Essential Quality maintained his unbeaten record to spark Kentucky Derby dreams for Godolphin with victory in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.
Much of the pre-race discussion focussed on the Steve Asmussen-trained Jackie’s Warrior, who had won each of his previous four starts and was all the rage to cement his place as winter favourite for next year’s ‘Run for the Roses’.
Joel Rosario was forced to take a lead behind the red-hot pace on Jackie’s Warrior – who has looked so brilliant from the front – but once he did hit strike for home it was for just a matter of strides before huge outsider Hot Rod Charlie took over and threatened to cause a major shock.
However, Essential Quality came from further back under Luis Saez and ultimately won with authority – completing a big double for trainer Brad Cox following the success of Aunt Pearl in the preceding Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Hot Rod Charlie was second ahead of Keepmeinmind in third, with Jackie’s Warrior only fourth.
Cox – recording his fifth Breeders’ Cup winner – said: “It was a tremendous effort from Luis, who stayed at him the whole way.
“He has an amazing amount of stamina and is a spectacular horse for the Godolphin operation.
“I was hoping he wouldn’t flatten out, but that never looked like happening and moving forward we will point him at the Kentucky Derby.”
It was a first Breeders’ Cup victory for Saez, who said: “Today he was very focussed and really responded when I got at him. He ran right by them.”
Asmussen felt the strong early pace contributed to Jackie’s Warrior’s downfall.
He said: “It (the pace) was too much too soon.
“He’d accomplished a lot coming here and obviously we planned on winning and ended up coming fourth.
“Pace makes the race and it did not set up well for us today.”