Later this week, the Kentucky Derby will return to its traditional first Saturday in May slot with a 20 horse field that is as balanced and unpredictable as we've seen in quite some time.
Essential Quality led the Road to the Kentucky Derby with just 140 points, and no other horse was able to accumulate more than 110.
As the Run for the Roses approaches, we're taking a look at each horse in the field, recapping their accomplishments and evaluating their chances at Churchill Downs on May 1.
Bourbonic - Historic upset
When Bourbonic crossed the finish line in the 100-40-20-10 Wood Memorial on April 3, he'd recorded one of the biggest odds upsets in Kentucky Derby prep race history and had also presided over the slowest pace ever in the storied race by almost a second and a half. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt won at odds of 72/1, paying $146.50 for a winning wager on the longest shot in the nine horse field.
Bourbonic is one of four colts trained by Pletcher who will run in the Derby and despite his stunning victory, is best-priced at 16/1 with Betfred for victory at Churchill Downs. This isn't because he hasn't demonstrated the ability to win, as his career record of 3-1-0 in six starts highlights, but because it took him three tries to break his maiden and the Wood Memorial was his first crack at a stakes race or Derby prep.
There is also the matter of the slow pace in the Wood Memorial, which is very unlikely to be replicated in the Derby, where there are a number of horses that prefer to get to the front and set a faster pace. Overall, Bourbonic's chances to win the Kentucky Derby are not great, but then again, he won at 72/1 odds in the Wood.
Known Agenda - Peaking at the right time
Another Todd Pletcher entry, Known Agenda is coming off a victory in the 100-40-20-10 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park after a disappointing start to the Derby prep series, which prompted him to be entered in an allowance optional claiming race for a confidence builder. His Florida Derby victory was over a strong 11 horse field that included several Kentucky Derby prospects.
The two horses that finished just behind him at Gulfstream on March 27, Soup and Sandwich and Greatest Honour, will also be in the field at Churchill Downs, and neither got within two-and-three-quarter lengths on that Saturday. Known Agenda seems to have rebounded nicely from his fifth-place finish in the 10-4-2-1 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on February 6, which was won by Candy Man Rocket.
He clearly outclassed the field in his next outing in the allowance run at Gulfstream on February 26, entering as the 1/2 favourite and blitzing the field by 11 lengths over a mile and an eighth. That momentum clearly carried over to the Florida Derby and Pletcher is looking for the same kind of follow-up in the Kentucky Derby, where the extra furlong shouldn't be a factor with Known Agenda's closing speed. He is priced at 12/1 for the Kentucky Derby at William Hill.