Essential Quality’s ‘Big Performance’ Confirms His Lead In NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll

The transition from age 2 to 3 proved no issue for Godolphin’s homebred champion Essential Quality as the son of Tapit captured his seasonal bow this past weekend in handy fashion. In the wake of the colt’s 4 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 27, Essential Quality has strengthened his position as the divisional leader, earning 37 first-place votes and 405 points to remain out front in this week’s National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Top Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred Poll.

In his first since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, Essential Quality ran his record to four wins in as many starts when he dismissed his six challengers in the Southwest Stakes. The reigning 2-year-old male champion will likely target either the $800,000, Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes April 3 at Keeneland or the $1 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby April 10 at Oaklawn for his final Kentucky Derby prep race.

“Big performance off the layoff,” Essential Quality’s trainer Brad Cox told the Oaklawn Park notes team. “Hopefully, we can take another jump or two forward, I think, in order to win the Derby. Hopefully, he has it in him. It was a very nice race (in the Southwest).”

The Shug McGaughey-trained Greatest Honour (1 first-place vote, 336 points) moves up to second on the poll in the wake of his victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park this past weekend. The Courtland Farms homebred has now reeled off three straight wins including his triumph in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 30.

Life Is Good, winner of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Jan. 2, drops one spot to third with 2 first-place votes and 302 points followed by Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes winner Mandaloun in fourth with 1 first-place vote and 258 points.

Medina Spirit (206 points) holds in fifth followed by Caddo River (174), Concert Tour (121), and Keepmeinmind (91). Grade 3 Withers Stakes winner Risk Taking (74 points) is ninth with Proxy (39) completing the top 10.

Grade 1 winner Charlatan, who finished second in the $20 million Saudi Cup, continues to lead the way in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll with 22 first-place votes and 382 points. Moving up in the ranks, however, is two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl, who advanced to second this week with 14 first-place votes and 349 points in the wake of her triumph in the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes.

Knicks Go, winner of the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational, is third with 300 points followed by Godolphin’s unbeaten Maxfield (4 first-place votes, 289 points) and champion filly Swiss Skydiver (159 points).

It was a strong weekend for the Godolphin team as their colt Mystic Guide won the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap in his seasonal bow and debuted in the top 10 of the Thoroughbred Poll, earning 1 first-place vote and 158 points to land in the sixth position.

Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes winner Colonel Liam (152 points) is seventh followed by champion female sprinter Gamine (92), Jesus’ Team (77), and champion turf male Channel Maker (70).

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred polls are the sport’s most comprehensive surveys of experts. Every week eligible journalists and broadcasters cast votes for their top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. All horses that have raced in the U.S., are in training in the U.S., or are known to be pointing to a major event in the U.S. are eligible for the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Voting in the Top Three-Year-Old Thoroughbred Poll concludes following the Belmont Stakes on June 5 and the Top Thoroughbred Poll is scheduled to be conducted through November 6.

The post Essential Quality’s ‘Big Performance’ Confirms His Lead In NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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