(Essential Quality / Coady Photography)

From the Keeneland Media Team:


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 23rd on 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.”


Trainer Todd Pletcher extended his all-time record number of Keeneland stakes victories to 59 on Saturday with triumphs by Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat in the Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Starlight Racing’s Jouster in the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association.

“They are all good this morning,” reported Amelia Green, who is overseeing Pletcher’s string at Keeneland that also includes Ghazaaly, winner of Saturday’s first race.

Malathaat earned a berth in the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) with her victory. The Oaks will be run April 30, the same day as the $300,000 Edgewood (G2) that could be a possible spot for Jouster to return.

Pletcher said via text that Malathaat and Jouster would remain at Keeneland for the time being.

A half-hour after Malathaat won the Central Bank Ashland, Pletcher saddled Calumet Farm’s Bourbonicand Repole Stable, Phipps Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Dynamic One to a 1-2 finish in the Wood Memorial (G2) Presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct.

Pletcher has four horses in the top 20 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, including WinStar Farm and CHC Inc’s Sainthood, who is stabled here following his runner-up effort in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park March 27.

In winning her first Grade 1, Malathaat ran down Pass the Champagne in the final yards to prevail by a head.

“I thought we had it won, but I know Todd has been very high on Malathaat,” said George Weaver, trainer of Pass the Champagne, who is owned by the partnership of R. A. Hill Stable, Black Type Thoroughbreds, Rock Ridge Racing, Black Ridge Stables and James Brown. “She is doing fine this morning and will ship back (to Palm Beach Downs in Florida) tomorrow morning.”

Weaver followed a similar pattern two years ago with Vekoma after he won the Toyota Blue Grass, returning to his Florida base before going to Churchill Downs Derby Week.


Two stakes victories in a day makes for a pretty good afternoon, so that means trainer Wesley Ward had a very enjoyable Friday and Saturday to open the 15-day Keeneland Spring Meet.

On the heels of Friday victories by Three Chimneys Farm’s Twenty Carat in the Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Chasing Artie in the Palisades Turf Sprint, Ward doubled up again Saturday with Ten Broeck Farm’s Kimari in the Madison (G1) and his Bound for Nowhere in the Shakertown (G2).

“They are both fine this morning,” Ward said about his Saturday stakes winners, adding that neither would run in a stakes at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby Week in four weeks. “That is too quick.”

With his second victory in the Shakertown, Bound for Nowhere boosted his career earnings to $999,857. “But, when you add in his pounds and Euros from his races at Ascot, he’s a millionaire,” Ward said.

In notching her first graded stakes victory, Kimari turned back the likes of Grade 1 winner Bell’s the One, who finished in a dead heat for second in her 2021 debut.

“She’s got a few nicks, but nothing we can’t manage,” trainer Neil Pessin said of Bell’s the One. “I still wouldn’t trade horses with anyone.”

Next for Bell’s the One figures to be a chance to repeat in the $500,000 Derby City Distaff (G1) Presented by Kendall-Jackson Winey to be run May 1 at Churchill.


Working Sunday on the main track was Godolphin’s Proxy, who covered a half-mile in :46.80, the best of 64 at the distance for the morning. Fourth in his most recent start, the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) for trainer Mike Stidham, Proxy is 22nd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He is nominated to Saturday’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3), which offers 34 Derby points on a 20-8-4-2 scale to the top four finishers. …

Several horses expected to run in Grade 1 turf stakes Friday and Saturday put in works over a grass course labeled as good:

Trainer Chad Brown worked Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) nominees Raging Bull (FR) and Sacred Life (FR)together for a half-mile in :50.60 and Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) possibles Etoile (FR) and Tamahere (FR) together for a half-mile in :49.20.

Also working toward the Coolmore Jenny Wiley was Daddy Is a Legend, who covered a half-mile in :49 for trainer George Weaver.

Working for trainer Wesley Ward were TVG Limestone Turf Sprint nominees Carimba and Campanelle(IRE), who worked in company in 1:01.40 and 1:01.80, respectively, for 5 furlongs.



On Saturday’s second day of the Keeneland Spring Meet, jockeys Joel Rosario and Luis Saez combined to win nine races on the 11-race program and continue their domination of the young season. The two riders accounted for all nine stakes.

After two days of the Spring Meet, Rosario leads jockeys with seven wins, and Saez is second with six victories.

Rosario rode five winners Saturday, including four consecutive stakes: the Commonwealth (G3) onFlagstaff, Shakertown (G2) on Bound for Nowhere, Central Bank Ashland (G1) on Malathaat and Madison (G1) on Kimari. On Friday, he captured two stakes: the Palisades Turf Sprint with Chasing Artieand the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3) on Scarlett Sky.

“Thank you to everyone: Wesley Ward, Todd Pletcher, everyone else who gave me an opportunity,” said Rosario about his performance Saturday in which he rode in nine races. “It was an amazing day. I thought I had some chances to win but you never know, so it’s just great to have the opportunities and be able to win.”

Rosario joins Jerry Bailey (1999) and Javier Castellano (2016) as riders with a record six stakes victories during a Spring Meet. If he wins one of the 10 stakes remaining this season, Rosario will take sole possession of the Spring Meet record.

During the 2013 Spring Meet when he won a season record 38 races, Rosario also had two five-win days. He shares the five-win mark in the Spring Meet with five other jockeys.

The Spring Meet record for wins on one day is six, an achievement for three jockeys: Craig Perret (1990), Randy Romero (1990) and Julien Leparoux (2012).

On Friday, Saez rode Twenty Carat to win the Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select. On Saturday, he won four races topped by the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) on Essential Quality and the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association on Jouster.



Friday, April 9 races. Entries taken Tuesday.

$300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) – Get Smokin (trainer Tom Bush), Raging Bull (FR) (Chad Brown), Ride a Comet (Mark Casse), Sacred Life (FR) (Brown), Somelikeithotbrown (Mike Maker). Possible: Hitthe Road (Dan Blacker), Smooth Like Strait (Michael McCarthy).

$100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint – Alda (Graham Motion), Feeling Mischief (Michael Campbell), Inajiffy (Joe Sharp), Navratilova (Rusty Arnold), Phantom Vision (Mike Maker), Tobys Heart (Brian Lynch). Possible: Goin Good (Brad Cox), Nimbostratus (FR) (Peter Miller). 

Saturday, April 10 races. Entries taken Wednesday.

$300,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) – Daddy Is a Legend (George Weaver), Etoile (FR) (Chad Brown), Micheline (Mike Stidham), Tamahere (FR) (Brown). Possible: Juliet Foxtrot (GB) (Brad Cox).

$200,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) – It’s My House (Robert Hess Jr.), King Fury (Kenny McPeek),Starrininmydreams (Dallas Stewart), Ultimate Badger (Dale Romans). Possible: Unbridled Honor (Todd Pletcher).

$150,000 Ben Ali (G3) – Possible: Fearless (Todd Pletcher), Night Ops (Brad Cox). 

$100,000 Giant’s Causeway (L) – Dixieincandyland (Eddie Kenneally), In Good Spirits (Al Stall Jr.), Jakarta (Mike Maker), Karak (Wesley Ward). Possible: Oooh Barracuda (Blake Kelly).




Through April 3 (2 days of 15-day season)


Jockey Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Joel Rosario 18 7 4 2 $950,652
Luis Saez 13 6 1 2 $889,450


Trainer Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Wesley Ward 9 4 3 1 $506,700
Todd Pletcher 5 3 0 0 $412,750


Owner Wins
Shadwell Stable (Rick Nichols) 2