Essential Quality Guts It Out in the Blue Grass

Essential Quality denies Highly Regarded | Coady

Godolphin homebred Essential Quality (Tapit) gave his connections a few anxious moments in the stretch, but, in the end, he proved why he is a champion with a gutsy score in Keeneland's GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Saturday evening.

Hustling up to contest the early pace, the 1-2 favorite allowed Highly Motivated (Into Mischief) to take control, settling on his outside hip through a :23.83 first quarter and :48.21 half-mile. The top two continued to duke it out as three-quarters went in 1:12.08 with the rest of the field watching from a few lengths back. Essential Quality glided up alongside his foe, looking him in the eye as they entered the far turn. Highly Motivated regained a narrow lead at the top of the stretch, but Essential Quality stuck right with him. Both colts proved all class as they battled down the lane, each refusing to yield as they pulled away from their competition. But, in the end, the relentless Essential Quality muscled past his determined foe to win by a neck. It was 5 1/2 lengths back to Rombauer (Twirling Candy) in third.

“It's a tremendous feeling,” said winning trainer Brad Cox. “He had to dig in today. It was probably what he needed. It was good for him to get a good test today. He did everything easy enough in his last race. I was proud of what he was able to overcome today. Big effort.”

He continued, “I was happy where we were [turning for home]. I could tell the horse on the inside [Highly Motivated], Javier [Castellano] had horse, and we really had to work to get by him. [Highly Motivated] ran a huge race. Both of them really duked it out the whole way. It set up for both of them, and they both responded well. That was a good race four weeks out [from the GI Kentucky Derby]. Four weeks from today. Hopefully we're ready.”

“That other horse was fighting, and I thought we weren't going to get him,” said winning rider Luis Saez. “But I always had faith in Essential Quality. He's a nice horse. No matter how fast or slow the pace, he always wants to be first at the wire.”

Tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' off an impressive four-length score in his six-panel career bow at Churchill Downs Sept. 5, Essential Quality scored a decisive victory when extended to two turns in Keeneland's GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity S. Oct. 3. He rallied from off the pace to capture the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile in Lexington Nov. 6, clinching the Eclipse award for top 2-year-old male. Making his seasonal bow in a sloppy renewal of Oaklawn's GIII Southwest S. Feb. 27, the homebred proved he was only getting better as he matured, charging home a 4 1/4-length winner.

Pedigree Notes:

Essential Quality is one of 27 Grade I winners for Gainesway kingpin Tapit, and is one of 142 black-type winners overall (88 graded) for the leading sire. The Eclipse winner joins Frosted as a three-time Grade I winner for their sire, sitting only behind Tonalist, Tapit's most accomplished Grade I-winning son with four victories at the highest level. The late Darley sire Elusive Quality's daughters have been churning out stakes winners for some time, with Essential Quality being one of their 126 black-type winners (54 graded). Third in the GIII Bed o' Roses H., Delightful Quality is a half-sister to champion juvenile filly Folklore (Tiznow), a winner of the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, as well as stakes winner and GIII Tempted S. runner-up Divided Attention (A.P. Indy). She has a 2-year-old filly by Uncle Mo; was barren to that sire for 2020; and was covered by the Coolmore stallion's GI Kentucky Derby-winning son Nyquist last spring. Folklore is the granddam of 2020 Japanese Triple Crown hero Contrail (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), who returns in the G1 Osaka Hai Sunday.

Saturday, Keeneland
TOYOTA BLUE GRASS S.-GII, $800,000, Keeneland, 4-3, 3yo,
1 1/8m, 1:48.50, ft.
1–ESSENTIAL QUALITY, 123, c, 3, by Tapit
                1st Dam: Delightful Quality (GSP, $253,900),
                                by Elusive Quality
                2nd Dam: Contrive, by Storm Cat
                3rd Dam: Jeano, by Fappiano
'TDN Rising Star'. O/B-Godolphin, LLC (KY); T-Brad H. Cox;
J-Luis Saez. $480,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2yo Colt-US,
5-5-0-0, $2,265,144. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the
   eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Highly Motivated, 123, c, 3, Into Mischief–Strong Incentive,
by Warrior's Reward. ($240,000 Wlg '18 KEENOV). O-Klaravich
Stables, Inc.; B-Klaravich Stables (KY); T-Chad C. Brown.
3–Rombauer, 123, c, 3, Twirling Candy–Cashmere, by Cowboy
Cal. O-Fradkin, John and Fradkin, Diane; B-John Fradkin &
Diane Fradkin (KY); T-Michael W. McCarthy. $80,000.
Margins: NK, 5HF, 4 1/4. Odds: 0.50, 3.60, 24.00.
Also Ran: Hidden Stash, Keepmeinmind, Sittin On Go, Hush of a Storm, Untreated, Leblon.
Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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