Kentucky Derby Contender Profiles – Highly Motivated

Photo: Coady Photography


The route Highly Motivated took to Kentucky has been very impressive. Chad Brown doesn’t usually have derby contenders but this year he has one of the best in the field. He has had Highly Motivated do the NY to KY circuit for derby preps and has proved to the world that this colt has a strong chance to win.

Highly Motivated debuted at Saratoga in late August and it wasn’t a winning debut. However, with experience he improved incredibly. Chad Brown is usually known for turf horses and especially in New York. But after Highly Motivated MSW win at Belmont, the connections thought that this could be a horse with Derby hopes. They tried the Nyquist stakes at Keenland on day one of the Breeders Cup championships and Highly Motivated ran almost 3 seconds quicker at the 6 ½ F distance then he did in his MSW victory a couple months prior. After this start, Chad Brown knew he had something special but could Highly Motivated go long.

Chad Brown wanted a Derby horse so he took Highly Motivated to the Gotham in March for his 3yo debut and tested him going long. Off the long layoff, Highly Motivated finished a strong 3rd after missing the break and breaking towards the back of the pack. This could have been expected as he just turned 3 and also was running for the first time in 4 months. Chad Brown seen enough from him and pointed him to a longer race and shipped him to Kentucky to run at Keenland in the Blue Grass. Highly Motivated didn’t win the race but he finished 2nd to Essential Quality who will most likely be the favorite when they open the gate in the derby. I think Highly Motivated is still figuring out this whole horse racing gig and hasn’t found his type of run style yet, so the versatility is huge here and with 50 derby points he is the 13th ranked derby prospect based off of points.



The speed in this race is expected to be fast early on which could benefit Highly Motivated. He has shown that he can rate but he also has the history of being a sprinter which makes him fast out of the gate. I think Chad Brown is smart enough to know where the jockey should have Highly Motivated down the backstretch and personally I think if he can press the speed early on, he will fit amazingly here.

Based on class, Highly Motivated also fits here even though he hasn’t won any of the big Derby preps. He finished a somewhat close 2nd to Essential Quality in the longest distance race of his career which is the second best outcome in that race. I think he is also getting classier with each race and better with each race.


I think Highly Motivated will finish top 6 in this field if he can map out the right trip. However, if his jockey sends early and tries to make the lead like multiple other entrants in this field, he could get lost in the mix and or lose all his stamina early resulting in a back of the pack finish. Does he have a shot to win, of course, honestly I think he would be on all my tickets but he isn’t a top 3 choice for me in this field. I like him later in the year more than I like him now.



From a wagering perspective, I would recommend this horse to most people as a horse around 6/1 to 10/1 that has a shot to win. Do I think he will win, probably not. However, I can see the race setting up for him and I think Highly Motivated has potential to win any of the three triple crown races but I think he is still mentally putting it all together as a racehorse.

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