2021 Kentucky Derby

147th Kentucky Derby
Kentucky Derby
Grade I stakes race
"The Run for the Roses"
Location Churchill Downs
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Date May 1, 2021 (2021-05-01)
Distance 1+14 mi (10 furlongs; 2,012 m)
Winning horse Medina Spirit
Winning time 2:01.36
Final odds 12–1
Jockey John Velazquez
Trainer Bob Baffert
Owner Zedan Racing Stables
Conditions Fast
Surface Dirt
Attendance 51,838[1]
←  2020
2022 →

The 2021 Kentucky Derby (officially, the 2021 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve)[2] was the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. It took place on May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. The field was open to 20 horses,[3] who qualified for the race by earning points on the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of 1+14 miles (2.0 km) and has been run at Churchill Downs racetrack since its inception in 1875. The purse for 2021 was US$3 million. It was won by Medina Spirit,[4] who gave his trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh win in the race and jockey John Velazquez his fourth Derby win.

The race was broadcast by NBC, with coverage by NBCSN of undercard races beginning at 12:30 pm EDT and main network coverage of pre-race activities starting at 2:30 pm EDT. It was also livestreamed on NBCSports.com. The post time was 7:01 pm.[5]


The 2021 edition of the race returned to the Derby's traditional date on the first Saturday in May, when it had been held for 89 of the last 90 years.[5] Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 race was delayed to September and had no paid attendance. The Derby typically has one of the highest audiences of all North American sporting events, in the range of 150,000 in recent years, which includes a large infield crowd. The 2021 had a reduced attendance, with reserved seating limited to about 60% of capacity.[6] About 15,000 general admission tickets to the infield were also sold – roughly 25% to 30% of capacity.[7]


The Kentucky Derby is only open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds,[8] thus entrants in the 2021 race were foaled in 2018, as part of the North American foal crop of 21,181.[9][a] The field is limited to twenty horses who qualify based on points earned in the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of designated races that was first introduced in 2013. This point system replaced the previous graded stakes race earnings system.[10]

Most positions in the Derby starting gate are earned on the main Road, consisting of 35 races in North America plus one in Dubai. The major preps for the Kentucky Derby are the Louisiana Derby, Jeff Ruby Steaks, UAE Derby, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Arkansas Derby. Each of these races provided the winner with 100 qualifying points, essentially guaranteeing that horse a berth in the Derby provided the owner paid the required nomination and entry fees. The first four of these major preps were run in late March 2021 and were won by Hot Rod Charlie, Like The King, Rebel's Romance, and Known Agenda respectively. The next three major preps were run on April 3, 2021and were won by Bourbonic, Essential Quality, and Rock Your World. The last major prep was run on April 10 and was won by Super Stock.[11]

One qualification position was also available via the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, and another via the Japan Road. Due in part to ongoing restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, none of these offers were accepted in 2021. These two positions reverted to qualifiers on the main Road.[11]


The favorite for the 2021 Kentucky Derby was Essential Quality, who was undefeated in all five of his previous starts including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes. Essential Quality trained at Churchill Downs and had previously won at the track, giving him a home field advantage. His main rivals were the Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World, Florida Derby winner Known Agenda, and Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie. There were also several highly regarded horses who were runners-up in these events, including Highly Motivated who was second in the Blue Grass, Midnight Bourbon who was second in the Louisiana Derby, and Medina Spirit (the eventual winner), who was second in the Santa Anita Derby.[12] The other major preps were less impressive to handicappers, and the winners of those were relative longshots in the Derby. For example, the 72–1 Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic went off at odds of 28–1.[12][13][14]

The post position draw was held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 27.[5]

Race description

Trainer Bob Baffert earned a Derby record seventh win.

