Busy Saturday Beneath the Twin Spires


Essential Quality worked at the crack of dawn Saturday | Coady

With just two weeks remaining to the running of the GI Kentucky Derby, the Saturday worktab at Churchill Downs was dotted with the names of top sophomores headed towards the first jewel of racing's Triple Crown.

Godolphin's reigning Eclipse Award-winning juvenile colt and 'TDN Rising Star' Essential Quality (Tapit) took to the Churchill main track at 5:15 a.m. with big-race rider Luis Saez in from Keeneland to put the colt through his paces. The homebred went five furlongs in :59.60 after breaking off about a length behind 4-year-old stablemate Spa City (Street Sense) and was timed in fractions of :12.80, :24.60 and :47.40 before galloping out three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.20 and seven furlongs in 1:28.60. Essential Quality never passed his workmate around the turn and into the backstretch.

It was the first serious piece of work for Essential Quality since his tough defeat of Highly Motivated (Into Mischief) in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland Apr. 3. Trainer Brad Cox was duly pleased with what he saw Saturday morning.

“I'm not taking a deep breath yet, but we're very pleased with where we are at today,” the conditioner said. “He really had to work for that win in the Blue Grass and we were very pleased how well he ended up bouncing out of it.”

Highly Motivated, whose official status for the Derby remains 'possible,' is scheduled to breeze Sunday morning at Keeneland for trainer Chad Brown and is expected on the Churchill backside Monday.

Following the champ's workout, Cox sent out GII Risen Star S. hero and fellow 'Rising Star' Mandaloun (Into Mischief) to breeze six furlongs in a crisp 1:11.40. The Juddmonte homebred tugged hard against jockey Florent Geroux and was difficult to settle through early sectional times of :12.40, :24.20 and :35.60. He was noticeably more relaxed once given his head at the quarter pole and worked strongly through the line before clocking seven furlongs in 1:25.20 and a mile in 1:41.60.

Mandaloun exits a disappointing sixth behind Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) and Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) in the GII Louisiana Derby Mar. 20, but Cox is more and more inclined to draw a line through the effort.

“[Mandaloun] worked great,” he said. “We were all puzzled after the Louisiana Derby, but he's been doing great since that race–maybe that was just a head-scratcher. He's a really good-looking son of Into Mischief, and we know he's better than what we saw in his last start.”

Live Oak Plantation's Soup and Sandwich (Into Mischief), who earned his way into the Run for the Roses via his runner-up effort to Known Agenda (Curlin) in the GI Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Mar. 27, went five-eighths of a mile in :59.80 Saturday morning. With Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle, the homebred skipped along in :12.40, :24.20 and :35.20, then readily drew clear of his company Epic Dreamer (Orb) and was out six furlongs in a strong 1:12.40 and seven panels in 1:25.20.

“This horse is just starting to figure things around the racetrack,” trainer Mark Casse's assistant David Carroll said. “Tyler was in cruise control around there and that gallop out was great.”

Also Saturday morning, 'TDN Rising Star' Crazy Beautiful (Liam's Map) looked sharp going five furlongs in a bullet :59 (:12.40, :24, :35.40, :47, out 1:12.40) for trainer Ken McPeek; and GIII Fantasy S. runner-up Ava's Grace (Laoban) went a half-mile in :48.60 for Robertino Diodoro for the Apr. 30 GI Kentucky Oaks.

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