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Undefeated Essential Quality headlines field of 20 for Saturday’s 147th running of Kentucky Derby

By Liane Crossley
Special to NKyTribune

Essential Quality, unbeaten in five career starts, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 147th running of the $3-million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Twenty Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 1 1/4-mile race for three-year-olds with a post time of 6:57 p.m. ET. NBC television coverage begins at 2:30 with pre-race broadcasting starting at 12:30 on NBCSN. TVG also will carry coverage of the Kentucky Derby and undercard races.

The Run for the Roses — also dubbed the most exciting or fastest two minutes in sports — is traditionally contested on the first Saturday in May but was held September 5 last year. The pandemic-delayed race was won by Authentic in front of a crowd restricted to those connected to horses racing that day. Fans are allowed this year on a limited basis.

Here is the field in post-position order with state of birth in parentheses.

1. Known Agenda (Ky.)

One of four entrants from the barn of two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Known Agenda tuned up for the Kentucky Derby by winning the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 27.

Kentucky connection: His sire Curlin resides at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Paris.

2. Like the King (Ky.)

Like the King stamped his ticket to the Kentucky Derby with his victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on Turfway Park’s all-weather surface on March 27.

Kentucky connection: He was sold as a weanling at the Keeneland November sale for $28,000. He is a son of Palace Malice, a stallion at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway.

3. Brooklyn Strong (N.Y.)

A feel-good story for the dreamers who believe anyone can win the Kentucky Derby, Brooklyn Strong was purchased by his current owner as a two-year-old for $5,000 at an Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. auction in Florida. He earned his qualifying points when he won the Remsen Stakes in December at New York’s Aqueduct where he was fifth in the Wood Memorial Stakes in his only start this year. His name is a nod to his sire, Wicked Strong, and his owner’s hometown area.

Kentucky connection: His paternal grandsire, Hard Spun, was runner-up in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and is a stallion at Darley in Lexington.

4. Keepmeinmind (Ky.)

Keepmeinmind has accumulated a hefty bankroll by finishing close in lucrative races last year. He has won only once but that triumph came at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November.

Kentucky connection: His sire Laoban is part of the stallion contingent at WinStar Farm in Versailles.

5. Sainthood (Ky.)

Sainthood returns to action after finishing second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 27 on the all-weather track at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky. He is one of four entrants from the barn of two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

Kentucky connection: Sainthood was sold for $100,000 as a newly turned yearling at the 2019 Keeneland January sale. He returned to the same auction house that September but was listed as not sold on a final bid of $90,000. His sire, Mshawish, is at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville.

6. O Besos (Ky.)

O Besos has what no other entrant has—a sire who won the Derby in Orb, who wore the roses in 2013. O Besos comes into the Derby off a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on March 27.

Kentucky connection: His sire Orb had been at Claiborne Farm in Paris before being purchased recently for stud duty in Uruguay.

7. Mandaloun (Ky.)

Mandaloun stamped himself as a Derby contender when he won the Risen Star at Fair Grounds in New Orleans in February. He is looking to rebound after finishing off the board in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March. Like Derby contender Essential Quality, Mandaloun is trained by Louisville native Brad Cox.

Kentucky connection: Mandaloun races for his breeder Juddmonte Farms, the world-renowned operation with a division in Lexington. Juddmonte’s founder Prince Khalid bin Abdullah passed away in January at age 85. Mandaloun’s sire Into Mischief resides at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

8. Medina Spirit (Fl.)

This is the rags-to-riches story for those cheering for an underdog. Medina Spirit was sold as a yearling at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. in Florida of $1,000 and resold the following year at the same auction house for $35,000. He has since banked nearly 10 times that amount while racing in California where he was runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 in his most recent start. He is trained by Bob Baffert who is tied for most Derby wins with six.

Kentucky connection: His sire Protonico resides at Castleton Lyons in Lexington.

9. Hot Rod Charlie (Ky.)

Hot Rod Charlie (Photo by Jamie Newell, Twinspires, via Kentuckyderby.com

In his most recent start, Hot Rod Charlie won the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. The runner-up to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last year is trained by Doug O’Neill who has won the Kentucky Derby twice.

Kentucky connection: Hot Rod Charlie changed hands twice in 2019 via the Fasig-Tipton sales company in Lexington. He was a $17,000 purchase in February that year and went to his current connections for $110,000 that October. His sire Oxbow resides at Calumet Farm in Lexington.

10. Midnight Bourbon (Ky.)

This colt gained some early fame on April 19 when he escaped his handlers and scampered untethered near his barn. The 35-second jaunt captured by a Louisville television station soon went viral on the internet. Midnight Bourbon is exiting a runner-up effort in the Louisiana Derby on March 20 in his most recent start. Like Super Stock, he is trained by Steve Asmussen.

Kentucky connection: Midnight Bourbon was sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $525,000. His sire Tiznow is at WinStar Farm in Versailles.

11. Dynamic One (Ky.)

One of four entrants for trainer Todd Pletcher, Dynamic One earned his Derby qualifying points when he finished second in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York on April 3.

Kentucky connection: He was purchased at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $725,000. His sire, Union Rags, is at Lane’s End in Versailles.

