The $3 million, 1 1/4-mile marquee race 3-year-olds is back on the first Saturday of May after being delayed to Labor Day weekend last autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. The race is expected to be seen in person by 45,000 spectators.
Rock Your World is the 5-1 second choice from the No. 15 slot with known Agenda the 6-1 third choice despite drawing on the railing in the 20-horse field. Hot Rod Charlie drew 8-1 odds since the fourth pick from the No. 9 slot.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking with both horses still to go along with the rail still being on the market,” said Brad Cox, the coach for Essential Quality and Mandaloun. “I think that it’ll be a good place [for Essential Quality]. He’s got great tactical speed he’ll have the ability to get into a good position from there.”
The apparent focus is on Vital Quality, the reigning 2-year-old winner who enters the Run to the Roses having won all five races and with Luis Saez aboard. His drag of graded stakes victories carries a gutsy Blue Grass success at Keeneland on April 3 which shining the grey son of Tapit to the top of the Derby standings with 140 points and hammering him as the projected preferred.
Cox, who grew up a couple of blocks from Churchill Downs, is trying to become the first Louisville native to win the race. The Eclipse Award winner may also saddle Mandaloun in the No. 7 spot as a 15-1 choice in his Derby debut.
Unbeaten Rock Your World, trained by John Sadler, has won all three starts this season after not racing as a 2-year-old.
“it is a good article and we’re delighted with this,” Sadler said.
Known Agenda leads Todd Pletcher’s four-horse determined that contains Bourbonic, who drew the outside No. 20 article; Dynamic One (No. 11, 20-1 chances ) and Sainthood (No. 5, 50-1).
Even with Churchill Downs introducing a new 20-stall starting Derby gate last autumn to replace the standard 14-slot and auxiliary six-slot gates, known Agenda has his work cut out for him to prevent being bunched indoors and out of contention in a crowded field.
“Obviously, it’s not exactly what we had been hoping for,” Pletcher said. “Of course, this is one of the things you can’t control. Together with the new gate, we are hopeful that things will be better than they had been previously and the post will not be that bad.”
Hot Rod Charlie’s post draw at the midst brought a loud cheer from his contingent since the colt avoided being bunched inside out of the gate. Trainer Doug O’Neill’s colt won the Louisiana Derby by 2 lengths and was next to Essential Quality with 110 Derby points.
“We determined we were going to give it a pump regardless of what post we drew,” O’Neill said of the connections that have five 20-something former college football players. “But we are delighted with the nine. It is a real good post.”
This year’s race will be conducted for the first time using the anti-bleeding medication Lasix as part of the game’s attempt to move toward the elimination of race-day medication.
Formally known as furosemide, it is given as an injection about four hours in front of a race to stop or decrease the seriousness of exercise-induced bleeding in the lungs. It also works as a diuretic which causes horses to urinate and lose 20 to 30 pounds of fluid, thus increasing their ability to operate faster.
The last horse to win the Derby with no Lasix was Grindstone in 1996.
Churchill Downs declined to award qualifying points in this year’s Kentucky Derby prep races into some horse operating race-day Lasix. The Breeders’ Cup is following suit, with a Lasix ban for its own qualifying races without any points given to horses using it.
“The more we’ve done it, the more I’ve managed to adjust,” O’Neill said. “The horses have kept their form without it. They do seem to come out of their races with more energy, and they get back to their usual exercise energy faster so they recuperate quicker without Lasix.”