Kentucky Derby 2021: Who are the fastest contenders?

Kentucky Derby 2021: Who are the fastest contenders?
Photo: Hodges Photography / Jan Brubaker

With February quickly coming to a close, 3-year-olds are running out of time and opportunities to gain points and statement wins prior to the Kentucky Derby. There have been plenty of high-quality performances thus far on the Derby Trail, but the early prospective field is still bunched from a speed figure standpoint with no clear standout.

The 100 Beyer Speed Figure that Jackie's Warrior earned in October in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes remains the second highest number gained from this crop.

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Life Is Good earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure and a 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 2, both of which top the class.

Jackie's Warrior and Life Is Good might be the fastest runners in this crop, but many question whether either runner can carry his speed for 1 1/4 miles.

Brisnet has been more impressed with Brooklyn Strong (107) and Greatest Honour (103) than Life Is Good (100) and Jackie's Warrior (101).

Brooklyn Strong certainly fits with this group on figures, but he is running out of time to make the Derby after missing training and the Withers Stakes (G3) because of an illness and poor weather.

Greatest Honour is a prime contender based on his Brisnet Speed Rating and TimeformUS Speed Figure (115) that he earned in the Holy Bull. It is interesting to note how little respect he has gained on the Beyer scale, with a modest career high of 89.

Mandaloun's win in the Risen Star (G2) over Proxy and Midnight Bourbon earned him earned him respect across the board. His 98 Beyer Speed Figure, 100 Brisnet Speed Figure and 113 TimeformUS Speed Figures are all near the top of the crop.

Though showing great heart while earning his first stakes win in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), Medina Spirit regressed a bit in his third career start after running second to Life Is Good in the Sham. His 91 Beyer Speed Figure, 94 Brisnet Speed Rating and 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure were down from the 99, 97 and 118 numbers that he earned, respectively, in his prior start.

Those who trust what they see visually more than the numbers cannot help but like Caddo River. The Brad Cox trainee has won his two route attempts by more than 19 combined lengths. The career best figures that he earned in the Smarty Jones Stakes do not place him in the top half of the field, but he has not been asked for his best and could easily take the necessary step up when asked to do so.

Essential Quality, Highly Motivated, Concert Tour and Prevalence are the most likely horses to take the biggest step forward in their next start as they all will be doing something for the first time. 

Essential Quality will make his first start as a 3-year-old in the Southwest Stakes Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn on Saturday. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner needs only mild improvement from his 2-year-old form to leap back to the head of the class.

Highly Motivated also will make his first start as a 3-year-old and will take his initial try at a route when he returns in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on March 6.

Concert Tour appears to be the type of horse who will thrive around two turns. Look for his figures to improve when given the opportunity, possibly in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.

Prevalence is the only horse on this list with only one career start, but his impressive maiden win put him squarely on the map. He has the upside to increase his speed figures. Unfortunately, like Brooklyn Strong, he has suffered minor setbacks in training and is running up against the clock.

Below is a list of the highest career Beyer Speed Figures, Brisnet Speed Ratings and TimeformUS Figures for 20 of the top contenders for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Horse     Beyer Speed     Figures Brisnet Speed Ratings TimeformUS Speed Figures
Life Is Good101100120
Jackie's Warrior100101117
Medina Spirit9997118
Highly Motivated96102109
Midnight Bourbon9695112
Essential Quality 95  101 112
Concert Tour 94 97114
Hot Rod Charlie 94 100 113
Brooklyn Strong 93 107 113
Señor Buscador 93 94116
 Caddo River 92 96109
Keepmeinmind 92 98109
Roman Centurian 91 93111
Greatest Honour 89 103 115
Prevalence 89 94 102 
 Risk Taking 89 92 109 
Rombauer8591 110 
Spielberg 85 90 110 

Beyer speed figures and TimeformUS figures are courtesy of Daily Racing Form.  

Brisnet speed ratings are courtesy of Brisnet

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