Godolphin is bidding for two top thoroughbred prizes across two continents on Saturday.
The royal blues have a trio – Master Of The Seas, One Ruler and Naval Crown – aimed at the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket while the undefeated Essential Quality heads the field in the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Master Of The Seas is the choice of trainer Charlie Appleby’s first jockey William Buick. James Doyle is atop One Ruler, who is making his seasonal appearance, and Adam Kirby is booked on Naval Crown.
Master Of The Seas has run twice this season, finishing second to Naval Crown in the Listed Meydan Classic in February before overcoming traffic to land the Group 3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket on April 21.
It indeed is a tough call for Buick who may have considered race fitness in opting to ride Master Of The Seas ahead of the Group 1 Futurity runner up One Ruler who makes his seasonal reappearance.
Aidan O’Brien has also a trio in the race with Ryan Moore on Wembley and Frankie Dettori booked on Battleground heading the challenge.
Essential Quality has a perfect record and presents Godolphin’s best chance ever of winning the Kentucky Derby even though he tackles the 10-furlong distance for the first time.
The Brad Cox-trained Tapit colt under the 2021 Dubai World Cup winning jockey Luis Saez heads into the first leg of the US Triple Crown following a faultless preparation for the 10-furlong Classic.
“My only concern with Essential Quality is getting a good trip,” Cox told the Godolphin website.
“I think if he runs the race he has been running, he is going to be there. It is a 20-horse field, so you have to overcome certain things and have some racing luck. If he gets the racing luck and a clean trip, we should be in a great position.”
Essential Quality has won all his five starts, including two victories as a three-year-old that have displayed his versatility and courage.
He powered to a comprehensive win the Group 3 Southwest Stakes on a sloppy Oaklawn Park track at the end of February, and was forced to dig deep to overcome Highly Motivated by a neck in the Group 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 3.
Those successes were achieved on the back of an outstanding Eclipse Award-winning two-year-old campaign that saw him take two Group 1 prizes at Keeneland – the Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“He hasn’t missed a beat in his career,” Cox added. “He has run five big races and his work schedule has been extremely steady, so he is a very solid horse in terms of soundness.
“If you watch him in the mornings, he is not over the top. He is happy and feeling good but he’s a classy horse who knows when to turn it on and off.
“I think it’s a good quality to have in terms of a Derby horse. It is going to be loud with a big crowd on Derby Day but we are hopeful and confident that he will be able to handle it.”