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2021 Kentucky Derby Workout Analysis & Power Rankings

by Jeff Siegel

April 28, 2021

Workouts are listed in order, as ranked by the grade I have associated with each.  

ROCK YOUR WORLD - April 24, 2021, Santa Anita, 5f, :59.1h | Video 

Broke off about a half-length outside behind Best Chance (5f, 1:00h) and was cruising to the top before being given his cue and leaving his workmate easily with powerful long strides under light hand coaxing, then continued out to the 7/8 pole while full of run, splits on our watches of :24 flat, :35.2 and :59.2 to the wire and then out a full six furlongs in 1:11.3 without really taking a deep breath. This is the best we have seen him work; prior to his Santa Anita Derby win the son of Candy Ride needed to be pushed and shoved on to earn fast clocking but now he is doing it on his own. Galloped out like he will relish 10 furlongs and farther. GRADE: A

DYNAMIC ONE – April 23, 2021, Churchill Downs, 4f, :47.4b | Video

In blinkers, in company breaking off a length behind outside Prime Factor (same time) for T. Pletcher, engaged that one entering the lane and was breezing through the lane to finish stride-for-stride before being asked to gallop out stronger than ‘Factor to the six furlong pole and did so in good style while appearing sharp and on edge. Improving with experience and maturity and appears set to produce another forward move. GRADE: B+

HELIUM – April 23, 2011, Churchill Downs, 4f, :49.4b | Video 

Broke off a length behind workmate, was breezing in effortless fashion while taking control into the lane and was just cruising to the wire before galloping out without taking a deep breath and appearing sharp and content. Undefeated in three career starts and was pounds best (very wide throughout) in the Tampa Bay Derby-G2 in his only 2021 outing six weeks ago. GRADE: B+

SAINTHOOD – April 23, 2021, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:01b | Video 

In company outside Known Agenda (same time) for T. Pletcher and may have been a tad the best while appearing to be going the easier of the two most of the way without ever being turned loose (workmate under mild coaxing at the head of the lane to remain even), with the pair galloping out stride-for-stride to the six furlong pole. Had plenty throughout, certainly handled the dirt track just fine and appears to have come on nicely since his last race in mid-March. GRADE: B+

HOT ROD CHARLIE – April 24, 2021, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:13.3h | Video 

In blinkers, in company outside Chasing Fame (5f, 1:01.3h), breaking off a couple of lengths behind workmate at the five furlong pole and stalking that one in hand to the head of the lane before responding without being asked to roll on by in a visually pleasing manner, splits of :24.3, :36.2 and 1:00.4 (to the wire) and then out to 7/8 pole in 1:13.2 on our watches (eased up to the six furlong pole in 1:27.2). Not scintillating from a time standpoint but did just what was asked of him and was nice and relaxed and happy throughout. GRADE: B

MANDOLOUN – April 17, 2021, Churchill Downs, 6f, 1:11.2b | Video

In blinkers, team drill outside Colonel Bowman (6f, 1:11.4b) for B. Cox, breaking off a length behind while being hard held, joining his company midway on the turn, hitting the wire almost a length in front without being asked (workmate under urging) and then being put to some pressure to finish out the drill to 7/8 pole and then gallop out an extra furlong. Did well enough, strikes us as a one-paced grinding type without a true turn of foot. GRADE: B

BOURBONIC – April 23, 2021, Churchill Downs, 4f, :49.4b | Video 

In blinkers, worked alone and looked fine without being asked, steady splits before galloping out with some energy all the way around to the half mile pole, doing what was asked of him. Plenty fit, maintains his form, the farther the better for this long-winded son of Bernardini. GRADE: B

ESSENTIAL QUALITY - April 17, 2021, Churchill Downs, 5f, :59.3b | Video 

In blinkers, in company outside Spa City (5f, :59.4b) while in hand to the top of the lane and then was under mild coaxing to finish head-and-head at the wire (workmate lightly ridden as well) but never could get by ‘City galloping out despite being ridden as bit with workmate slightly best by almost one length galloping out to the six furlong pole. We cannot knock the drill – the clocking was good, and the B. Cox-trained colt was moving well - but we were hoping to see a bit more from the Kentucky Derby favorite. GRADE: B

KNOWN AGENDA – April 23, 2021, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:01b | Video 

In blinkers, in company inside Sainthood (same time), went off in hand but was about a half-length back at the top before being asked a bit through the lane (workmate breezing) and “re-rallied” to wind up head-and-head at the wire, then galloped out stride-for-stride, decent drill though it appeared workmate could have opened up a bit through the lane if allowed to. Curlin colt is not a speed type, and this type of drill probably does not cast him in his best light; we will classify it as a decent drill but not much better than that. GRADE: B

MEDINA SPIRT – April 22, 2021, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:12.1h | Video

