2021 Kentucky Derby to Be a Purely Domestic Affair

| April 16, 2021 9:15 am PDT

The thirty-five qualifying races called the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby are in the history books.

Top-scoring horses and their connections are making their final preparations for that all-important first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.

While top thoroughbreds from stables across the nation will be there, the 2021 Run for the Roses will lack a certain je ne sais quoi (or nan desu ka, if you will.)

This year, neither the Europeans nor the Japanese are sending a competitor to Louisville, Kentucky for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.

All three of the qualifying horses in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby declined the invitation to compete in the 2021 KD by the simple expedient of failing to pay for a late nomination for the Triple Crown (a $6,000 fee) by the March 29 deadline.

Any international flavor to the race will have to come from New York native Panadol, who finished second behind Rebel’s Romance in the UAE Derby.

While the UAE Derby is considered part of the Championship Series portion of the US Road to the Kentucky Derby, it takes place at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, UAE.

Godolphin, the owner of Rebel’s Romance, withdrew the colt from KD contention early in April, but suggested that he might run in the Belmont Stakes in June.

Godolphin also owns Essential Quality, the top scorer on the Road leaderboard and every oddsmaker’s favorite for the KD win this year.

Essential Quality is already in training in Louisville since right after his April 3rd Blue Grass Stakes win at Keeneland.

According to reports, Panadol’s connections have paid the $6,000 late-nomination fee. Panadol is #15 on the Road leaderboard with the 40 points he picked up at the UAE Derby.

There is still a way to get a horse eligible for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. First, you’ll need some impressive scores on the Road leaderboard.

Then you’ll need to cut a check for each of the three Triple Crown races.

  • $200,000 for the Kentucky Derby
  • $100,000 for the Preakness
  • $50,000 for the Belmont Stakes.

It’s pretty rare that the connections for any horse pay those fees.

On the other hand, paying the less expensive late-nomination fee is not uncommon. This year, nine horses were so nominated.

Top leaderboard scorers Panadol (#15), Helium (#14), Hockey Dad (#27), and Weyburn (who is still not listed on the official Road leaderboard) were reportedly nominated just ahead of the March 29th deadline.

Five other late nominations have been reported, but as yet, none of those appear on the RTTKD leaderboard.

As far as the Japanese version of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, all three of the qualified contenders for Japan’s spot in the 2021 Run for the Roses have declined the invitation.

Incidentally, there are typically 36 races on the US Road to the Kentucky Derby.

There were 35 this year as the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino in New Mexico was cancelled for the second year in a row over continuing pandemic fears.

J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

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