Essential Quality came through for his legion of backers in Saturday’s $582,000 Jim Dandy S. (G2) at Saratoga, but the victory was a hard-earned one for the once-beaten champion and classic winner.
Favored at 2-5 in his first start since taking the Belmont S. (G1) last month, Essential Quality was hung four wide into the clubhouse turn as Dr Jack seized the early lead. Settling in fourth under Luis Saez, Essential Quality remained four wide down the backside and as he commenced his bid on the far turn.
After setting a pace of :23.81 and :47.41, Dr Jack yielded to Masqueparade and Weyburn on the far turn, with the former holding a head advantage after six furlongs in 1:11.13. However, Essential Quality was in hot pursuit of both, though he was forced five-to-six wide in upper stretch.
Essential Quality worked his way to a half-length lead after a mile, a margin he maintain to the wire as 9-1 chance Keepmeinmind briefly threatened to make it close with a bid on the rail. Essential Quality would not be denied, though, and prevailed in a time of 1:49.92 for 1 1/8 miles over a fast track.
Owned and bred by Godolphin, the Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality paid $2.80. Keepmeinmind held second by 2 1/4 lengths over Masqueparade. Weyburn was four lengths farther back in fourth, while Dr Jack was eased late.
“There was a lot of ground lost today,” Cox said. “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 (from the Travers [G1]).”
The Jim Dandy was the seventh win in eight starts for Essential Quality, and his sixth graded score overall. Voted champion off wins in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland last fall, he started as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 1 after interim wins in the Southwest (G3) and Blue Grass (G2). However, a costly bump at the start and a wide journey affected his closing punch and he fell a length short of Medina Spirit in fourth.
The 13-10 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont on June 5, Essential Quality turned in a terrific effort to get past a determined Hot Rod Charlie by 1 1/4 lengths, covering the distance in a sharp 2:27. The son of Tapit has now earned $3,545,144.
Bred in Kentucky, Essential Quality was produced by the Grade 3-placed Delightful Quality, an Elusive Quality half-sister to 2005 juvenile filly champion Folklore.