(Essential Quality / Coady Photography)

We had another very interesting weekend along this year’s journey to the first Saturday in May and the traditional date for the Kentucky Derby — the “First Saturday in May.”

We had upsets. To both the tummy and the apple cart.

We had baffling performances. That raise both eyebrows and questions now.

We had stellar upgrades and eye-poppers. We had bitter disappointments and head scratchers. We had celebrations and consolations.

We had muddy tracks that muddied up the Derby focus, and we had fast tracks that quickly changed the scenario, too.

For every positive action, there seemed to be an equal and opposite reaction.

Such is the chase for the elusive trophy of the Kentucky Derby. Such is the long and winding road. Such is the case, yet again, in 2021.

Here’s some of our observations, opinions and outlooks. Here’s some of our quick hitters:

Essential Quality Now Is Unequivocally #1:

Essential Quality — the undefeated 2YO champ of a year ago and most recently the winner of the G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland — will now go into this year’s Kentucky Derby as the unequivocal and undisputed No. 1 contender for this year’s “Run for the Roses.”

Any and all doubts of that were erased own Saturday when trainer Bob Baffert’s latest and greatest Derby hope — Concert Tour — turned in a sour note of a performance in the G1 Arkansas Derby.

That screeching sound? Wrong note. At the wrong time.

Oh, granted, the 3YO son of Street Sense did finish third and was not beaten that much in the last prep for the “big race” that will be held on May 1 at Churchill Downs. He was right there for much of the race, and was within striking distance for much of the stretch drive that became a stretch “dive.”

But instead of showing his typical flash of speed, stamina and guts — just when the racing was truly racing — Concert Tour took a detour. He retreated. He didn’t finish. He didn’t conquer. There was no encore.

Simply put, Concert Tour didn’t seem like the same horse that overwhelmed his foes in the G2 Rebel Stakes just a few weeks ago. He looked invincible then.

On Saturday? The same horse on the same track looked very vincible. So much so, in fact, that there are more doubts and questions now than praise and answers.

That now leaves us with one great hope for one great horse to emerge on this trail to the Triple Crown.

That now leaves us with the same horse that we started this campaign with and promotion on. Horses run in circles. This year, so have we.

That now leaves us with Essential Quality — the big gray son of Tapit. That now leaves us with Essential Quality — the undefeated “2YO Champ” of a year ago. That now leaves us with Essential Quality — the newest shinning star in the barn of Louisville’s own Brad Cox.

That leaves us with one — and only one — of this year’s great hopes of racing grandeur still running.

Can’t wait to see if he can now finish the job.

(Brad Cox / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Why You Should Consider Essential Quality & Brad Cox:

Just a few days ago, I sent a list of “queries” to my great friend and handicapping counterpart, Ed DeRosa, who is the head of marketing at Brisnet.com. He has a way to pose some questions to his master computer system and get some answers spit out faster than a bad dose of sweet feed.

Here are the questions, and some very interesting answers:

First, I asked what Brad Cox’s win percentage in Graded Stakes was now. I guessed that it was going to be high, but I didn’t know for sure. And, I wanted to know for sure.

DeRosa: 21.99%.

Editor’s Comment: Wow.

Second, I asked what Brad Cox’s win percentage in Graded Stakes races run at a route distance.

DeRosa: 23.10%.

Editor’s Comment: Wow II.

Third, I asked what Brad Cox’s win percentage in Graded Stakes races was when his horse was the post time favorite.

DeRosa: 44.90%. Are you kidding me?

Fourth, I asked what Brad Cox’s win percentage in Grade 1 Stakes races was now.

DeRosa: 20.50%. Wow III.

Fifth, I asked what Brad Cox’s win percentage in G1 Stakes races was when his horse was the favorite.

DeRosa: 72.20%. Are you kidding me, seriously? Seriously? Seriously?

In this category, Cox has had 18 horses fit that description. G1 Stakes race. His horse — the favorite. He has won 13 of them.

According to DeRosa:

“It’s the best percentage of winning favorite in Grade 1 races of any trainer with at least 14 favorites in Grade 1 races.”

As in?

Ever.

Quite honestly, those numbers are insane.

And, guess what?

On the first Saturday in May. Brad Cox will have the favorite in a G1 Stakes race, which will be run at a route distance. It’s called the Kentucky Derby.

Want to bet against those numbers?

I don’t.

I won’t.

(Essential Quality is a son of Tapit / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Just When You Thought This KY Derby Was Already Over Dept.:

If you are looking to bet against Essential Quality in this year’s Kentucky Derby, you are not without some hope. After all, it is a horse race, right? And, after all, the favorite only wins — on average — about .33% of the time.

But here are some queries that could help support your opinion:

First, I asked, what is the record for the sons of the great sire Tapit in the Kentucky Derby.

DeRosa: 0-for-11. Zero. Nada. None. And, Essential Quality is a son of Tapit.

Second, I asked what is the average Post Time odds of sons of Tapit that have run in KY Derby to date.

DeRosa: 18-1 odds.

Third, I asked what the win percentage was for the sons of Tapit in Graded Stakes races.

DeRosa: 14.8%. That means that 84.2% of them don’t win.

Fourth, I asked what the win percentage was for the sons of Tapit in Grade 1 Stakes races.

DeRosa: 11.5%. That means that 88.5% of them don’t win.

Fifth, I asked what the win percentage was for the sons of Tapit in Graded Stakes races run at a route distance.

DeRosa: 15.4%. Better. But still? That means 84.6% of them don’t win.

And, sixth, I asked what the win percentage was for the sons of Tapit in Graded Stakes races for 3YOs.

DeRosa: 15.6%. Better, still.

Want to bet against those numbers?

Inspire you to pick against Essential Quality?

Not me.

I’m all in for EQ, who just may be on the cover of GQ.

Other Interesting Factoids (well, at least to me; and I’m doing the writing here):

Here are some other things I asked my great friend to inquire about and get some answers.

Thought you may be interested in his intel, too:

1) What is jockey Robby Albarado’s record since winning the 2020 Preakness Stakes with Swiss Skydiver?

Answer: 3-for-142. With 7 seconds and 15 thirds. That’s a win percentage of 0.02112676.

2) If you were a horse owner, what would you do if your trainer told you that Robby Albarado is going to ride your horse?

Answer: Just kidding. Don’t do it.

3) Who is the leading jockey in terms of win percentage in Graded Stakes races over the last year?

Answer: By # of wins, the leading rider is jockey Joel Rosario, with 38. By winning percentage, with a minimum number of 35 starts, it is Florent Geroux with a win percentage of 24.7%. Take note. Rosario has been riding both Hot Rod Charlie and Concert Tour. Geroux has been riding Caddo River, Rombauer, and Mandaloun.

4) Who is the leading jockey in terms of win percentage in Graded Stakes races over the past three years?

Answer: Irad Ortiz, Jr. He has 97 wins and the win percentage is 22.5%. Has of now, it appears that Ortiz will stick with Florida Derby winner Known Agenda for this year’s Derby.

5) Who is the leading jockey in terms of win percentage in Graded Stakes races over the past five years?

Answer: Javier Castellano with 142 wins, and “Money” Mike Smith with .22.3%. Castellano will likely have the mount on Highly Motivated, a tough-beat 2nd to Essential Quality in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes. And, amazingly enough, as of right now? Mike Smith does NOT have a mount.

Hope you have fun with these stats. More are sure to come.

Good day.