LEXINGTON, KY – Godolphin homebred Essential Quality dominated his rivals in Saturday’s $400,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
The Breeders’ Futurity is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Essential Quality receiving an automatic berth in the TVG Juvenile Presented by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) at Keeneland this November.
Essential Quality broke well from post 4 as the 9/5 favorite and settled into a close stalking position outside of Upstriker through an opening 1/4-mile in :23.97, then inched ahead to lead narrowly down the backstretch.
With Luis Saez in the irons, Essential Quality posted continuing fractions of :48.86 and 1:13.40, then crossed over to the rail at the 1/4 pole and opened up on the field.
Kept to a strong hand ride through to the wire, the Brad Cox trainee crossed 3 1/4 lengths much the best while completing the 1 1/16-mile fast dirt route in 1:44.37.
“Today, he proved that he’s a very good horse,” Saez said. “He did it pretty easy. He was a little green when he came to the track – he was looking around a little bit – but he took off. He was running. What a horse. I’m so glad I’m on this horse.”
Keepmeinmind, at 52/1 the longest shot on the board, rallied from off the pace to take second by 1 1/2 lengths over Super Stock.
Upstriker faded to fourth in the stretch, 3/4 of a length ahead of Founder, while Dixie’s Two Stents and Calibrate crossed in a dead heat for sixth.
King Fury and Notary completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 2-year-olds.
Essential Quality’s win backed up his 4-length debut score in a 6-furlong maiden special weight event at Churchill Downs on September 5. The Tapit colt has now earned $295,144 and became the second straight Godolphin homebred to win the Breeders’ Futurity after the Brendan Walsh-trained Maxfield.
“We’ve had some very nice 2-year-old fillies, but this is probably the best (2-year-old colt) I’ve had as far as talent goes,” Cox said. “He’s our first Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old colt. He means a lot to us. He showed us from Day 1 that he’s special, very talented. Luis did a good job of getting him to relax. He’s a very green horse. That was my concern today – could he put it all together? And he did. … If he can figure it out, he’s a serious animal.”
Essential Quality returned $5.80 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.20 to show. Keepmeinmind brought back $27 to place and $9 to show, while Super Stock paid $5.40 to show.