Kentucky Derby 2021: The experts’ picks and predictions

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Experts handicap Saturday’s 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Post time is approximately 6:57 p.m.

Vic Cangialosi

The Post’s lead horse racing handicapper

1. Midnight Bourbon: From the man who gave you Nyquist (2016), Maximum Security (make no mistake he won it in 2019) and Authentic (2020), comes Midnight Bourbon. Tiznow-bred colt has speed, is bred to run from Churchill Downs to Bourbon Street and gets a rider change to “Money Mike” Smith. Get your shot glasses ready!

2. Essential Quality: “Always bet the gray,” say the wise railbirds. But at this price, we will try to beat him. The Brad Cox-conditioned colt is 5-0 after having his mettle tested in the Blue Grass. Versatile, doesn’t have to be on the lead, and even though he never has been this far, he should get the additional real estate.

3. Soup and Sandwich: Looked as though he was going to take the Florida Derby field wire to window, but gave way late. Not sure he will appreciate the 10 furlongs, and post 19 didn’t help, but I’m planning on him hanging tough and spicing the deep exotics if the pace is reasonable. And that’s no baloney sandwich.

Ron Flatter

VSiN. Host of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod

1. Essential Quality: I hate the price, but I love the horse. In addition to being the most gifted 3-year-old colt going now, he is tactically versatile.

2. Highly Motivated: If he had not been stuck with the heavy lifting in the Blue Grass, he might have upset Essential Quality. This time, someone else will lead the early parade.

3. Sainthood: He outworked Florida Derby winner Known Agenda when they were in company for a recent breeze. He may be coming into his own at the perfect time.

Dave Tuley senior reporter and handicapper

1. Helium: Yes, he’s 50-1 on the morning line, but this is a late-developing 3-year-old that has the potential to hit his peak on the First Saturday in May and shock the world. He has been running under the radar for trainer Mark Casse with two wins on the tapeta track at Woodbine in Canada last fall. He then won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his 2021 debut on March 8, off a 4.5-month layoff and in his first time on dirt and in a route race. He’s a winner and still has the right to improve.

2. Known Agenda: Drew the formerly dreaded rail (with the new Churchill Downs starting gate, it’s not expected to be as much of a detriment), and his talent still has him as the third betting choice behind Essential Quality and Rock Your World. I like his best among the top contenders off his victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

3. Medina Spirit: Bob Baffert had a loaded 3-year-old barn for this year’s Derby, but this is lone one to make the starting gate. He lost as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, but I have to trust Baffert’s handicapping of his own stable in entering Medina Spirit and can’t keep him out of my exotics (exacta, trifecta, superfecta, Pick 4).

King of Vero

The King of Vero is a two-time qualifier for the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), the richest and most prestigious tournament for horseplayers in the world.

1. Essential Quality: Undefeated. Breeders Cup 2-Year-Old Juvenile Champion. Has raced and won over the Churchill Surface. Brad Cox looking to win his first Derby.

2. Soup and Sandwich: Finished second in the Florida Derby even though was wide on the first turn and ran the wrong lead down the stretch. Lightly raced and believe he gained valuable experience in last race

3. Known Agenda: Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz Jr. and pedigree indicates he is bred for the distance. Expect another solid performance.

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