Are Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality justified Kentucky Derby favourites?

The unbeaten Essential Quality is in a class of his own entering the Kentucky Derby, while Hot Rod Charlie finished runner-up on the Road to the Kentucky Derby by picking up points in three races...

The 147th Kentucky Derby takes place on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville and the 20 horse field has been finalised, with no more alternates in the wings if there are any more scratches.

At the conclusion of the Arkansas Derby, the last prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, it appeared that it would take 40 qualifying points to earn an invitation to the Run for the Roses.

With over 15 horses withdrawing for a number of reasons, the field now includes a horse that was only able to accumulate 10 points, so the depth has been greatly reduced. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the race itself will be any less compelling.

This is the final installment of our in-depth look at all of the three-year-olds that will be competing in the Kentucky Derby, recapping their careers and evaluating their chances on May 1.

Hot Rod Charlie - Louisiana Derby winner

Hot Rod Charlie ran three prep races at three different tracks and finished in each of the top three positions on his way to picking up 110 points, the second-most of any horse in the Kentucky Derby field. He ended his impressive run with a win in the 100-40-20-10 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds on March 20 over Midnight Bourbon, O Besos, Proxy and Mandaloun.

Although it took the Leandro Mora-trained colt until his fourth try to break his maiden, his prep race performances were solid, beginning with a runner-up finish in the 20-8-4-2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland on November 6 as the longest shot in the field at 94/1. He followed that up with a third-place finish in the 10-4-2-1 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on January 30.

He's raced against and beaten many of the horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, so Hot Rod Charlie needs to be given serious consideration on Saturday, with both William Hill and Betfred pricing him at 10/1. His second-place finish in the Juvenile was by less than a length to the horse considered the overwhelming favourite, Essential Quality.

Essential Quality - In a class of his own?

Unbeaten in four prep races, Essential Quality topped the standings with 140 points only because his connections chose to skip a 50-20-10-5 race in favour of the 20-8-4-2 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. With the withdrawal of Caddo River, trainer Brad Cox is down to two entries in his first-ever Kentucky Derby, but he may have the most important one still in the race.

Essential Quality benefits greatly from the withdrawal of the Bob Baffert-trained Life Is Good and brings a lot of experience and a 5-0-0 record in five starts into the first Triple Crown Series race. The rest of the field is littered with one-hit wonders, so it's difficult to know if he is the class of the field or just the one with the most prep race success.

The one knock on Essential Quality, who is rated at 9/4, is that he wasn't dominant in his victories, as he was challenged by longshot Hot Rod Charlie and then had to come from behind to edge Highly Motivated by a neck in the 100-40-20-10 Blue Grass Stakes in his last outing at Keeneland. Despite the criticism, he is probably the best horse, but stretching to a mile and a quarter is always a mystery.

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