Essential Quality proves all class for Godolphin in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

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.

Luis Saez looks to the skies after claiming Breeders' Cup Juvenile glory with Essential Quality
Luis Saez looks to the skies after claiming Breeders’ Cup Juvenile glory with Essential Quality (Mark Humphrey/AP)

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.”

Magical in stall two for Breeders’ Cup Turf assignment

Magical will break from stall two while stablemate Mogul will start widest of 10 runners in Saturday’s Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.

The duo, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore and Pierre-Charles Boudot respectively, will be trying to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a seventh success in the 12-furlong heat, which also features Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa, the mount of Christophe Soumillon.

John Gosden is also represented with the Frankie Dettori-ridden Lord North (six) and Mehdaayih, who will be in stall four for Joel Rosario.

Kameko, winner of the 2000 Guineas, goes for glory in the Fanduel Breeders’ Cup Mile and Oisin Murphy’s mount will be surrounded by some familiar horses as he breaks from stall two.

O’Brien’s Circus Maximus (one) and the Ger Lyons-trained Siskin (four) have already crossed swords with Andrew Balding’s charge this year, while Lope Y Fernandez (three), Safe Voyage (six) and One Master (nine) complete the British and Irish challenge.

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Last year’s winner Uni is drawn 12th of the 14 runners for Chad Brown.

The Jessica Harrington-trained Cayenne Pepper was drawn 14 of 14 runners for the Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf, which also features O’Brien’s Peaceful (three), Terrebellum (seven) from the Gosden yard and James Fanshawe’s Audarya (11).

Glass Slippers is in stall six for Kevin Ryan in the Turf Sprint, with Charlie Hills’ Equilateral among the reserves for the six-furlong contest.

Bob Baffert appears to hold the key to the Classic with three-times Group One winner Improbable, Kentucky Derby victor Authentic and Maximum Security.

The trio were all drawn next to each other in the 10-furlong feature, taking stalls eight, nine and 10 respectively.

Baffert said: “That was crazy. I got here just before the draw and I saw Authentic in the nine. And they’re going to be easy to watch.

“It’s not like the Sprint and they have a long run to the turn. They have to break well. Improbable, he needs to break well.”

Tiz The Law will be in stall two with Toms D’Etat (four) another leading contender.

Monomoy Girl (10) and Swiss Skydiver (five) face off against each other in the Distaff in what is one of the most eagerly-awaited clashes.

Swiss Skydiver won the Preakness on her most recent start for Kenny McPeek, while Monomoy Girl won this race in 2018 but could not defend her title last year after suffering a bout of colic.

Trainer Brad Cox is unconcerned by her draw in the widest stall of all, adding: “She was 11 of 11 in the Breeders’ Cup in 2018. She was 14 of 14 in the Kentucky Oaks. I love it.”

Swiss Skydiver team mulling Breeders’ Cup options

Connections of Swiss Skydiver have yet to make a decision on which race the filly will tackle at the Breeders’ Cup meeting.

The three-year-old was last seen when beating Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the Preakness earlier this month, with the Pimlico Classic forming the last leg of the Triple Crown in this Covid-19 affected season.

That win qualified Swiss Skydiver for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, while her victory in the Grade One Alabama Stakes at Saratoga back in August guaranteed her place in the Distaff field, leaving trainer Kenny McPeek and owner Peter Callahan in a quandary as to her Keeneland target.

McPeek said: “I believe she’s the only horse to have ‘win and you’re in’ for both races, I’m not sure any other horse has done that, so we took advantage of the fact she’s able to pre-enter in both without any fees.

“We figured we’d take a look, see what the Classic looked like. We’ve not had an opportunity to sit down and study the past performances yet, but we’re going to do that in the next 24 or 48 hours and get clarity on what direction we’re going.

“I really like her at a mile and a quarter would be the pro for the Classic, but I also know it’s a deeper race on paper. I think another pro would be she’d get a bit of weight off in the Classic as well, so that’s another reason to go in that direction.

“Monomoy Girl will definitely be the horse to beat in the Distaff, we know that. If we can step up our game, she’s a top filly and you wouldn’t think that race is going to be easy either, but it’s not supposed to be.

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“We’ve got to study it and we’ll come to a conclusion soon,” he told a Breeders’ Cup teleconference.

Authentic is one of three entries for Bob Baffert in the Classic, along with Improbable and Maximum Security.

Improbable has won his last three starts – all at Grade One level – most recently dishing out a four-and-a-half-length beating to stablemate Maximum Security in last month’s Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.

Baffert said: “They will all breeze one more time this weekend and then they ship out early morning on Tuesday and I think they arrive there by noon.”

Kentucky Derby second Tiz The Law could reoppose in the Classic with Tom’s D’Etat another leading candidate following the pre-entry stage.

The Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf is dominated by European-trained runners with Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Magical and Mogul leading the way.

John Gosden has Lord North entered along with Mehdaayih, while stablemate Terrebellum is due to tackle Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf.

The Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa is in the Filly & Mare field too along with O’Brien’s Peaceful, the James Fanshawe-trained Audarya and Jessica Harrington’s Cayenne Pepper.

Kameko and Siskin, winners of the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, are set to clash again in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Ger Lyons’ Siskin finished a place ahead of the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko when third and fourth respectively in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, while O’Brien’s Circus Maximus was second that day and is also set to re-oppose.

The 14 runners include William Haggas’ three-times Foret winner One Master and John Quinn’s Safe Voyage while Uni and Raging Bull head the home-trained hopes at this stage.

Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers is the only British runner in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, with Charlie Hills’ Equilateral not in the field as it stands.

The meeting kicks off on Friday, November 6 with juvenile heats to the fore and a strong British and Irish contingent is in prospect.

Ralph Beckett’s pair of New Mandate and Devilwala are set to join the Michael Bell-trained The Lir Jet in the Juvenile Turf, in which O’Brien’s Battleground and Harrington’s Cadillac are also entered.

Wesley Ward’s Prix Morny winner Campanelle is the headline horse in the Juvenile Fillies Turf Turf Sprint, with Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet, Mother Earth for O’Brien and Roger Varian’s Nazuna also in the field.

O’Brien’s Lippizaner is in the reckoning alongside Mighty Gurkha from Archie Watson’s yard and Ubettabelieveit for Nigel Tinkler in the Juvenile Turf Sprint.