In the days leading up to the 38th Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in California, usracing.com is publishing profiles on the horses in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Saturday, Nov. 6). The profiles will be updated following the post-position draw on Monday, Nov. 1.
By Ed McNamara
How do you knock a horse who’s never done anything wrong? Well, in the days leading up to the Classic, many people will try.
They’ll say Essential Quality’s speed figures are very good but not great, and that unlike his flashy stablemate Knicks Go, he doesn’t blow away the opposition. Essential Quality’s biggest margin in his eight victories is 4 1/4 lengths, with an average of 1 3/4. Knicks Go’s average in his last seven wins is more than six lengths. He was geared down in three of them, so his dominance was even greater.
You can compare trainer Brad Cox’s pair, who will be the favorites in the Classic, to baseball sluggers. Knicks Go is like the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton, who hits the ball harder and farther than anybody. Essential Quality’s power doesn’t dazzle but he always comes through in the clutch. He won the Blue Grass (G2) and Travers (G1) by a neck despite trouble at the start.
The best horse of his generation never has run a bad race, and only an endlessly wide trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1) has kept him from being 9-for-9. Unlike Knicks Go, who’s never tried 1 1/4 miles, Essential Quality is a proven stayer, having won the 1 1/4-mile Travers and the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1).
Essential Quality surged the final furlong of the Travers in 23 seconds, about as fast as a thoroughbred can finish a 10-furlong race on dirt.
“The mile and a quarter isn’t going to be an issue for him at all,” Cox said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace, and Luis (Saez) will put him in a good spot. He never really gets tired, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be coming down the lane.”
Post position: TBD
Jockey: Luis Saez
Trainer: Brad Cox
Owner: Godolphin LLC
Career record: 9-8-0-0
Career earnings: $4,215,144
Best Equibase speed rating: 109
Pedigree: Tapit-Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
Running style: Stalker
Betting advice: I’ll be playing Essential Quality to win. With Knicks Go, Derby winner Medina Spirit and the talented Hot Rod Charlie also drawing money, the odds will be around 3-1. That’s great value.
Notes: Essential Quality breezed 6 furlongs in 1:12.40 on Oct. 23 at Churchill Downs. “It was a real good work, it didn’t take much out of him at all,” Cox said. He had three 5-furlong works earlier in October, going :59 4/5, :59 1/5 and 1:01. He’s never been flashy in the mornings, doing just enough … Negative stats: Saez is 1-for-34 in the Breeders’ Cup and 0-for-2 in the Classic, finishing second in 2013 (Will Take Charge) and fifth last year (Maximum Security). Godolphin has nine Cup victories but is 0-for-14 in the Classic … Jimmy Bell, head of Godolphin’s U.S. operations, on Essential Quality’s essential quality: “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.” The numbers bear that out. He’s run his top Equibase Speed Figure (109) four times (Blue Grass, Derby, Belmont, Travers).
|1||Tripoli||15-1||Irad Ortiz,Jr||John Sadler|
|2||Express Train||20-1||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs|
|3||Hot Rod Charlie||4-1||Flavien Prat||Doug O’Neill|
|4||Essential Quality||3-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|5||Knicks Go||5-2||Joel Rosario||Brad Cox|
|6||Art Collector||8-1||Mike Smith||William Mott|
|7||Stiletto Boy||30-1||Kent Desormeaux||Ed Moger,Jr.|
|8||Medina Spirit||4-1||John Velazquez||Bob Baffert|
|9||Max Player||8-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Steven Asmussen|
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.