By J.N. Campbell

Blue Grass Stakes Results: Essential Quality Exhibits a Top Gear Win

By J.N. Campbell
The Road to 147 continued on through Keeneland today, as Brad Cox's Essential Quality cemented his 'favorite status' for the Starting Gate as we head towards the first Saturday in May. Read the race report and see the payouts below...
The Road to 147 continued on through Keeneland today, as Brad Cox's Essential Quality cemented his "favorite status" for the Starting Gate as we head towards the first Saturday in May. Read the race report and see the payouts below...

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Blue Grass Stakes 2021 Results & Betting Payouts
  • Position
  • Horse
  • Win
  • Place
  • Show

Position

  • Win:
  • Place:
  • Show:

Horse

  • Essential Quality #4
  • Highly Motivated #3
  • Rombauer #5

Win

  • $3.00

Place

  • $2.20
  • $3.40

Show

  • $2.10
  • $2.80
  • $5.40

Over the past number of years the Blue Grass Stakes (BGS) has proven time and time again, that it is irrelevant when it comes to impacting the finish in the Kentucky Derby. Few that have won this race at storied Keeneland have gone to the "Run for the Roses" to even vie for supremacy.

This year, a highly-anticipated favorite came into Lexington for the $800k BGS from the barn of Brad Cox, looking to cement his status as a Derby favorite. A total of 9 entered the gate in this Grade II event with major Derby Points on the line (100-40-20-10). The top 2 finishers are guaranteed passage to the Twin Spires.

The 3/5 M/L aforementioned favorite was Essential Quality #4 ("EQ"). A Godolphin homebred, who to this point has not missed, was the reigning Breeders' Cup Juvenile-winner in 2020. Cox readied him for this moment after a score at Oaklawn in the Southwest Stakes (G3) in the slop, With jockey Luis Saez aboard, it seemed a lock that he would be the winner at Keeneland in the BGS. Others were drawn into the race including Chad Brown's Highly Motivated #3, Vicky Oliver's Hidden Stash #1, and Robertino Diodoro's Keepmeinmind #9.

Once they loaded for the BGS, at the break the field got away with only a few minor bumping incidents. Immediately, as most pundits predicted, Javier Castellano took his mount, Highly Motivated #3, to the lead, and Luis Saez aboard Essential Quality #4 followed suit. Never letting Castellano get too far out of reach, Saez modulated EQ's speed, calibrating it down the backstretch. The rest of the field gave chase, but was never much of a factor.

By the time the top of the lane awoke, EQ pulled alongside Brown's charge, who was going 2-turns for the first time in his career. It was going to be a showdown, as both colts fired their best, digging in for the wire. As they approached the edge, Saez found one more gear, and the ashen gray son of Tapit put a full head in front for the win. It was a gritty performance, and made Brad Cox 1/1 in the BGS. With a finishing time of 1:48.50, going a 1 1/8th, Keeneland gave us another thrilling race on what was a beautiful sunny day in Lexington.

Now, Essential Quality #4 and his connections, head to Louisville as the presumptive favorite to win the Grade I Kentucky Derby. If they do, it will be a first for their conditioner, their jockey, and for Godolphin. I have no reservations about picking this colt to win the celebrated contest.

Check out my rationale for voting in the weekly NTRA Poll tomorrow! 

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