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The first 170 points Kentucky Derby 2021 prep race was run at Fair Grounds on March 20, and California shipper Hot Rod Charlie seized the early lead and kept on going in the Louisiana Derby. In other Derby news, Bob Baffert’s talented colt Life Is Good is off the Derby trail after experiencing some discomfort in his hind leg after a recent workout. He is out of action for at least 60 days. The next 170 points race is the Florida Derby and you can watch my video analysis of that race at the bottom of this post.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Points Race Recaps

LA Derby (G2) – Fair Grounds (3-20-21)

Midnight Bourbon and Hot Rod Charlie had an early tussle for the lead and the former edged to the fore after the opening half-mile. He stayed right there and Midnight Bourbon kept trying to apply pressure. It really was a match race throughout and Hot Rod Charlie was able to push clear late for a two length tally. Midnight Bourbon held off late running O Besos to garner the place by a head. Proxy ended up an even 4th and the blinkers did not help. The top four were well clear of Starrininmydreams, beaten favorite Mandaloun, Rightandjust, and Run Classic. Mandaloun turned in a head scratching effort. He stalked wide and came up completely empty. Not the time to throw in a clunker in your final Derby prep.


Top 30 Kentucky Derby Points Leaders (thru LA Derby 3-20-21)

110 Points: Hot Rod Charlie

66 Points: Midnight Bourbon

60 Points: Greatest Honour

52 Points: Mandaloun

50 Points: Concert Tour, Helium, Weyburn

40 Points: Essential Quality

34 Points: Medina Spirit, Proxy

25 Points: O Besos

22 Points: Hidden Stash

20 Points: Crowded Trade, Hozier

18 Points: Keepmeinmind

17 Points: Spielberg

14 Points: Rombauer

12 Points: Capo Kane

11 Points: Moonlight Strike, Papetu


Upcoming Derby 2021 Points Races
Florida Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
Jeff Ruby Steaks (100-40-20-10) – March 27
UAE Derby (100-40-20-10) – March 27
Blue Grass (100-40-20-10) – April 3
SA Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 3
Wood Memorial (100-40-20-10) – April 3
Arkansas Derby (100-40-20-10) – April 10
Lexington (20-8-4-2) – April 10


Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2021 Contenders (3-26-21)

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

Trainer – Brad Cox

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.00 (1/25) at Fair Grounds on March 20.

Comments: He has been my top ranked Derby contender since day one and nothing seems to bother this animal. His first start as a 3-year-old was delayed twice, and when he was finally able to run, he just went out there and did his job like the professional he is, and that was his fourth victory in as many starts. The 2-Year-Old Champion can beat you so many different ways. If the pace is slow, he will make his presence felt throughout. If the fractions are hot, he will sit back and make you pay late, and he is just as comfortable stalking the pace. As as added bonus, he handled the wet track just fine in the Southwest. He stalked outside and pulled well clear in the lane. He figures to complete his Derby preparations in the April 3 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He won a pair of G1 routes at that venue last year.


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

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Latest Workout: 4f in 50.40 (12/27) at Payson Park on March 21.

Comments: I have liked this one for a long time. He has made excellent progress from age 2 to 3 and he ran his 2021 record to 3-for-3 with another strong late running victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He is just getting warmed up at a mile and a sixteenth and I cannot wait to see what he can do in longer races. He has a very classy pedigree and Shug McGaughey knows how to get a horse ready for the Kentucky Derby. He goes next in the March 27 Florida Derby and he is the strong morning line favorite.


(3) CONCERT TOUR (Street Sense – Purse Strings, by Tapit)

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Comments: He was excellent in the Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 13. He showed a quick burst of speed out of the gate and took over immediately, and he seemed to catch race favorite Caddo River completely by surprise. He is now a perfect 3-for-3 for Baffert and horses with high cruising speed have been dominating the Kentucky Derby recently.


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

Trainer: Chad Brown

Latest Workout: 5f in 1:01.84 (5/26) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on March 21.

Comments: This colt has stamina and is proven at 9f. He was no threat in his first two career starts last fall, and he returned to dirt, added blinkers, 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 now 2-for-2 at 9f and is steadily improving for Chad Brown, and he can stalk and finish. Brown is training him up to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3.


(5) HOT ROD CHARLIE (Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie)

Trainer – Doug O’Neill (Leandro Mora)

Comments: He really turned things around with the addition of blinkers in dirt routes. He graduated at one mile on dirt in his fourth career start at SA October 2020, and followed that up with a good rallying 2nd from an outer post in the BC Juvenile (G1). He made his 2021 bow in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) at SA on Jan. 30, and he rallied to finish 3rd by a neck. He shipped to Fair Grounds for the LA Derby and was a sharp prominent throughout winner. Doug O’Neill knows how to prepare a horse for the Kentucky Derby and this one seems to be getting good at the right time.


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

Trainer – Bob Baffert

Latest Workout: 5f bullet in 59.00 (1/34) at Santa Anita Park on March 22.

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 battling 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 score by a determined neck. He met Life Is Good again in the San Felipe but never got close to that one in a distant runner-up finish. I am not sure how far he wants to go but there is no doubt that this street fighter enjoys his job.


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

Trainer: Chad Brown

Latest Workout: 4f in 48.01 (1/162) at Belmont Park on March 21.

Comments: Earned a strong number in the Nyquist Stakes on 11-6-20, and that was the best speed rating of any juvenile during the 2-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships. He made his much anticipated sophomore debut in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on March 6, and in that one mile race around one turn, he had a bit of an uncomfortable trip from off the pace. Speed was strong in that race and he rallied for the show in a better than appears effort. I am not sure how far he ultimately wants to go but he deserves a chance to route in an upcoming 9f points race.


(8) PREVALENCE (Medaglia d’Oro – Enrichment, by Ghostzapper)

Trainer: Brendan Walsh

Comments: Sharp winner in both starts around one turn (7f, 8f) at Gulfstream Park. He graduated Jan. 23 and briefly got sick in February while missing some training and an allowance start. He recovered rather quickly and won comfortably March 11. He will get one chance to quality for the Kentucky Derby in the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, or Arkansas Derby.


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

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Comments: You have to admire his consistency and his speed ratings improved in a trio of 2021 starts. Joe Talamo gave him a great ride and he was able control the pace from the rail in a one-length victory in the LeComte on Jan. 16. In his next start in the Risen Star, he tracked the pace and grabbed a short lead, but Mandaloun wore him down and Proxy got past him for the place. He was in the hunt throughout and finished 2nd in the LA Derby. I like his pedigree and early-pressing versatility.


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

Trainer: Brad Cox

Comments: This one ran his record to 3-for-4 in the Risen Star, and threw in a clunker at the worst possible moment in the LA Derby. He tracked the pace outside and faded in the latter race, and that is not the way you want to wrap up Derby trail preparations. There will be many sharp horses heading into the first Saturday in May and he is not one of them. It is a shame because I have always liked this one and he seemed to have all the tools to make a run at the Derby prior to his last.


(11) PROXY (Tapit – Panty Raid, by Include)

Trainer – Michael Stidham

Comments: Clings to the bottom of the list after adding blinkers and finishing a flat 4th in the LA Derby. He just has not been able to break through with a stakes win and the waters will only get deeper from here.


THE NEXT NINE: (12) Collaborate, (13) Weyburn, (14) Crowded Trade, (15) Helium, (16) Dream Shake, (17) Known Agenda, (18) Spielberg, (19) Hush of a Storm, (20) Keepmeinmind

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.