12. Helium (Ky.)

Helium remained unbeaten in three starts when he scored his third career victory in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 6 in his most recent effort. He comes from the barn of trainer Mark Casse, who also is represented by Soup and Sandwich.

Kentucky connection: Helium was sold for $55,0000 at Fasig-Tipton Co.’s October yearling sale in Lexington. His sire Ironicus is at Claiborne Farm in Paris.

13. Hidden Stash (Ky.)

Hidden Stash was second in the Tampa Bay Derby in March and fourth in Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes in April. Trained by Vicki Oliver, his presence will mark the 18th time a woman has had a Kentucky Derby starter and the first since 2015.

Kentucky connection: Hidden Stash races for the partners in BBN Racing, a name derived to echo the University of Kentucky sports fans known as Big Blue Nation. Hidden Stash was a $50,000 purchase at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire Constitution is at WinStar Farm in Versailles.

Essential Quality (Photo by Coady/Keeneland, via Kentuckyderby.com

14. Essential Quality (Ky.)

Undefeated in five career starts against top-shelf competition, the likely race-day favorite comes to Louisville after winning Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes. His resume includes a victory at Churchill Downs in his career debut on the Kentucky Derby undercard in September. He races for his Lexington-based breeder Godolphin and is trained by Louisville native Brad Cox, who also has Mandaloun in the race.

Kentucky connection: His sire Tapit is a stallion at Gainesway in Lexington.

15. Rock Your World (Ky.)

Unbeaten in three career starts, Rock Your World captured the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 in California in his most recent start.

Kentucky connection: Rock Your World was sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $650,000. He is a son of Candy Ride, a stallion at Lane’s End in Versailles.

16. King Fury (Ky.)

King Fury became a late arrival to the qualifier list when he pocketed points for his victory in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes on April 10. He was purchased for $950,000 at Fasig-Tipton Co.’s yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Kentucky connection: His sire Curlin resides at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Paris.

17. Highly Motivated (Ky.)

Highly Motivated confirmed his status as a Derby contender in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 3 when he battled Essential Quality in the stretch before being narrowly defeated.

Kentucky connection: He was sold as a weanling at the Keeneland November sale. He is a son of Into Mischief, a resident of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

18. Super Stock (Ky.)

Super Stock is a sentimental favorite for his feel-good story involving the Asmussen family. He is owned by Nashville music manager Erv Woolsey and the Asmussen clan’s patriarch Keith. He is trained by son Steve, whose own son—also named Keith—was Super Stock’s original jockey. Family matriarch Marilyn is an integral part of their Texas-based Thoroughbred business that is revered for transforming untapped talents into competitive racers. The group was on center stage when Super Stock was the surprise winner of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 10. Steve Asmussen also trains Derby entrant Midnight Bourbon.

Kentucky connection: Super Stock was purchased for $70,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. His sire, Dialed In, resides at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington.

19. Soup and Sandwich (Fl.)

One of the most distinctive entrants because of his name, light gray coat and black mane and tail, Soup and Sandwich is exiting a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby on March 27. Like Helium, he is trained by Mark Casse.

Kentucky connection: His sire, Into Mischief, is at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

20. Bourbonic (Ky.)

A hunch play for those who enjoy Kentucky’s signature spirit, Bourbon was a 72-1 longshot when he won the Wood Memorial at New York’s Aqueduct to become a Derby contender. He is part of the quartet for the aforementioned Pletcher.

Kentucky connection: He is owned by his breeder, the famed white-fenced Calumet Farm in Lexington. His sire, Bernardini, is on the stallion roster at Darley in Lexington.

Box: Derby horses with jockeys and morning-line odds

1. Known Agenda – Irad Ortiz – 6-1
2. Like the King – Drayden Van Dyke – 50-1
3. Brooklyn Strong – Umberto Rispoli – 50-1
4. Keepmeinmind – David Cohen – 20-1
5. Sainthood – Corey Lanerie – 50-1
6. O Besos – Marcelino Pedroza Jr. – 20-1
7. Mandaloun – Florent Geroux – 12-1
8. Medina Spirit – John Velazquez – 15-1
9. Hot Rod Charlie – Flavian Prat – 8-1

10. Midnight Bourbon – Mike Smith – 20-1

11. Dynamic One – Jose Ortiz – 20-1

12. Helium – Julien Leparoux – 50-1

13. Hidden Stash – Rafael Bejarano – 50-1

14. Essential Quality – Luis Saez – 2-1

15. Rock Your World – Joel Rosario – 5-1

16. King Fury – Brian Hernandez Jr. – 20-1

17. Highly Motivated – Javier Castellano – 10-1

18. Super Stock – Ricardo Santana Jr. – 30-1

19. Soup and Sandwich – Tyler Gaffalione – 30-1

20. Bourbonic – Kendrick Carmouche – 30-1

Lexington-based freelance writer Liane Crossley is a lifelong lover of Thoroughbred racing who has held a variety of jobs in both barns and offices. Her favorite part of the industry is being with the horses and the people who share her passion for them. She can be reached at crossleyliane@yahoo.com

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