Best Horse Racing Bets for Saturday, May 1, 2021

| May 1, 2021 2:39 am PDT

Like Friday’s special picks post, Saturday’s will be the same. However, this time it will be bigger, better, and totally gluten-free.

Okay, I added that gluten-free part. Still, the first day of May will be one heck of a great day for horse racing.

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is the 12th race at Churchill Downs, and it is preceded by six more graded stakes on the race-card, adding up to $6.5 million in total purse.

There are even a few allowances and maiden matches to round out the day’s festivities to an even 14 turf and main track runs.

I’m picking the winners for the seven stakes races, including the Kentucky Derby. Just don’t forget that you can find all races, as well as plenty of wagering options, at one of the top horse racing betting sites.

Good luck!

Race 6: Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (Grade II)

I’m going with Got Stormy, the 8/5 morning line favorite for this one-mile turf run for fillies and mares. And it’s not just because she’s moneyed 20 of her 27 career starts or that she won eleven of them.

That’s actually impressive, but not as much as the sheer number of stakes races she’s competed in—all but four of her earliest starts have been stakes runs. So, it took her three attempts to graduate out of the maidens, but this late-bloomer has made over $2 million for her connections in her career.

Hall of fame trainer Mark Casse has had Gaffalione aboard for Got Stormy’s last five runs, including her most recent, a win in the Honey Fox Stakes (Grade III) at Gulfstream in February. So, it should come as no surprise Gaffalione will be aboard Got Stormy for this race, as well.

Race 7: Derby City Distaff Stakes (Grade I)

For this seven-furlong main track battle for fillies and mares, I’m going with Bob Baffert’s entry, Gamine, a four-year-old filly with a six-win record in seven starts.

Her only miss was in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, where she came in third.

She was later DQ’d over the presence of betamethasone in her bloodstream, an anti-inflammatory drug that’s legal in Kentucky but requires a two-week “withdrawal period” before racing.

That hasn’t dissuaded the morning line from touting Gamine as the favorite at 1/5 odds (bet two bucks, get two dollars and forty cents back).

John Velazquez, who’ll be in the irons for Gamine’s run in the Derby City Distaff Stakes, has been aboard for all but Gamine’s first two career starts.

Race 8: Pat Day Mile Stakes (Grade II)

The morning line’s 3/1 favorite is fine by me for this race—I’m taking Jackie’s Warrior, one of the two horses Steve Asmussen has in this 12-horse one-miler for three-year-olds.

Jackie’s Warrior won his first four races, graduating with his first maiden run, then moved on to win the Saratoga Special Stakes (Grade II), the Hopeful Stakes (Grade I), and Champagne Stakes (Grade I) last year.

In November, he finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I), then rallied for third place in the Southwest Stakes (Grade I) at Oaklawn Park in March of 2021. All along, the colt’s speed figures have remained high and impressive.

Asmussen has Joel Rosario matched up with Jackie’s Warrior for this run. Except for his maiden run, Jackie’s Warrior has had Rosario in the irons.

Race 9: American Turf Stakes (Grade II)

This is a 1-1/16 mile turf run for three-year-olds, and I like the second-favored (at 4/1) entry here—Scarlett Sky, ridden by Joel Rosario. This colt moneyed six of his seven career starts, winning three—the most recent being the Transylvania Stakes (Grade III) at Keenland in April.

The moneyline favorite’s wins have been listed, including black-type matches. They’re tougher than maiden and allowances races but not quite in the league of the Transylvania Stakes.

While Hall of Famer Bill Mott has tried several top jockeys with Scarlett Sky—and mostly to good advantage—he’s tapped Joel Rosario for this ride.

Race 10: Churchill Downs Stakes (Grade I)

This seven-furlong jaunt for four-year-olds and up should be a tight race between the first and second morning-line favorites, but I think the winner’s circle will belong to the 7/2 second-favored entry—Whitmore.

This gelding moneyed 31 of his 40 career starts, winning 15. His most recent win was the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade I) at Keeneland last year.

He last moneyed in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Grade III) at Oaklawn in April. Incidentally, his speed figures are pretty much triple-digit all the way down.

Trainer Ron Moquett has been making a name for himself in Breeders’ Cup races for the past decade. And while he’s tapped a veritable who’s who of jockeys to share the limelight with Whitmore, Moquett is putting Ricardo Santana, Jr. in the irons for this run—as he’s done for Whitmore’s last three starts.

Race 11: Turf Classic Stakes (Grade 1)

For this 1-1/8 mile turf war for four-year-olds and upward, I’m sticking with the 3/1 morning line favorite, despite much internal conflict and maybe some muttering.

My problem is I also like the third-favored Domestic Spending, one of Chad Brown’s two entries in this race. But while I want Domestic Spending to win, the statistics tell me the winner’s circle here belongs to the morning-line favorite, Colonel Liam.

So let’s see why Colonel Liam has the advantage: Six money finishes in seven career starts, five of them wins. And of course, those wins weren’t just run-of-the-mill allowance and claiming races, but stakes races like his most recent, the Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes (Grade II) at Fair Grounds in March, and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (Grade I) at Gulfstream Park in January.

Top trainer Todd A. Pletcher has selected Irad Ortiz, Jr. as the jockey for this run—unsurprising, as Ortiz has been aboard Colonel Liam for his last three winning runs.

Race 12: Kentucky Derby (Grade I)

Like most of its 146 previous runs, this year’s Kentucky Derby is a one-and-a-quarter-mile race on the main track at Churchill Downs that pits a score of the fastest three-year-old thoroughbreds against one another to see who will get the biggest piece of the purse.

Back in 1875, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby, Aristides, took home $2850. The Kentucky Derby has prospered a bit since then. This year, the winner will take home the biggest piece of a $3,000,000 pie.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, let’s see who’s likely to win. I think this will be a contest between the top two qualifiers—Essential Quality and Rock Your World. Both are undefeated—Essential Quality with five wins, Rock Your World with three.

This is why I’m backing Essential Quality for this year’s Run for the Roses. He’s got more experience and has proven success in more stakes races than Rock Your World. For the record, Essential Quality won his maiden last September was campaigned by trainer Brad Cox specifically for the Kentucky Derby.

Essential Quality went on to confirm Cox’s judgment by picking up “Road to the Kentucky Derby” qualifying points with wins in four tough competitions: The Breeders’ Futurity (Grade I), the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I), the Southwest Stakes (Grade III), and most recently, the Blue Grass Stakes (Grade II).

Except for Essential Quality’s maiden run, where Shaun Bridgmohan jockeyed him, he’s had Luis Saez in the irons—just like he will for Saturday’s 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.

My colleague has also identified some interesting sleepers for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at 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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