Undefeated Essential Quality opens as 2-1 Kentucky Derby favorite

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Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Champion 2-Year-Old Male Essential Quality leads the 20-horse field as the 2-1 favorite from the No. 14 position in the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The undefeated grey colt is trained by Brad Cox, who looks to become the first Louisville native to win the Derby.

Jockey Luis Saez seeks redemption after finishing first in the 2019 Derby aboard Maximum Security, whose historic Kentucky Derby disqualification snaked through courts for over a year. Saez didn’t ride in last year’s race.

Essential Quality is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, which has never fielded a Derby winner.

Bourbonic (30-1) will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, the first Black jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby since Kevin Krigger in 2013. A Black rider hasn’t won the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield went back-to-back in 1901 and 1902.

Bourbonic made waves when he pulled off the biggest Wood Memorial upset in history at 72-1 on April 3. He will start on the far outside in the No. 20 post position.

Trainer Vicki Oliver makes her Kentucky Derby debut with 50-1 longshot Hidden Stash from the No. 13. She becomes the first woman to saddle a Derby contender since Carla Gaines with Bolo in 2015. No female trainer has ever won in the race’s 147 editions.

The 2021 Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app. Post time for the 2021 Kentucky Derby is set for approximately 6:57 p.m. ET.

Related: How to watch the 2021 Kentucky Derby

NBC Sports will also air the Kentucky Oaks the day before on Friday, April 30 from 12 to 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Fans will return to Churchill Downs after the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted last year’s race. The 146th Kentucky Derby was moved from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, Sept. 5 and was run without fans in the stands.

Related: What to know about the 2021 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby 2021 post positions, odds

Below are the post positions for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, including current odds as of April 27.

1. Known Agenda (6-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

2. Like the King (50-1)
Trainer: Wesley Ward
Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

3. Brooklyn Strong (50-1)
Trainer: Daniel Velazquez
Jockey: Umberto Rispoli

4. Keepmeinmind (50-1)
Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
Jockey: David Cohen

5. Sainthood (50-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Corey Lanerie

6. O Besos (20-1)
Trainer: Greg Foley
Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza

7. Mandaloun (15-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux

8. Medina Spirit (15-1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez

9. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Flavien Prat

10. Midnight Bourbon (20-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Mike Smith

11. Dynamic One (20-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz

12. Helium (50-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Julien Leparoux

13. Hidden Stash (50-1)
Trainer: Vicki Oliver
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

14. Essential Quality (2-1) – Morning-line favorite
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez

15. Rock Your World (5-1)
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Joel Rosario

16. King Fury (20-1)SCRATCHED
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

17. Highly Motivated (10-1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Javier Castellano

18. Super Stock (30-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

19. Soup and Sandwich (30-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

20. Bourbonic (30-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Watch the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

bob baffert
Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.