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Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Essential Quality
Credit: Coady Photography

Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Essential Quality

With the Kentucky Derby (G1) less than two months away, I’m back for my second year of analyzing some of the top contenders’ pedigrees.

This week’s subject: Essential Quality

This Godolphin homebred is undefeated through 4 starts and was crowned the 2020 Eclipse Award Champion 2 Year Old Colt after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). He’s earned more than $1.7 million and is among the top 3 in most everyone’s Kentucky Derby rankings. He was the second overall pick in the Racing Dudes Triple Crown Fantasy League.

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Kentucky Derby Ranking

Essential Quality currently sits third in the Kentucky Derby standings with 40 total points, 10 of which he earned for winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) in his 3 year old debut. 40 points have been enough to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate ever since the point system debuted in 2013, and according to trainer Brad Cox, his next starting spot will be the Blue Grass Stakes (G2).

Essential Quality has passed the eye test, but see if his pedigree has what it takes for him to become only the third horse (after Street Sense and Nyquist) to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.

Sire Profile


Major career wins: 2003 Laurel Futurity (G3), 2004 Wood Memorial (G1)

Like Proxy, Essential Quality’s sire is the great Tapit, whose best career win was the 2004 Wood. Fast forward to 2021 and Tapit is considered among the best stallions in North America. With Essential Quality’s Breeders’ Cup victory, Tapit joined Unbridled as the only stallions to have sired two different Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winners (Hansen upset the heavily-favored Union Rags in the 2011 Juvenile).

Tapit is on track to have three starters (Proxy, Essential Quality, and Greatest Honour) in this year’s Kentucky Derby, a rare feat accomplished not long ago. Tapit himself had three in 2016, and Curlin and Scat Daddy each put three in the 2018 edition. While Tapit has yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner, could 2021 be his year? And could undefeated Essential Quality be the one to do it?

Dam Profile

Delightful Quality

Major career wins: None

Even though Delightful Quality never won a stakes, she was an incredibly consistent runner who never finished worse than fourth and retired with a record of 13-2-8-2. This daughter of multiple graded stakes winner Elusive Quality earned more than $250k in purses between, and while she never won going over 1 mile, her bloodline traces back to the great Mr. Prospector on both sides.

As a broodmare, Delightful Quality has had five foals, and while only one sold at auction, her daughter Indelible (by Tiznow) sold in 2020 for $1.6 million. Essential Quality is her only winner, but Delightful Quality’s only other foal to make the starting gate was Astaire, Essential Quality’s older full brother who failed to finish in the money in his only career start. Godolphin seems extremely high on Delightful Quality as a broodmare, based on her other breeding dates. She bred to Uncle Mo in 2019 and 2020, and she’ll visit Nyquist this year.

Essential Quality winning the 2020 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland (Credit: Coady Photography)

Overall, I believe Essential Quality will be a major player in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. He has the proper running style and turn of foot in the stretch, and he’s improved with every career start. His Southwest victory this past weekend looked effortless. Until proven otherwise, Essential Quality should have a spot on your tickets come the first Saturday in May.

Let me know what you think!

Vinny Blond is a New York-based handicapper who is one half of Real Dynasty Picks. Follow him on Twitter @PicksByDynasty.

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