We're entering the home stretch to Saturday's Kentucky Derby and the 20 horses that will run at Churchill Downs appear to be set, with the exception of any last-minute scratches and replacements. There is a lot of balance in the field, with only one horse, the undefeated Essential Quality, having managed to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
With just a few days left until the opening race of the 2021 Triple Crown Series, we continue our breakdown of the field with an examination of the individual horses, their qualifications and prospects for success in the Kentucky Derby.
Like the King - Under the radar
The Wesley Ward-trained colt is in the Kentucky Derby by virtue of a victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, perhaps the most lightly regarded 100-40-20-10 points race of all of those in the Championship Series. It's run on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park and it has just recently been upgraded to the highest level of points awarded for Kentucky Derby qualifying.
Like the King won an exciting race, coming from off the pace to challenge and eventually win by a head over Sainthood, who will also compete in the Kentucky Derby. In his only previous stakes race, he finished second in the 10-4-2-1 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, also at Turfway on February 26 after winning an allowance race at the same track back on December 4.
Despite his 104 qualifying points, which puts him in fourth place among the horses expected to run on Saturday, Like the King is lightly regarded and is at 25/1 with the likes of William Hill. It might take a long time for the Jeff Ruby Steaks to attract a strong enough field for the winner to be considered among the top of the Derby field.
Super Stock - Upset in Arkansas
Super Stock was the last in a long line of upset winners in the 100-40-20-10 qualifying races to close out the Kentucky Derby Championship Series as he won the Arkansas Derby as a 12/1 underdog. Being able to view the race from the press box at Oaklawn Park was a treat, as was cashing in a $0.50 1-2 exacta ticket for $43.50 when Caddo River came home in second.
Although his win on April 10 was a surprise, the Steve Asmussen-trained horse was one of only three Derby hopefuls to pick up qualifying points in four races, running his total to 109, which was good for third place among those in Saturday's field. Super Stock is considered a middle-of-the-pack possibility - at best-priced 14/1 with Betfred - but won't be expected to make a run for the crown.
However, his stakes racing experience, particularly in the Kentucky Derby prep races, should serve him well if the pace is to his liking and he finds himself still in the mix coming down the stretch. Just as he did in the Arkansas Derby, if he has a shot near the end of the race, he just might be able to take advantage of the opportunity.