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Essential Quality Edges Highly Motivated in Blue Grass
Credit: Keeneland Photo

Essential Quality Edges Highly Motivated in Blue Grass

LEXINGTON, KY – Godolphin homebred Essential Quality edged a game Highly Motivated to extend his undefeated record with a neck victory in Saturday’s $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

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Essential Quality broke from post 4 under Luis Saez as the 1/2 favorite and settled just off the hip of Highly Motivated, who assumed command heading into the clubhouse turn.

After closely tracking through opening fractions of :23.83, :48.21, and 1:12.08, Essential Quality ranged up to challenge for the lead and straightened for home looking as if he might draw off.

Highly Motivated fought back gamely along the rail as the pair separated from their rivals in the stretch, refusing to yield without a fight.

The Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality put his neck across the wire in a final time of 1:48.50 for the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route.

Credit: Keeneland Photo

“That other horse was fighting and I thought we weren’t going to get him, but I always had faith in Essential Quality,” Saez said. “He’s a nice horse. No matter how fast or slow the pace, he always wants to be first at the wire.”

Rombauer raced in third throughout, crossing 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Hidden Stash. Completing the order of finish came Keepmeinmind, Sittin On Go, Hush of a Storm, Untreated, and Leblon.

The Blue Grass is part of the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Essential Quality earned 100 points for the win, with Highly Motivated receiving 40 for second, Rombauer 20 for third, and Hidden Stash 10 for fourth.

Essential Quality’s win was his fifth from as many starts and his second of the year following late February’s Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park. The Tapit colt’s earnings now stand at $2,265,144.

“That was a good race 4 weeks out (from the Kentucky Derby),” Cox said. “It’s a tremendous feeling. He had to dig in today. It was probably what he needed. It was good for him to get a good test today. He did everything easy enough in his last race. I was proud of what he was able to overcome today. Big effort.”

Essential Quality returned $3 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Highly Motivated brought back $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show. Rombauer paid $5.40 to show.

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