November 30, 2021

Essential Quality brings imposing form to seven-horse Travers

Essential Quality wins the Jim Dandy Stakes (Photo by Joe Labozzetta/Coglianese Photos)

Essential Quality’s six rivals have their work cut out for them in Saturday’s 152nd running of the $1.25 million Travers S. (G1). The multiple Grade 1-winning champion will be an overwhelming favorite in Saratoga’s centerpiece event.

A Godolphin homebred Tapit colt, Essential Quality has won 7-of-8 starts for Brad Cox, and the gray sophomore is listed at 4-5 on the Travers morning line with regular rider Luis Saez. He breaks from post 2 in the 1 1/4-mile “Midsummer Derby.”

Essential Quality was named champion two-year-old male following wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1). After opening his three-year-old season with a couple of stakes tallies, he went favored in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but Essential Quality was interfered with at the start and sustained his first setback, finishing a close fourth after an extremely wide trip.

Shrugging off his first career setback, Essential Quality rebounded stylishly in the Belmont S. (G1), rallying to win going away by a 1 1/4-length margin. He tuned up for the Travers in the July 31 Jim Dandy S. (G2) at Saratoga, overcoming a wide journey on both turns to prevail by a half-length, and is eligible to show more in the Travers.

Grade 3 scorer Midnight Bourbon, runner-up in three graded stakes including the Preakness (G1), has been pegged as the early 9-2 second choice. The classy Steve Asmussen-trained colt escaped serious mishap when clipping heels in the stretch of the July 17 Haskell S. (G1) at Monmouth Park, stumbling badly and dislodging the jockey after the interference. The Tiznow colt will receive a rider switch to Ricardo Santana Jr., and Midnight Bourbon possesses the tactical speed to be forward from his innermost post.

Dynamic One will enter on the upswing for Todd Pletcher, closing boldly to win the restricted Curlin S. over the track on July 30. A head second in the Wood Memorial (G2) three back, Dynamic One bounced back nicely from an 18th in the Kentucky Derby, and the Union Rags colt will keep Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle. He’s the 6-1 co-third choice on the morning line.

Jim Dandy runner-up Keepmeinmind is also 6-1. A Grade 2 winner in his juvenile finale, the Laoban colt entered his sophomore campaign as a respected Kentucky Derby contender, but Keepmeinmind disappointed with four consecutive unplaced efforts. He appears to be rounding into form for Robertino Diodoro, narrowly missing in the Ohio Derby (G3) before his strong showing in the Jim Dandy, and Joel Rosario retains the assignment.

Ohio Derby winner Masqueparade comes next at 8-1 after weakening to third in the Jim Dandy. Curlin runner-up Miles D will make his second stakes attempt, and Lexington S. (G3) winner King Fury completes the field.