiznow – Catch The Moon, by Malibu Moon)

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.40 (26/44) at Fair Grounds on Feb. 8.

Comments: He flashed ability as a juvenile in the Iroquois (G3) and Champagne (G1), but was not able to put it all together at that stage. Fast forward to his 2021 debut in the LeComte (G3) at FG on Jan. 16, and everything fell into place. Multiple speed horses scratched, and he was able control the pace from the rail in a one-length victory. He earned an improved speed rating last time and might continue to progress. He goes next start in the Risen Star (G2) at FG on Feb. 13.


(10) RISK TAKING (Medaglia d’Oro – Run a Risk, by Distorted Humor)

Trainer: Chad Brown

Comments: This colt has sort of come out of nowhere. He was no threat in his first two career starts last fall, and he returned to dirt, stretched out to a mile and an eighth, and smartly graduated from a stalking position at Aqueduct on 12-13-20. He jumped into the stakes ranks in the Withers (G3) at 9f Feb. 6, and he rallied from off the pace to easily take that one. He is 2-for-2 at 9f and is steadily improving for Chad Brown, and he can stalk and finish. He is suddenly a very interesting player on the Derby trail.


(11) MEDINA SPIRIT (Protonico – Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed)

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Comments: He is not your typical expensive yearling purchase with a flashy pedigree for Baffert. This overachiever has a big heart like Silver Charm and he keeps fighting all the way to the end. His stablemate Life Is Good was in complete command in the Sham (G3) but this one kept chipping away and made it close at the end. In the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3), he set the pace and put away the early challengers, and held off a stalker and a closer to hold on by a determined neck. I am not sure how far he wants to go but there is no doubt that this street fighter has a winning spirit.


THE NEXT NINE: (12) Hot Rod Charlie, (13) Proxy, (14) Concert Tour, (15) Prevalence, (16) Prime Factor, (17) Freedom Fighter, (18) He’s In Charge, (19) Roman Centurian, (20) Dream Shake

Article by Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak posts stakes recaps from Del Mar and Santa Anita Park, along with full card recaps and free stakes picks from Southern and/or Northern California.