Log In

Jeff Siegel's 2021 Triple Crown Tracker Power Rankings

by Jeff Siegel

April 6, 2021

Our Triple Crown Tracker Power Rankings identify the best 3-year-olds of 2021 in order of preference, with each horse given a theoretical weight assignment starting at 126 lbs. based on past performance and projected development. The horses listed are assumed to be candidates for at least one of the Triple Crown races.

1 - ESSENTIAL QUALITY (B. Cox) – 126 lbs.
Pedigree: Tapit – Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
Lifetime record: 5-5-0-0 ($2,265,144). Derby points: 140
Last start: April 3, 2021, Keeneland, 9F Blue Grass S.-G2, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: Godolphin homebred; dam graded stakes-placed sprinting half-sister to champion 2yo filly Folklore; 2020 Eclipse Award winning 2-year-old enters the Kentucky Derby-G1 with a perfect record in five starts, most recently when fully extended to win the 9F Blue Grass S.-G2 (by a neck from Highly Motivated) while enjoying a trouble-free pace-stalking trip; had reappeared in top form in late February with an authoritative victory over sloppy going in the 8F Southwest S.-G3 (by four and one-quarter lengths from Spielberg and Jackie’s Warrior); completed his 2-year-old season with back-to-back Grade 1 victories at Keeneland in the 8.5F BC Juvenile-G1 in November when rallying from nine lengths back with the help of the fast-early race-flow to win by three-quarters of a length from 90-1 Hot Rod Charlie and before that with a three and one-quarter length score in the 8.5F Breeders’ Futurity-G1 (from Keepmeinmind); speed figures have risen with every start but without a significant leap and with a career top Beyer number of a good-but-not-great 97; proven so far to be genuine and versatile while giving indication that the Derby’s 10F trip will easily be within his range; in top hands and with every expectation that he’ll continue to develop during the spring of his 3-year-old season.

2 - ROCK YOUR WORLD (J. Sadler) – 125 lbs.
Pedigree: Candy Ride – Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker
Lifetime record: 3-3-0-0 ($546,600). Derby points: 100
Last start: April 3, 2021, Santa Anita, 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, 10F Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: $650,000Y; third foal, lengthy colt with plenty of scope; full-brother to California Gr.3-placed She’s Our Charm; dam multiple stakes winner from a high class staying turf family; unbeaten in three starts, most recently in his first try on dirt when registering a gate-to-wire victory in the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 (by four and one-quarter lengths from Medina Spirit), setting fast fractions and then repelling all challenges to drew clear in the final furlong with complete authority (and galloping out far in front) while earning a career top 100 Beyer speed figure (tops among intended Kentucky Derby starters), previous two wins were accomplished on grass, the listed 8F Pasadena S. in February in visually pleasing style (by two and one-quarter lengths from Cathkin Peak) and a maiden over 6F on grass on New Year’s Day (by one and three-quarter lengths while appearing to toy with his opposition); pedigree suggests he’ll thrive over a classic distance and farther; has proven to be effective on the lead or from a stalking position though he’s yet to experience dirt kickback; will enter the Kentucky Derby-G1 at least among the first three favorites; not a particularly willing performer in the morning and is still a bit green in the p.m. (switched leads twice in the stretch in his most recent start) but has the kind of potential that could reach a championship level.

3 - CONCERT TOUR (B. Baffert) – 124 lbs.
Pedigree: Street Sense – Purse Strings, by Tapit
Lifetime record: 3-3-0-0 ($756,600). Derby points: 50
Last start: March 13, 2021, Oaklawn Park, 8.5FF Rebel S.-G2, finished first.
Next start: April 10, 2021, Oaklawn Park, 9F Arkansas Derby.-G1
Latest workout: April 3, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:12.4h

The skinny: Gary and Mary West Stables homebred; second foal; dam 6F maiden special weight winner at Churchill Downs in 12th (and final) career start; no black type in first two generations; third dam is the granddam of Stardom Bound (champion, BC Juvenile Fillies-G1); unbeaten in three career starts, most recently a dominating gate-to-wire victory in the 8.5F Rebel S.-G2 at Oaklawn Park (by four and one-quarter lengths from stable mate Hozier), quickly establishing the pace from his outside draw and then, after disposing of favored Caddo River, drawing clear under mild urging to win with plenty left; earned solid but not great 94 Beyer speed figure; previously successful with a pace-pressing trip as the 2/5 favorite in five-runner 7F San Vicente S.-G2 (by one-half length from stable mate Freedom Fighter) after winning his debut three weeks earlier in 6F maiden sprint in a highly impressive performance at Santa Anita (forced pace, then kicked clear with power and with plenty left); pedigree suggests a classic distance could be within his capabilities; has so far followed the identical pattern/schedule as B. Baffert’s top class colt from last year, Nadal; likely to use the Arkansas Derby-G1 (April 10) as his final springboard to the Kentucky Derby-G1 three weeks later and seems certain to be a heavy favorite; based purely on speed figures still has some doubters but seems likely to enter the spring classics with an undefeated record.