In his previous race at Santa Anita, Medina Spirit had rated behind the pace set by Rock Your World and had finished second. For the Derby, jockey John Velazquez decided to change tactics and instead sent Medina Spirit to the early lead with Soup and Sandwich in second. Several horses, including Essential Quality and Rock Your World, bumped at the start and lost position – Rock Your World never recovered while Essential Quality was carried wide around the first turn. Medina Spirit set solid fractions of :46.70 for the half-mile and 1:11.21, after which Soup and Sandwich fell back, eventually finishing last. Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie moved into contention as the field completed the mile in 1:35.98, with Mandaloun closing to within a head of Medina Spirit. Essential Quality looked threatening while making a wide move but lost momentum as they turned into the stretch. In a close finish, Medina Spirit held off his rivals to win by half a length over Mandaloun with Hot Rod Charlie just edging Essential Quality for third.[15][1]

It was a record-breaking seventh Derby win for trainer Bob Baffert, who had earned his first such win in 1997 with Silver Charm. It was the fourth win for jockey Velazquez and the first for Zedan Racing Stables.[1][16]

Medina Spirit's share of the purse was $1,860,000.[15]


Finish Program
Horse Qualifying
Trainer Jockey[18] Morning
Line Odds[14]
1 8 Medina Spirit 74 Bob Baffert John Velazquez 15–1 12.10 $1,860,000
2 7 Mandaloun 52 Brad Cox Florent Geroux 12–1 26.90 +12 length $600,000
3 9 Hot Rod Charlie 110 Doug O'Neill Flavien Prat 8–1 5.60 1 length $300,000
4 14 Essential Quality 140 Brad Cox Luis Saez 2–1 2.90* 1 length $150,000
5 6 O Besos 25 Greg Foley Marcelino Pedroza 20–1 41.70 5+12 lengths $90,000
6 10 Midnight Bourbon 66 Steve Asmussen Mike Smith 20–1 13.20 8+14 lengths
7 4 Keepmeinmind 18 Robertino Diodoro David Cohen 20–1 49.00 8+12 lengths
8 12 Helium 50 Mark Casse Julien Leparoux 50–1 38.10 10+12 lengths
9 1 Known Agenda 102 Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz Jr. 6–1 9.90 10+34 lengths
10 17 Highly Motivated 50 Chad Brown Javier Castellano 10–1 10.70 11 lengths
11 5 Sainthood 40 Todd Pletcher Corey Lanerie 50–1 43.40 12+34 lengths
12 2 Like the King 104 Wesley Ward Drayden Van Dyke 50–1 49.90 12+34 lengths
13 20 Bourbonic 100 Todd Pletcher Kendrick Carmouche 30–1 30.40 16 lengths
14 13 Hidden Stash 32 Vicki Oliver Rafael Bejarano 50–1 39.40 16+34 lengths
15 3 Brooklyn Strong 10 Daniel Velazquez Umberto Rispoli 30–1 43.50 18+14 lengths
16 18 Super Stock 109 Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana Jr. 30–1 33.90 19+34 lengths
17 15 Rock Your World 100 John Sadler Joel Rosario 5–1 4.70 24+14 lengths
18 11 Dynamic One 40 Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz 20–1 45.30 32+14 lengths
19 19 Soup and Sandwich 40 Mark Casse Tyler Gaffalione 30–1 26.90 65+14 lengths
n/a 16 King Fury 20 Kenneth McPeek Brian Hernandez Jr. 20–1 Scratched[c] n/a n/a

Track condition: fast

Times: 14 mile – 23.09; 12 mile – 46.70; 34 mile – 1:11.21; mile – 1:35.98; final – 2:01.02.
Splits for each quarter-mile: (23.09) (23.61) (24.51) (24.77) (25.04)

Source: Equibase chart[15]


The table below shows the payout schedule for the 2021 Kentucky Derby[15]

Horse name Win Place Show
8 Medina Spirit $26.20 $12.00 $7.60
7 Mandaloun $23.00 $13.40
9 Hot Rod Charlie $5.20

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