Godolphin LLC's ESSENTIAL QUALITY endured a wide journey en route to his hard-fought win in Saturday's $600K Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Racecourse.
The gray son of TAPIT proved he was much the best. Particularly having to fend off in deep stretch the late run of KEEPMEINMIND, who had been improving with every race and brought his A-game with him. The latter had a dream run through the turn, and saved plenty of ground for a chance to deny the Belmont Champ, but that wasn't in the cards today.
Sent off as the heavy 2-5 favorite, ESSENTIAL QUALITY broke alertly for jockey Luis Saez but was floated four-wide on the first turn. The pace was set by DR JACK, who clocked the opening quarters in 23.81 and 47.41.
"I knew they were going to slow the pace down, so my tactic was to break and be right there," Saez said. "At the half-mile, I saw everyone was very comfortable, so it was time to start moving. He gave me a kick. We came to the top of the stretch and he just took off. (DailyGazette)
Along the backstretch, ESSENTIAL QUALITY was positioned fourwide, racing outside and in the clear, just three lengths off the lead. With three furlongs to go, Luis Saez pushes the button and ESSENTIAL QUALITY ranges up to challenge for the lead. Meanwhile KEEPMEINDMIND gets a dream run through the rail, cutting the corner with a full head-of steam.
But when they straightened away, it was all eyes on the gutsy gray: ESSENTIAL QUALITY was swung even wider, perhaps along the seventh-path, and proceeded to grind away, hooking back up with his two rivals to his inside, MASQUEPARADE and KEEPMEINMIND, before ultimately edging clear late to win.
Saez continued: "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."
KEEPMEINDMIND ran well to be second, MASQUEPARADE kept on for third. The final time for the one mile and one-eighth run was 1:49.92.
"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," trainer Brad Cox said.
"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."
ESSENTIAL QUALITY paid $2.80 to win, $2.10 to place, and $1.00 to show. He is by TAPIT out of DELIGHTFUL QUALITY by ELUSIVE QUALITY. He improves his record to 7 wins from 8 starts and pushes his earnings to $3,545,144.
Brad Cox continued. "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."
ESSENTIAL QUALITY's victory gave Brad Cox his very first Jim Dandy title, and gave Godolphin LCC their second in a row. Recall last year, where we saw MYSTIC GUIDE cross the line first, sporting the white blinkers and deep blue silks.
Jimmy Bell, the president of Godolphin operations in the U.S. commented after the race: "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."
Sources: Equibase, Paulick Report, NYRA Saratoga, Daily Gazette