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.

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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.

Credit: Coady Photography

“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.