Godolphin’s Essential Quality will be looking to consolidate his position at the head of North America’s three-year-old division when he goes for a fourth Group 1 success in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday.
The Brad Cox-trained Tapit colt heads into the 10-furlong Midsummer Derby following seven wins from eight starts, with his only defeat coming after a wide trip in the Kentucky Derby.
Essential Quality has since bounced back with a victory in the Belmont Stakes before battling to a half-length success over Keepmeinmind in the traditional prep-race for the Travers, the nine-furlong Group 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, at Saratoga at the end of July.
“Essential Quality is very sharp mentally and definitely sharper than he was going into the Jim Dandy,” Brad Cox told godolphin.com.
“Our plan all along was to peak this summer in this spot – it’s been our goal since the Kentucky Derby to have him at his best on Travers Day. From a mental and physical standpoint, I feel he is right where we want him.
“He knows how to run down the last horse. Once he got in front of Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont, he threw his ears up at the wire and it almost looked like he could go round again.
“He has a tremendous amount of stamina and we are excited about this race.”
Essential Quality, who is partnered by his regular jockey Luis Saez, ended 2020 as champion two-year-old following an outstanding campaign that yielded Group 1 wins at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Also at the same meeting, Lake Avenue under Junior Alvarado steps up to Group 1 level for the first time in the seven-furlong Ballerina Handicap following two fine efforts in defeat for trainer Bill Mott.
Successful in the Group 2 Demoiselle Stakes as a juvenile, the four-year-old filly by Tapit was beaten a neck in the Group 3 Bed o’ Roses Stakes at Belmont Park in June and went down by the same margin to Bell’s The One in the Group 2 Honourable Miss Handicap at Saratoga at the end of July.
“Lake Avenue was very game in the Honourable Miss but faces a tough race against Gamine, who is a brilliant filly, and Ce Ce,” Godolphin’s USA president Jimmy Bell said.
“She deserves to take her chance in the field and has trained well up to this point, but we are under no illusions of the task in front of her.”