Essential Quality dominated Saturday's $400,000 Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, earning both an automatic bid to next month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) over the same track but also 10 qualifying points toward the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Ridden by Luis Saez, Essential Quality rated a half-length behind Upstriker through the opening quarter-mile, took a short lead outside that rival down the backside, and then scooted clear approaching the short stretch. In the lane, the gray son of Tapit opened up to win by 3 1/4 lengths as the 19-10 favorite in a field of nine.
A homebred racing for Godolphin and trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.37 and paid $5.80. Keepmeinmind, at 52-1, rallied for second with Super Stock third and Upstriker a retreating fourth. Keepmeinmind earned four Derby points, Super Stock two, and Upstriker one.
Essential Quality now heads to the Nov. 6 Juvenile unbeaten in two starts, having dominated a 6-furlong maiden event at Churchill Downs by four lengths on the Kentucky Derby undercard Sept. 5.
"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. He's our first Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old colt," Cox said. 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. He pulled up a bit on the backside. He's got some learning to do. If he can figure it out, he's a serious animal."
Bred in Kentucky, Essential Quality was produced by the multiple stakes-placed Delightful Quality, an Elusive Quality half-sister to 2005 champion juvenile filly Folklore. Essential Quality has now earned $295,144.