4 – KNOWN AGENDA (T. Pletcher) – 123 lbs.
Pedigree: Curlin – Byrama, by Byron
Lifetime record: 6-3-1-1 ($541,700). Derby points: 102
Last start: March 28, 2021, Gulfstream Park, Florida Derby-G1, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: St. Elias Stable homebred, dam Gr-1 9F dirt winner in California; verified the highly favorable impression he made in an 11-length 9F allowance victory at Gulfstream Park in February by returning the following month to capture the Florida Derby-G1 over that same track and distance with complete authority (by two and three-quarter lengths from Soup and Sandwich); earned a career top speed figure in that race and appears to be developing with maturity, experience and distance as is typical of offspring of Curlin; was thought of early in his career as a long-winded, plodding type but has displayed improved tactical speed and late acceleration in recent starts; seems certain to enjoy the 10 furlong trip of the Kentucky Derby-G1 and is likely to step forward again and be a major player in the spring classics.

5 - HOT ROD CHARLIE (D. O’Neill) – 122 lbs.
Pedigree: Oxbow – Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie
Lifetime record: 7-2-1-02 ($1,00,700). Derby points: 110
Last start: March 20, 2021, Fair Grounds, 9.5F Louisiana Derby-G2, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: April 3, Santa Anita, 4f, :49.2h

The skinny: $110,000Y, half-brother to champion sprinter Mtole; non-winning dam a half-sister to Davona Dale S.-G2 winner Live Lively; versatile colt has been successful on the lead or from off the pace and returned to winning form in his second 2021 outing when making all in the 9.5F Louisiana Derby-G2, relaxing without undue pressure to the top of the lane and then fighting off all challenges to register two length score (from Midnight Bourbon) while establishing new track record (1:55.06) and earning a career top 99 Beyer speed figure; had displayed plenty of promise during his juvenile campaign, beating maidens in his fourth start before finishing second (with the help of the race-shape) to champion Essential Quality in BC Juvenile-G1 by three quarters of a length at 91-1 after striking the front in mid-stretch; performed well when third (beaten a neck) behind Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian) in his 3yo debut in late January in the Robert B. Lewis S.-G3 while appearing to have winning momentum inside the furlong pole but then losing his punch close home while likely needing the outing; doesn’t have a great turn of foot and may be most effective as a stalker or pace presser; will be trained up to the Kentucky Derby with six weeks in between starts.

6 - GREATEST HONOUR (C. McGaughey III) – 121 lbs.
Pedigree: Tapit – Tiffany’s Honour, by Street Cry
Lifetime record: 6-3-1-2 ($351,940). Derby Points: 80
Last start: March 26, 2021, Gulfstream Park, 8.5F Florida Derby-G1, finished third
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: Was entered but withdrawn from 2019 Keeneland fall sale, second foal, dam unplaced half-sister to four SW’s including Rags to Riches and Jazil (both winners of Belmont S.-G1) and to BC Marathon S.-G1 winner Man of Iron; second dam Broodmare of the Year Better than Honour; impressive come-from-behind winner of the 8.5F Holy Bull S.-G3 (by five and three-quarter lengths from Tarantino) in January and then the Fountain of Youth S.-G2 (by one and one-half lengths from Drain the Clock) the following month but finished a non-threatening third (beaten nearly six lengths) in the 9F Florida Derby-G1 in his most recent outing at odds of 4/5 when racing in some traffic to the head of the lane but then lacking a solid closing kick; has never been particularly fast on speed figures (has yet to earn a Beyer speed figure in the 90’s) leading to speculation that he’s been a tad overrated all along; notoriously lazy in morning workouts; will enter the Kentucky Derby-G1 with the potential to produce a major bounce-back effort, but also with serious issues to answer.

7 – HIGHLY MOTIVATED (C. Brown) – 120 lbs.
Pedigree: Into Mischief – Strong Incentive, by Warrior’s Reward
Lifetime record: 5-2-2-1 ($320,050). Derby points: 50
Last start: April 3, 2021, Keeneland, 9F Blue Grass S.-G2, finished second
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The Skinny: $240K though the ring as a weanling (retained by his breeder); first foal, dam a Canadian-bred sprint SW at 3; in the frame in all five career starts and earned a career top speed figure in early April when second (was five and one-half lengths clear of the rest) as the controlling speed in the 9F Blue Grass S.-G2 by a neck to Essential Quality, giving way grudgingly close home but with a trip that may have flattered the performance; previously appeared a tad rusty when third (by a length and three-quarters to Weyburn) when making his seasonal bow in the 8F Gotham S-G3 the previous month; displayed plenty of potential when easily capturing the listed 6.5F Nyquist S. on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland in November; pedigree suggests a classic distance will be stretching his limit; not likely to enjoy the same type of soft trip in the Kentucky Derby-G1 that he did in his most recent outing and thus his chances must be viewed as somewhat suspect in the spring classics despite the quality and consistency he’s displayed so far in his five-race career.

