The Kentucky Derby (G1) has so far eluded the globally powerful Godolphin breeding and racing operation, but entering 2021 they will have the horse to beat in Essential Quality, who likely notched champion 2-year-old male honors with a come-from-behind victory in the $1,840,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland on Friday.
A fast pace helped Essential Quality and compromised 9-10 favorite Jackie's Warrior, who was outrun into the first turn and settled into third down the backside chasing the dueling pair of Dreamer's Disease and Likeable, who ripped off fractions of :22.58 and :45.31.
Jackie's Warrior made a brief lead at the top of the stretch, but coming on stronger from far back was 94-1 outsider Hot Rod Charlie, followed by Essential Quality. It was the latter who closed best, pulling clear in the end to beat his recent maiden-scoring rival by three parts of a length. Rallying for third was another longshot, 30-1 Keepmeinmind, with Jackie's Warrior a weakening fourth.
Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Luis Saez, the Kentucky-bred Essential Quality covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:42.09. He paid $9.40.
This was the second Juvenile victory for Godolphin, who won the race in 2009 with European import Vale of York over the then-synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Vale of York raced only once more after the Breeders' Cup and did not compete in the Kentucky Derby.
The Juvenile offered 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers. Essential Quality earned 20 points, boosting his total to 30. Hot Rod Charlie and Keepmeinmind earned eight and four points, respectively, while Jackie's Warrior increased his total by two to 12 points.
Essential Quality enters winter quarters undefeated from three starts. Breaking his maiden by four lengths over 6 furlongs on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard Sept. 5, the gray stretched out successfully next out to win the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland by 3 1/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles. He's now earned $1,335,144.
A son of Tapit, Essential Quality was produced by the Grade 3-placed Delightful Quality, an Elusive Quality half-sister to 2005 champion juvenile filly Folklore. The latter is the ancestress of recent Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail.
Earlier in the card, Vequist rallied to defeat Dayoutoftheoffice to win the $1,780,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) by two lengths under jockey Joel Rosario.
Winner of the Spinaway (G1) in September but second to Dayoutoftheoffice in the Frizette (G1) more recently, Vequist turned the tables in a time of 1:42.30 for 1 1/16 miles. She paid $15.20 for owners Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and breeder Swilcan Stable. The daughter of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist is trained by Butch Reid.
In addition to like Eclipse Award honors as champion 2-year-old filly, Vequist earned 20 qualifying points in the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Oaks series, increasing her total to 24. Dayoutoftheoffice earned eight points, increasing her total to 18. Third-place finisher Girl Daddy earned four points, increasing her total to 14, while the fourth-placed Simply Ravishing boosted her total by two points to 12.