Trainer Brad Cox was a happy camper Sunday morning, pleased with all aspects of the gutty victory by Godolphin’s undefeated champion Essential Quality in Saturday’s $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2).
“He looks good this morning and I am happy with the way he came out of the race,” Cox said of Essential Quality, who extended his unbeaten streak to five with his neck victory over Highly Motivated. “I liked that he got a test yesterday. It was not like he just galloped up to the leader and went on by.”
Cox said Essential Quality would go to Churchill Downs Monday morning after training hours to join his string there and continue preparations for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1.
Essential Quality might be joined soon at Churchill by Highly Motivated, according to Whit Beckman, assistant to trainer Chad Brown.
“He is good this morning,” Beckman said of Highly Motivated. “He put in a valiant effort yesterday going two turns for the first time. He took all the heat and kept battling.
“I am not sure (how long he will stay here), but knowing Chad I would not be surprised to see him go to Churchill for a couple of works.”
John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer, who picked up 20 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with his third-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass, might wait for the Preakness (G1) on May 15, trainer Michael McCarthy said via text.
The Kentucky Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box and Rombauer has 34 points, which is good for 21st on the leaderboard with two more points races to go on Saturday: the Arkansas Derby (G1), which awards 170 points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, and Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3), which offers 34 points on a 20-8-4-2 scale.
Prior to the Toyota Blue Grass, Rombauer won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and earned an automatic berth into the Preakness.
BBN Racing’s Hidden Stash picked up 10 Derby points for his fourth-place finish to boost his total to 32, good for 23rdon the leaderboard.
“He is good this morning,” trainer Vicki Oliver said. “We will see what the owners want to do – either the Derby or, if he looks tired, wait for the Preakness or Belmont.”
The Kentucky Derby dream ended for Cypress Creek, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm’s Keepmeinmind with his fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass, a position that earned him no points toward the Run for the Roses. Keepmeinmind, runner-up to Essential Quality in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and third to him in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance here last fall, has 18 points and stands 28th on the leaderboard.
“I don’t know what to tell you (about the Toyota Blue Grass performance),” trainer Robertino Diodoro said before heading back to his main string at Oaklawn Park. “Obviously we don’t have enough points and what’s next, that’s the million-dollar question.”
The day was not a total loss for Diodoro as Cypress Creek’s Ava’s Grace finished second in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn and picked up 40 points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and a likely spot in the 14-horse starting gate.
“We are pretty excited about her,” Diodoro said. “I don’t know if she will come here first and then go to Louisville but either way we have to get her up here ASAP from Oaklawn.”