LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Essential Quality is the 2-1 morning-line favorite and will start in the No. 14 post for Saturday’s 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
The $3 million, 1 1/4-mile marquee race for 3-year-olds is back on the first Saturday of May after being postponed to Labor Day weekend last fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race is expected to be seen in person by 45,000 audiences.
Rock Your World is the 5-1 second choice from the No. 15 slot with known Agenda that the 6-1 third choice despite drawing on the railroad from the 20-horse area. Hot Rod Charlie attracted 8-1 odds since the fourth pick from the No. 9 slot.
The apparent focus is on Vital Quality, the reigning 2-year-old winner who enters the Run for the Roses 5-0. His haul of graded stakes victories includes a gutsy Blue Grass success at Keeneland on April 3 which vaulted the grey son of Tapit towards the top of this Derby standings with 140 points and hammering him as the projected favorite.
Essential Quality is just one of two entries trained by Brad Cox, who grew up a couple of blocks from Churchill Downs and is trying to become the initial Louisville native to win the race. The Eclipse Award winner will also saddle Mandaloun from the No. 7 spot as a 15-1 choice within his Derby debut.
Known Agenda contributes Todd Pletcher’s four-horse contingent that contains Bourbonic, who attracted the outside No. 20 post; Dynamic One (No. 11, 20-1 chances ) and Sainthood (No. 5, 50-1).
Hot Rod Charlie’s post draw at the midst brought a loud cheer from his contingent since the colt averted being bunched inside out of the gate. Trainer Doug O’Neill’s colt won the Louisiana Derby by two lengths and was second to Vital Quality with 110 Derby points.
This year’s race will be conducted for the first time using the anti-bleeding drug Lasix within this sport’s effort to move toward the removal of race-day medication.
Formally known as furosemide, it is given as a shot about four hours before a race to stop or reduce the seriousness of exercise-induced bleeding from the lungs. It also works as a diuretic which causes horses to urinate and lose 20 to 30 pounds of fluid, thus increasing their capacity to operate faster.
The last horse to win the Derby without Lasix was Grindstone in 1996.
Churchill Downs declined to award qualifying points in this year’s Kentucky Derby prep races to some horse operating race-day Lasix. The Breeders’ Cup is following suit, using a Lasix ban because of its own qualifying races and no points given to horses using it.
“The longer we have done it, the longer I have been able to adjust,” O’Neill explained. “The horses have kept their form with no. They do seem to come out of their races with much more energy, and they return to their normal exercise energy faster so that they recover quicker without Lasix.”