2021 Jockey Club Derby Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)

1. TANGO TANGO TANGO (12-1) – In years past, a good effort like his in the Bruce D. (G1) (nee Secretariat) would have set him up well for this. However, this year’s edition had to be one of the softest Grade 1s ever, and even the winner struggled in a follow-up effort at Kentucky Downs. The fact he broke his maiden in the once-prized American Derby an indictment against that field as well. Figures to race prominently, but expecting him to be swallowed up by classier foes.

2. YIBIR (2-1) – In a season during which the Godolphin brand has done superbly throughout the western racing world, this gelding has developed into a promising stayer. Although ineligible for last week’s St Leger (G1), he took down two of its leading preps – the Bahrain Trophy (G3) and Great Voltigeur (G2) – while his setback in the Gordon (G3) was blamed on his being headstrong in the early stages. Reportedly a big physical specimen, connections feel he should be well-suited to the galloping nature of this expansive course. Deserving of slight morning line favoritism.

3. TOKYO GOLD (8-1) – Exceeded relatively modest expectations when last seen here in the Belmont Derby (G1), rallying to win a photo for second while returning rival Bolshoi Ballet exuded class late after a less-than-ideal trip. No reason why this Italian Derby (G2) hero can’t turn in another solid performance, especially if the early pace is quicker than the dawdling one he was caught behind going 1 1/4 miles. Not our first choice, but arguably the best of the longer prices.

4. SOLDIER RISING (5-2) – As a gelding, there was little Fabre could do with him in France in terms of pointing him for big-time stakes. However, his impact on the American scene was nearly immediate as he turned in a strong finish in the Saratoga Derby (G1) after a slow start. Given his French form during the spring, returning to 1 1/2 miles here figures to suit him perfectly, as should the wider, galloping nature of this course. Now based with Clement, he alone among the locally stabled looks up to the task of beating the European invaders.

5. STEP DANCER (20-1) – Although he’s concentrated on state-restricted races of late, this colt does have some open company experience. Third in a salty renewal of the Pilgrim (G2) last fall, he prevailed next out in the Awad S. at Aqueduct. However, none of this is of the standard he’ll have to meet to make an impact against of a field of this quality. Consistent, but hard to endorse for more than a small share.

6. EXPERIENCED (15-1) – With only three starts behind him, he doesn’t exactly live up to his moniker against this field. A beautifully bred son of Temple City and No Matter What (who’s reared five graded winners), he disappointed as a mild favorite in the Virginia Derby (G3) when showing no late punch. Perhaps will be more effective at this longer trip, as his try in the Bald Eagle Derby two back would suggest. However, doesn’t look up to this standard yet but is one to watch for in coming seasons.

7. SLICKED BACK (12-1) – Got a slightly earlier start to his career than Experienced and has done well winning two of four starts, albeit against lesser at Indiana Grand. Rallied promisingly in the Virginia Derby (G3) at a double-digit price, but will face a much sterner class test this time while stepping up three furlongs. Like the rival breaking to his immediate left, he has a bright future, but doubt whether he jumps up and shows it against this group.

8. BOLSHOI BALLET (5-2) – Willing to cut him a little slack for his disappointing run in the Saratoga Derby as the heavy favorite. He was involved early running at a clip faster than he’s probably used to, and the tighter nature of Saratoga’s turf probably wasn’t to his liking compared to Belmont’s. However, it’s revealing how expectations have changed for this colt after being one of the heaviest favorites in years for the Epsom Derby (G1) in June. Rather than aim for more prestigious prizes in Europe following his Belmont Derby rebound, he came back for Saratoga and is here now only after a vaccination snafu prevented him from running in last weekend’s Prix Niel (G2). Certainly capable, and the price will be much better than it has been in last few, but could still prove under-valued.