‘Seasoned Horse’ Essential Quality Arrives In Kentucky For Blue Grass Stakes

Champion 2-year-old Essential Quality has arrived home in the Bluegrass state, shipping in to Keeneland on Monday morning. Trainer Brad Cox spoke with the Kentucky HBPA’s Jennie Rees later Monday, regarding the colt’s upcoming engagement in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes this Saturday.

Essential Quality, a homebred son of Tapit for Godolphin, is undefeated across four career starts including his sophomore debut, the two-week delayed edition of the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 27. Since then, the colt has been training at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., breezing regularly ahead of his second start off the layoff.

“He’s a very good work horse,” Cox said, explaining that he’d worked Essential Quality in company on Saturday, March 27. “They worked five-eighths from the half mile pole in, I think, a minute and two-fifths, (galloped) out in 1:14, well in hand. It was exactly what we wanted to see.”

That final preparation completed, Cox is looking forward to having Essential Quality back at a familiar track. The colt won both the G1 Breeders’ Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over Keeneland’s dirt last fall, and is the expected favorite for Saturday’s Blue Grass.

“I’m confident that he doesn’t need a certain trip to be able to win,” Cox said. “He’s been able to take dirt, he’s been able to go inside and outside of horses, you know. He’s a seasoned horse as far as the trips he’s gotten. It’s not like he breaks and he’s right there and he just runs away from them. He’s won his races, pretty much the first three were all different, different styles of winning.”

Essential Quality will make the Kentucky Derby on May 1 his third start of the winter layoff, and will run out of his own stall at Churchill Downs, both strong points in his favor, according to Cox.

The 2020 champion trainer also has two other Derby contenders in the barn. Mandaloun, winner of the G2 Risen Star, baffled both the betting public and Cox with a dull performance in the Louisiana Derby last out, but returned from the race in pristine condition and will press on to the first Saturday in May.

Caddo River, meanwhile, won the listed Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn in January, but ran fifth last out as the favorite in the G2 Rebel. He’ll return in the G1 Arkansas Derby in two weeks’ time, with Cox’s goal to have Florent Geroux be a bit more aggressive early in the race.

Check out the full interview here:

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