Price Headley's 2021 Kentucky Derby Picks

Posted by Bigtrends on April 30, 2021 4:18 PM

Happy Derby! I am so glad to see the Derby back on the first Saturday of May, after last year's September running won by the impressive champion Authentic. It's always my great pleasure to share my annual Kentucky Derby selections and commentary. First, let's start off with an updated table of past Derby winners below, with their speed ratings and final tune-up race. My analysis of past data indicates that horses with strong 100+ speed ratings in preparatory races have a better probability of winning the big race. The weather in Louisville on Saturday is expected to be perfectly sunny for the 1-1/4 mile classic.

Derby Winner BRIS Speed Rating Last race (# weeks before Derby)
107, 105
114, 104
Haskell Invitational (6 weeks)
Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
ALWAYS DREAMING 102, 84 Florida Derby (5 weeks)
NYQUIST 97, 103 Florida Derby (5 weeks)
AMERICAN PHARAOH 102, 99 Arkansas Derby (4 weeks)
CALIFORNIA CHROME 106, 102 Santa Anita Derby (5 weeks)
ORB 97, 102 Florida Derby (5 weeks)
I'LL HAVE ANOTHER 98, 102 Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
ANIMAL KINGDOM 97, 96 Turfway Spiral (5 weeks, poly)
SUPER SAVER 92, 94 Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)
MINE THAT BIRD 96, 98 Sunland Derby (5 weeks)
BIG BROWN 106, 104 Florida Derby (5 weeks)
STREET SENSE 98, 101 Bluegrass Stakes (3 weeks, poly)
BARBARO 104, 104, 97, 97 Florida Derby (5 weeks)
GIACOMO 100, 96, 98, 96 Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
SMARTY JONES 105, 109, 101, 103 Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)
FUNNY CIDE 111, 103, 97 Wood Memorial (3 weeks)
WAR EMBLEM 109, 105, 88, 94 Illinois Derby (4 weeks)
MONARCHOS 108, 108, 106, 98 Wood Memorial (3 weeks)
FUSIACHI PEGASUS 110, 103, 100, 98 Wood Memorial (3 weeks)
CHARISMATIC 104, 94, 94, 94 Lexington (2 weeks)
REAL QUIET 107, 103, 73 Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
SILVER CHARM 102, 98, 105 Santa Anita Derby (4 weeks)
GRINDSTONE 101, 102, 93 Arkansas Derby (3 weeks)
THUNDER GULCH 98, 103, 106 Blue Grass (3 weeks)
GO FOR GIN 104, 105, 99, 100 Wood Memorial (3 weeks)
SEA HERO 96, 85, 77 Blue Grass (3 weeks)
LIL E. TEE 102, 96, 107, 100 Arkansas Derby (2 weeks)
STRIKE THE GOLD 109, 100, 99, 87 Blue Grass (3 weeks)
UNBRIDLED 108, 101, 104, 98 Blue Grass (3 weeks)

This year's race shows only 1 horse that meets my criteria for 2 straight 100+ speeds ratings coming into this Run for the Roses. And it's not the favorite! I tend to bet against the favorite in the Derby in most cases anyway, as this first leg of the Triple Crown is typically jam packed with up to 20 horses and so plenty of racing luck is needed for a smooth trip. I like to find value in the 5-1 to 20-1 range typically for the greatest 2 minutes in sports.

My pick to win the Derby is:

Highly Motivated (Post Position 17, 10-1 odds) is the likely victor, with Brisnet speed ratings of 102, 102 and 102 in his last 3 starts. How's that for consistency?! While these speed numbers are not as high as some past Derby winners, no other horse in the field has a rating higher than 102 and none has 2 100+ readings in a row. Highly Motivated has 3 in a row. Trainer Chad Brown is right there with Bob Baffert for best trainers in the game today, though Brown is looking to get his first Derby win. The rap on the horse is more about no horse ever having won from the 17 post position. But last year Authentic won from the 18 hole as Churchill Downs installed a new starting gate. I think Highly Motivated will break through tomorrow in impressive fashion as he ran a game 2nd by a neck to 2-year-old champion Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Super Stock (PP 18, 30-1):  This Arkansas Derby winner is getting no respect from that victory, as his closer style is assumed to have created a fluke win there when 2 front runners went head to head and burned each other out. But that closing style is just what's needed to win the 1-1/4 mile Derby, a distance none of these youngsters has ever travelled before in a race. He will be near the back of the pack in the early going but don't be surprised if he's flying fast towards the front at the wire.

Rock Your World (PP 15, 5-1):  After winning the Santa Anita Derby and posting a speed rating of 102 (and 91 and 92 in his prior 2 races), this horse is trending up. I just don't see great value there at 5-1 but will use him in exotic bets. 

Essential Quality (PP 14, 2-1): Here you have a wonderful champion from last year that ran gamely to stay undefeated in his last start at Keeneland. I just don't see the value relative to potential traffic trouble and better value elsewhere. Use in exotics.

Midnight Bourbon (PP 9, 15-1) and Medina Spirit (PP 8, 11-1) both could finish strongly late.

Here's my plays I plan to make for the 147th Kentucky Derby:

  • $10 Win on 17
  • $5 Win on 18
  • $5 Exacta box 17, 18, 15
  • $5 Exacta 14 with 15, 17, 18
  • $1 Trifecta 17 with 14,15,18 with ALL

Good Luck!

Price Headley