Unbeaten Champion Essential Quality Favored for Kentucky Derby


2021 Kentucky Derby post position draw | Horsephotos


LOUISVILLE, KY – Unbeaten champion Essential Quality (Tapit) was assigned post 14 in a full field of 20 assembled for Saturday's GI Kentucky Derby at Tuesday's post position draw held at Churchill Downs.

The Godolphin homebred and 'TDN Rising Star,' tabbed as the 2-1 favorite on Mike Battaglia's morning line, made it a perfect five-for-five for trainer Brad Cox with a hard-fought, neck decision over Highly Motivated (Into Mischief) in the GII Blue Grass S. at Keeneland Apr. 3. Luis Saez, disqualified from first aboard Maximum Security in 2019, has the call.

Cox will also be represented by fellow 'Rising Star' and GII Risen Star S. winner Mandaloun (Into Mischief) (post seven). These will be the first Derby starters for the native of Louisville.

“It got a little nerve wracking with both horses still to go and the rail still being out there,” Cox said. [Essential Quality's] got good, tactical speed that he'll be able to get into a good position from there.”

Cox added, “He can adapt to no pace or there being pace in front of him. He's not a one-dimensional horse. He's able to adapt. I've always felt like he's a horse that the further they go, the better he'll get. We're gonna get an extra eighth of a mile Saturday that he's never had before.”

Unbeaten, front-running GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World (Candy Ride {Arg}) was made the second choice on the morning line at 5-1. The $650,000 KEESEP yearling purchase exits from post 15 with Joel Rosario aboard and figures to be prominent early. Rosario piloted 2013 Derby winner Orb.

“He has a good, high-cruising speed,” trainer John Sadler said of the Hronis Racing and Talla Racing colorbearer. “He's fast and he can carry it a long distance. I imagine he'll be forwardly placed. I can see him sitting second or third depending on what the pace is. We have a great rider with Rosario, he'll determine what the pace is and put the horse in the right spot, hopefully. We're generally pretty happy with the post.”

The connections of Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) let out a nice roar in the Aristides Lounge after the GII Louisiana Derby winner drew post nine. The dark bay's ownership group of Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC and William Strauss includes Doug and Dennis O'Neill's nephew Patrick.

“We got a great group of guys,” two-time Kentucky Derby winning-trainer Doug O'Neill said. “They were gonna be excited no matter what number we got. These horses reflect our energy, and win, lose or draw, we're bringing great energy to 'Charlie' and he's giving it back to us. It's a great post, you're right in the middle of the pack. We've got so much confidence in Flavien Prat. He's such a great rider. I think the nine is a great spot for us. If the pace is slow, and nobody else goes, at least we showed in the Louisiana Derby that we could go to the front. I think Flavien is gonna go in with an open mind and just play the break.”

Fellow two-time Kentucky Derby winning-trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle four–GI Curlin Florida Derby winner Known Agenda (Curlin) (post one), GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks second Sainthood (Mshawish) (post five), GII Wood Memorial S. second Dynamic One (Union Rags) (post 11); and Wood Memorial upsetter Bourbonic (Bernardini) (post 20). Pletcher also trains GI Kentucky Oaks morning-line favorite and 'TDN Rising Star' Malathaat (Curlin).

“It certainly wasn't the one we were hoping for,” Pletcher said of Known Agenda's rail draw. “But I've often said sometimes you get bad trips from good posts and good trips from bad posts. I think hopefully with the new starting gate that will make a little bit of a difference.

Pletcher continued, “I was kind of hoping for Sainthood and Bourbonic to draw inside and Dynamic One and Known Agenda to draw in the middle towards the outside. I thought we did OK with two of them. Nothing we could do about it. We'll focus on the things we can control.”

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen brings the formidable pair of GI Arkansas Derby winner Super Stock (Dialed In) (post 18) and GIII Lecomte hero Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) (post 10) in search of his first Derby victory.

“It's definitely on the bucket list,” Asmussen said. “We've been given tremendous opportunities and the two horses this year are great examples of that.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, currently tied with Ben Jones for most Kentucky Derby victories with six, will be represented by Santa Anita Derby runner-up Medina Spirit (Protonico) (post eight).

Saturday, Churchill Downs, post time: 6:57 p.m ET
GI Kentucky Derby, $3,000,000, 3yo, 1 1/4m
1-Known Agenda (Curlin) 6-1
2-Like The King (Palace Malice) 50-1
3-Brooklyn Strong (Wicked Strong) 50-1
4-Keepmeinmind (Laoban) 50-1
5-Sainthood (Mshawish) 50-1
6-O Besos (Orb) 20-1
7-Mandaloun (Into Mischief) 15-1
8-Medina Spirit (Protonico) 15-1
9-Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) 8-1
10-Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) 20-1
11-Dynamic One (Union Rags) 20-1
12-Helium (Ironicus) 50-1
13-Hidden Stash (Constitution) 50-1
14-Essential Quality (Tapit) 2-1
15-Rock Your World (Candy Ride {Arg}) 5-1
16-King Fury (Curlin) 20-1
17-Highly Motivated (Into Mischief) 10-1
18-Super Stock (Dialed In) 30-1
19-Soup and Sandwich (Into Mischief) 30-1
20-Bourbonic (Bernardini) 30-1

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