Essential Quality A Kentucky Derby Favorite

Written By Dave Bontempo on April 30, 2021
kentucky derby betting

The Derby is back.

Horse racing takes center stage for bettors in Iowa with the return of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday in its traditional time slot.

The 147th running of this Triple Crown event, dubbed “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” has a post time of 5:57 p.m. CST.

The Derby field of 20 thoroughbreds anticipates a fast track and sunshine this Saturday, which gamblers prefer. The race is contested at 1.25 miles, which none of the horses have ever run.

How to bet on the Kentucky Derby in Iowa

Brian Ohorilko, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) administrator, said there are multiple horse betting options in Iowa, including off-track betting (OTB) sites.

Online pari-mutuel betting

“We have one company that’s licensed to offer online pari-mutuel wagering. That company is TVG,” said Ohorilko.

TVG is a simulcast and online horse race betting app that allows you to wager on the ponies, witness the post parade and watch races.

OTB sites in Iowa

Danny Lawhon /Catena Media

Several casinos in Iowa are licensed to allow pari-mutuel horse betting. They are:

During the IRGC meeting on April 15, two other Iowa casinos were approved for OTB capabilities:

Ohorilko said the two sites would be able to offer pari-mutuel wagering through the Iowa Greyhound Association license but likely won’t be ready in time for the Derby:

“It sounds like both facilities are working on getting all the equipment in and their staff trained, and I don’t think they will have wagering by the Kentucky Derby, which is the first Saturday of May. But, but it does sound like, at some time in May — so prior to the other Triple Crown races, we would expect to see simulcast wagering offered at those two facilities.”

2021 Kentucky Derby odds

Here are the 2021 Kentucky Derby post positions and some observations about the early favorites and their opening betting odds (The odds won’t be official until post time.):

  1. Known Agenda: 6-1
  2. Like The King: 50-1
  3. Brooklyn Strong: 50-1
  4. KeepMeInMind: 50-1
  5. Sainthood: 50-1
  6. O Besos: 20-1
  7. Mandaloun: 15-1
  8. Medina Spirit: 15-1
  9. Hot Rod Charlie: 8-1
  10. Midnight Bourbon: 20-1
  11. Dynamic One: 20-1
  12. Helium: 50-1
  13. Hidden Stash: 50-1
  14. Essential Quality: 2-1
  15. Rock Your World: 5-1
  16. King Fury: 20-1
  17. Highly Motivated: 10-1
  18. Super Stock: 30-1
  19. Soup And Sandwich: 30-1
  20. Bourbonic: 30-1

Essential Quality: 2-1

The favorite is five-for-five in his career and has scored narrow-margin victories over two other contenders: Highly Motivated and Hot Rod Charlie.

Essential Quality edged out Hot Rod Charlie in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall and outlasted the stubborn Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes‘ prep race.

Will he near the pace or sit back, hoping front-running Rock Your World gets caught in a speed duel?

Rock Your World: 5-1

Will Rock Your World break right next to Essential Quality?

He enjoyed a tremendous victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, surviving a blistering speed duel and having enough left to wire the field eventually. Winning the Santa Anita Derby was impressive for his first race on dirt.

He previously held two turf victories and has a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, the highest in the race. This number conveys a horse’s performance in a race matched up against the track record for that distance and the track surface on that day.

Highly Motivated: 10-1

Highly Motivated could engage in a thrilling stretch duel with Essential Quality before falling just short. If Essential Quality is the horse, Highly Motivated could be right there and in the exacta and trifecta picture.

Hot Rod Charlie: 8-1

He just missed against Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall. Battled Gamely and won the Louisiana Derby with a strong effort. There’s no reason to suggest he shouldn’t be in the mix heading for home.

Known Agenda: 6-1

This horse draws the dreaded rail. No horse has prevailed from the one post since Ferdinand in 1986. Will he be stuck behind a wall of horses?

Midnight Bourbon: 20-1

He ran a good second to Hot Rod Charlie in the Louisiana Derby in March. A small improvement would put Midnight Bourbon right in the mix. Midnight Bourbon was heads apart with O Besos in that race. If you like one long shot, play them both.

O Besos: 20-1

More people like this horse, who finished necks apart with Midnight Bourbon. He will be a consideration for “exotic” wagers.

Wagering observations

It’s a good idea to watch previous races at Churchill Downs to see how the track is “playing.” This will provide clues whether the Derby may favor a particular running style. Questions to consider:

  • Do horses break near the front of the pack and win?
  • Do they “come off the pace,” stalking the leaders and running them down in the stretch?

Kentucky Derby facts

The Derby was postponed until September last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a sign of the nation’s recovery, about 45,000 fans can be in attendance this year at the Churchill Downs track.

The all-time attendance record was 170,513 fans in 2015.

American Pharoah won that meet. He also went on to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Secretariat holds the Kentucky Derby record of 1:59.40, set in 1973.

Russ Mitchell contributed to this report.

Photo by Michael Conroy / AP
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and iGaming player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal sports betting.

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