Essential Quality Duels Midnight Bourbon Down Stretch To Win Travers

After a half-length victory in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, Essential Quality came into the Grade 1 Travers Stakes as the overwhelming favorite and demonstrated once again why as he dueled with a game Midnight Bourbon down the Saratoga stretch to win the Midsummer Derby by a neck. The Godolphin gray tracked Midnight Bourbon, who stumbled and unseated Paco Lopez in the Grade 1 Haskell in his last start, throughout the 1 1/4-mile Travers, hooked up with him at the top of the stretch, and refused to quit, adding another G1 stakes to his rich resume.

At the break, Ricardo Santana, Jr. hustled Midnight Bourbon to the front, with Luis Saez and Essential Quality on his heels into the first turn. After a first quarter in :24.18, Midnight Bourbon had a comfortable lead, which gave Santana a chance to give his colt a breather on the backstretch, running the half-mile in :48.96 and the three-quarters in 1:14.49. By the time the field of seven entered the far turn, horses were closing on Midnight Bourbon, Essential Quality catching him as they approached the last part of the race. From the top of the stretch on, it was a duel between the two front runners, the rest of the field unable to catch them.

Down the Saratoga stretch, Midnight Bourbon and Essential Quality ran head to head, neither able to gain an advantage on the other until the last sixteenth of a mile, Essential Quality gaining inch by inch as they closed in on the wire. At the finish, it was the Belmont Stakes winner by a neck over Midnight Bourbon, with Miles D third.

The final time for the 1 1/4-mile G1 Travers Stakes was 2:01.96. Find this race’s chart here.

Essential Quality paid $2.90, $2.30, and $2.10. Midnight Bourbon paid $4.00 and $3.30. Miles D paid $4.90 to show.

“He broke well. We were hoping that he wouldn’t lose as much ground and have more of a ground-saving trip as opposed to the Jim Dandy. Luis [Saez] did a good job of recognizing that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of pace. He asked him to run out of there and established good position and didn’t let Midnight Bourbon get too far away up the backside. I was a little worried up the backside once he cleared up with softer fractions. He’s a tremendous horse. He’s a champion and he ran like one today,” trainer Brad Cox said after the Travers.

“Right from there [the gate] I was on him [Midnight Bourbon] because I knew he was the speed horse, and that horse, when he takes the lead, he keeps going. So, I got on him right from there and put him right there in the beginning. He seemed so perfect. That was the plan, but I always feel like I have so much horse that I can make my move and get going. He gets past the horse and he can stay there, he don’t waste energy,” Saez told the NYRA Press Office after the race. “It’s amazing, that’s my second Travers and I’m so thankful to be here and be a part of it in this amazing race.”

Bred and owned by Godolphin, Essential Quality is a 3-year-old colt by Tapit out of the Elusive Quality mare Delightful Quality. The 2020 2-year-old champion colt has five wins in six starts in 2021, his only loss coming in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, where he finished fourth, for a lifetime record of eight wins in nine starts.

 

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