America’s longest-running sporting event returns to its traditional location on the calendar, the first Saturday of May. The 147th edition appeared for COVID-19 less than eight months after it was run without an audience last September, making it the shortest time in derby history.
“I wanted to enjoy the derby a little more,” joked trainer Bob Baffert, who won his sixth authentic victory last year.
The eerie silence that subsided when spectators were not allowed at Churchill Downs last year has been replaced by about 45,000 attendees, about 100,000 less than usual. I need a mask. All food and drinks are included, reducing long lines and paying separately for each transaction.
The restoration of the derby on a normal day has corrected last year’s upside-down triple crown. Preakness continues on May 15th, and Belmont, which started the series a year ago, will end it on June 5th.
Essential Quality is a 2-1 favorite and well-meaning early Saturday. The striking gray Colt was last year’s 2-year-old champion. He comes undefeated after five career starts. The last undefeated Colt to beat the derby was Justify in 2018, and he continued to wipe out the triple crown.
Essential Quality is owned and bred by Godolphin Racing, the stables of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Almak Toum. Godolphin Racing is 0-11 in decades of quest to win America’s largest race. The Essential Quality victory will bring further scrutiny of human rights issues, including Shake, which is not among the limited fans present.
This week, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission received a complaint from a group of human rights lawyers and students at the University of Louisville seeking to expel Sheikh Mohammed from the derby on suspicion of human rights abuses. A British judge ruled that he had organized the kidnapping of two of his adult daughters.
Essential quality jockey Luis Saez is aiming for Derby’s first victory after first crossing the finish line on Maximum Security in 2019, but his Colt has been disqualified.
“Essential quality is a natural favorite, but I think it’s a wide open race,” said trainer Todd Pletcher.
Two-time derby winner, Precher, saddles four starters, led by a known agenda of 6-1 shots. His others are listed with double-digit odds: 20-1 Dynamic One, 30-1 Bourbonic, 50-1 St. Hood.
The biggest question for these 3-year-olds is whether they can handle 1 1/4 miles, confused in 19 fields. King Fury got feverish on Friday and trainer Ken McPeak said he would be hurt. As a result, the four horses outside Colt’s 16th post move to one of the starting gates. They run for the first time in front of a noisy crowd since the track was closed to the public due to a pandemic last year.
In addition to the Essential Quality, the other undefeated horses on the field are 5-1 Rock Your World and 50-1 Helium, both 3-0. Rock Your World won the first two starts on the turf before switching to dirt and winning Santa Anita Derby.
Two-time derby winner, trainer Doug O’Neal, will be another player in the 8–1 shot Hot Rod Charlie, a Colt co-owned by nephew Patrick O’Neal and four former Brown University football teammates. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime race for these people,” said Doug O’Neill.
For all its traditions, this year’s derby is one of the first:
- This is the first one to run without Lasix. Previously allowed on race day, anti-bleeding medications are banned by Churchill Downs and other triple crown tracks.
- Brad Cox is about to become the first trainer born in Louisville. In addition to the Essential Quality saddle, he has a 15-1 shot mandarone, and the owner of its Juddmonte, Prince Saudi Khalid Bin Abdullah, died in January. Cox says victory will make him a “pretty good” Jeopardy. It’s a question no one answers. “
- Kendrick Carmouch on the Bourbonic could be won by a black jockey for the first time in 119 years. The derby was won by the Black Rider in 15 of the first 28 editions.
- Vicky Oliver saddles a 50-1 shot hidden stash to win for the first time as a female trainer. Sherry Riley finished second in Casual Lies in 1992.
- Baffert, tied to Ben Jones, who won the most of the derby’s six wins, was a record 15-to-1 shot with the Medina Spirit after other applicants derailed along the derby trail. I came in 7th place. “I’m quietly there, but I need luck,” he said.
- Riding a 20-1 shot midnight bourbon, Mike Smith will be the oldest jockey to win at the age of 55.
Saturday’s forecast requires low sunshine, low humidity and a maximum temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius).
Posting time is 6:57 pm Eastern Standard Time.
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Kentucky Derby 2021: Horse Racing returns to Churchill Downs with fans.An early favorite of Essential Quality
Source link Kentucky Derby 2021: Horse Racing returns to Churchill Downs with fans.An early favorite of Essential Quality