By Nicholas Godfrey
Saratoga: Jim Dandy Stakes G2 $600,000 1m1f, dirt, 3yo
Essential Quality (Brad Cox/Luis Saez)
Don’t be misled by the bare facts of a hard-fought half-length victory at odds of 2-5 against only four opponents, because Essential Quality did well to win this.
Having his prep race for the Travers Stakes on August 28, America’s leading three-year-old duly posted a game success to take his career record to seven wins for eight starts on his first start since the Belmont Stakes.
Mind you, anyone watching the final furlong could be forgiven for thinking this was an underwhelming effort as Godolphin’s son of Tapit struggled to overcome Keepmeinmind.
However, the runner-up was getting 4lb and barely had to leave the rail, while Essential Quality suffered a brutal wide trip throughout. He broke well enough – but so did everybody else, which meant the favourite was five wide into the first turn and last out of it.
Moreover, he stayed out wide throughout before challenging five wide into the stretch. “It made for some anxious moments down the lane,” admitted trainer Brad Cox. “There was a lot of ground lost today.”
As such, there was much to admire about Essential Quality’s attitude in wearing down a stubborn rival, even if the performance was unlikely to have you shouting from the rooftops. A case of job done, nonetheless, with the main prize four weeks away.
Shall we talk about it?
Brad Cox (trainer): “When they straightened up, I thought, ‘Wow we’ve been wide both turns,’ and then we see a horse slip up the inside who looked like he had some run left. It made for some anxious moments down the lane. Overall, he’s a very determined horse. He has the heart of a champion. He’s a good horse, he stays on.
“There was a lot of ground lost today. Luis obviously had to work to win. He got something out of it, I do think that. I think he’s carrying a little more weight now than he was leading up to the Derby or Belmont. I think this was a good tightener for him, four weeks out.”
Jimmy Bell (Godolphin USA president): “The really good horses just show up and find a way to get things done and he has seemed to do that every start. Consistency has been his hallmark and it was a battle down the stretch. It was probably good for him, which is easier to say after the race than when they’re at the sixteenth pole.”
Luis Saez (jockey): “I saw him [Keepmeinmind], but I had a lot of horse and I knew he was going to finish. The plan today was not to take too much away from him. He always fights and he always wants to win.”
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