8 - MEDINA SPIRIT (B. Baffert) – 119 lbs.
Pedigree: Protonico – Mongolian Change, by Brilliant Speed
Lifetime record: 5-2-3-0 ($315,200). Derby points: 74
Last start: April 3, 2021, Santa Anita, Santa Anita Derby-G1, finished second
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F, Kentucky Dereby-G1
Latest workout: None since raced

The skinny: $35,000 OBS 2yo; from first crop of multiple graded SW son of Giant’s Causeway, dam a synthetic maiden special weight winner at Presque Isle Downs; light female family (no SW’s in first three generations); was no match Rock Your World when second (beaten four and one-quarter lengths) in the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 in early April when favored at 4/5, enjoying an ideal pace-stalking trip outside but then proving unable to quicken when the pressure was turned on at the head of the lane; previously had finished a well-beaten second to unbeaten Life Is Good in the 8.5F San Felipe S.-G2 in late March, going down by eight lengths though gamely saving second money after stalking the winner throughout and before that displaying extreme courage when winning 8.5F Robert B. Lewis S.-G3 in late January (by a neck from Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie) despite being under heavy pressure from the far turn to the wire; speed figures are decent but have stagnated in recent outings; pedigree suggests he’ll handle a classic distance but though he’s clearly a reliable and consistent sort his lack of progression and his one-paced style indicate he may have reached his ceiling.

9 – MIDNIGHT BOURBON (S. Asmussen) – 118 lbs.
Pedigree: Tiznow – Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon
Lifetime record: 7-2-2-3 ($461,420. Derby points: 66
Last start: March 20, 2021, Fair Grounds, 9.5F Louisiana Derby-G2, finished second
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: April 4, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:01.1b

The Skinny $525K yearling, half-brother to three black-type performers, including Girvin (Haskell Invitational G1, etc.) and Cocked and Loaded (Iroquois S.-G2, etc.); never off the board in seven career starts with his most notable win the 8.5F Lecomte S.-G3 at Fair Grounds in January (gate-to-wire, by one length from Proxy); subsequently finished third (by one and three-quarters lengths to Mandaloun) in 9F Risen Star S.-G2 in February and then most recently second in the 9.5F Louisiana Derby (by two lengths from Hot Rod Charlie) the following month; perhaps most effective when able to make the running though he has performed well in a stalker’s role; good recent Beyer speed figures indicate there’s better likely to come; will enter the Kentucky Derby-G1 following a six week layoff; clearly a genuine and consistent type though on resume not quite up to the level of the leaders in the division at this stage.

10 – HELLIUM (M. Casse) – 118 lbs.
Pedigree: Ironicus – Thundering Emilla, by Thunder Gulch
Lifetime record: 3-3-0-0 ($287,763). Derby points: 50
Last start: March 6, 2021, Tampa Bay Downs, Tampa Bay Derby-G2, finished first
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: April 3, Palm Meadows, 5f, 1:01.2b

The skinny: $55,000Y; fourth foal, half-brother to Peruvian Gr. 1 winner Emilia’s Moon (by Malibu Moon); dam G3 SW in Peru; undefeated in three starts including the 8.5F Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in his 3-year-old debut (by three-quarters of a length from Hidden Stash), producing a steady bid (was 10th early) to secure the win in good style from a moderate field; previously had won both of his starts as a 2-year-old over the Woodbine synthetic surface (both at seven furlongs), a maiden in September (by three and one-quarter lengths from Excellorator) and then the listed Display S. the following month (by four and one-quarter lengths from Gospel Way); versatile colt has won pressing the pace and from far off the pace; bred to handle any surface and apparently does; should stay a classic distance; speed figures aren’t yet close to being competitive with the tops in his division and will have two months in between races while training up to the Kentucky Derby-G1; obviously is a colt of some quality but the strategy from his connections appears to place a higher emphasis on making the Derby field than actually providing him the proper preparation to have a chance to win it.

Also eligible: Soup and Sandwich (M. Casse); O Besos (G. Foley); Bourbonic (T. Pletcher); Dynamic One; (T. Pletcher); Dream Shake (P. Eurton); Rombauer (M. McCarthy); Mandaloun (B. Cox); Crowded Trade (C. Brown); Like the King (W. Ward); Hozier (B. Baffert)