In company outside Azul Coast (6f, 1:12.1h) for B. Baffert and went stride-for-stride with ‘Coast to the head of the lane (neither being asked) before drawing clear approaching the wire to be a little more than a length in front that point (mostly on his own), then drew clear while being ridden out to 7/8 pole while appearing to be leaning in just a tad, splits of :23.3, :35.3, 1:00 flat and 1:12.2 on our watches, galloping out six furlong pole in 1:26.3 well clear of workmate while perhaps losing his focus just a bit. Solid final time but not particularly noteworthy from a visual standpoint. Looks about the same, no better, no worse. GRADE: B

SOUP AND SANDWICH – April 23, 2021, Churchill Downs, 4f, :50b | Video

In company outside Peace Achieved (4f, :50.3b) for M. Casse, was extremely rank approaching the pole while attempting to break off a couple of lengths behind workmate, dropped his head and relaxed a bit once in motion but remained under a tight hold to the top of the lane and then was pulling hard while taking control through the stretch before drawing clear under wraps and remaining somewhat unsettled on the gallop out. Was too keen for our liking early on and may be the type that will resent rating tactics; probably be happiest if simply allowed to bowl along. Previous drill (April 17) was much smoother and more relaxed. GRADE: B-

O BESOS – April 22, 201, Churchill Downs, 4f, :48b | Video

In blinkers in solo drill, under a hold from the three furlong pole while wanting to get out a bit entering the lane, then was put to pressure while passing the wire and then continuing out to the six furlong pole, never really leveling and not producing the desired response. Perhaps needs company; hard to endorse enthusiastically based on this move. GRADE: C


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. On the eve of the Kentucky Derby, here is a listing of our Elite-8.


1 – ROCK YOUR WORLD (J. Sadler) – 126 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: April 24, Santa Anita, 5f, :59.1h

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) while setting fast fractions and then repelling all challenges to drew clear in the final furlong with complete authority (and galloping out far in front); earned a career top 100 Beyer speed figure in his latest outing (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; has never been a particularly willing performer in the morning but his most recent workout April 17 (5f, :59.3h) was his best yet; 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.

2 – 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: April 24, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:00.2b

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 thoroughly genuine and versatile (though not particularly willing in morning workouts) while giving indication that the Derby’s 10F trip will easily be within his range; in top hands and will be the deserving favorite in the Kentucky Derby-G1.

3 – KNOWN AGENDA (T. Pletcher) – 124 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: April 23, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:01b

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 categorized 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.

4 – HOT ROD CHARLIE (D. O’Neill) – 123 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 24, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:13.3h

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 a two length score from Midnight Bourbon while establishing a 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.

5 – HELIUM (M. Casse) – 121 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 23, Churchill Downs, 4f, 49.4b

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 front speed and also 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 with the proper preparation to have a chance to win it.

6 – MEDINA SPIRIT (B. Baffert) – 121 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: April 22, Santa Anita, 6f, 1:12.1h

The skinny: $35,000 OBS 2yo; from the first crop of a 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 as the 4/5 favorite to Rock Your World when second (beaten four and one-quarter lengths) in the 9F Santa Anita Derby-G1 in early April, 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 distant 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; before that displayed 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 provide concern that he may have reached his ceiling.

7 – HIGHLY MOTIVATED (C. Brown) – 121 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 workoutt: April 24, Churchill Downs, 5f, 1:00.4b

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 his most recent start 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 while benefitting from a race flow 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; due to the projected pace flow may have to alter tactics in the Kentucky Derby-G1 that will prevent the same type of soft trip in the Kentucky Derby-G1 that he enjoyed in the Blue Grass S.-G2.

8 – SOUP AND SANDWICH (M. Casse) – 119 lbs.
Pedigree: Into Mischief – Souper Scoop, by Tapit
Lifetime record: 3-1-1-0 ($203,875). Derby points: 40
Last start: March 27, 2021, Gulfstream Park, Florida Derby-G1, finished second
Next start: May 1, 2021, Churchill Downs, 10F Kentucky Derby-G1
Latest workout: April 23, Churchill Downs, 4f, :50b

The skinny: Live Oak Stud homebred; Monmouth Park allowance-winning dam traces to a solid midwestern family that includes Til Forbid (Arlington Oaks-G3, etc.); won his first two career starts in excellent fashion, a state-bred 6.5F Gulfstream Park maiden by seven and one-quarter lengths and then a middle distance allowance event at Tampa Bay Downs by two and three-quarter lengths, both victories accomplished utilizing pace pressing/stalking tactics; took on much tougher competition in his most recent outing in the 9F Florida Derbny-G1 and acquitted himself quite well when establishing the pace and then staying on gamely to be second (by two and three-quarter lengths to Known Agenda) while three lengths clear of the rest; a genuine sort but is suspect at a classic distance; will need to improve again to make his mark in the spring classics but with just three career starts has room to for further development.

Also eligible: Dynamic One (T. Pletcher); Midnight Bourbon (S. Asmussen); Super Stock (S. Asmussen); O Besos (G. Foley); Bourbonic (T. Pletcher); Mandaloun (B. Cox); Like the King (W. Ward); Sainthood (T. Pletcher); King Fury (K. McPeek); Hidden Stash (V. Oliver); Brooklyn Strong (D. Velasquez); Keepmeinmind (R. Diodoro).