(Essential Quality won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November to stay unbeaten. He heads into 2021 with a perfect 3-for-3 record and a win already at Churchill Downs / Coady Photography)

Editor’s Note:

The first time I saw the pedigree and saw that trainer Brad Cox had entered the unraced Essential Quality on the first weekend in September — the date of this year’s star-crossed Kentucky Derby — I saw stars. Or, at the very least, a potential star in the making, and, perhaps, stardom to come.

To be honest, I snuck out to the Churchill Downs’ backside and took a glimpse at this silver bullet, with the glistening roan coat of so many colors. Just had to have a look at what could be before I knew what he was going to become. Just had to see if the horse could leap the same as the catalogue page that jumped. Just had to see with my own two eyes if these four legs were as good as advertised.

I had boxes to check. I had questions to be answered. Had to go. Had to see. Had to know. I had more curiosity than the barn cat at the Cox barn.

Meow turned into wow-wow.

What I speculated then, you all know now.

Beauty?

Check.

Talent?

Check.

Genetics?

Check.

Conformation?

Check.

Speed?

Check.

Wow factor?

Check.

Greatness? Well…let’s leave that box half-full for now — since we are a half-full kind of a reporter. Let’s just say that the colt is well on his way to what could be a very impressive career.

But there is very little doubt. This colt could be great. Yes. This colt’s career could end defined in greatness. Yes. This colt could be the next-great-thing kind of a thing. Yes.

After the first three career starts, Ellusive Quality is a perfect 3-for-3 in the record books.

He broke the maiden at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 by an easy 4 lengths. And, that win came despite some early congestion and nowhere to run at the turn for home. Eyes. Popped.

He returned to win the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity in October. Won that one by nearly 4 lengths over a colt that would later win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs and stamp himself as a possible Kentucky Derby contender, too. Eyes. Popped.

He finished the 2YO season with an easy and impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, too. Came from near the rear of that field to best 13 others. Was wide for much of the race. Was much the best. Again. Eyes. Popped.

Now, Essential Quality is headed South for the Winter.

Now, Essential Quality is headed for a master course in getting ready for the First Saturday in May.

It will be fun to watch. It will be fun to see.

Can Brad Cox lend his magic tough that has already produced Kentucky Oaks winners Monomoy Girl and Shedaresthedevil to a colt and win the Kentucky Derby?

Can Essential Quality continue to improve; continue to dominate his foes; continue to win?

Can the sport see another great one emerge from the ashes of 2020?

Well, time will tell, to be sure.

But this horse seems to have all the “Essential” ingredients of a great one.

This horse seems to have all the “Qualities” of a great one.

Essential Quality.

This horse just may have the perfect name for the next great one.

Rankings Horse Sire Trainer Jockey Last Race Next Race Career Comments
1 Essential Quality Tapit Brad Cox Luis Saez 1st G1 BC Juvenile @ KEE TBD (Last Official Work in Oct) 3/3-0-0 Undefeated Son of Tapit / What’s Not to Like
2 Life Is Good Into Mischief Bob Baffert Mike Smith 1st in MSW @ Del Mar Jan. 2: G3 Sham Stakes 1/1-0-0 Worked 6F at SA on Dec. 12 / Next?
3 Prime Factor Quality Road Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr. 1st in MSW @ GP TBD (Breezed on 12-6 at PBD) 1/1-0-0 Broke MSW by Nearly 9 / Cost $900K / Wow
4 Red Flag Tamarkuz John Shirreffs Victor Espinoza 1st in G3 Bob Hope @ Del Mar Dec. 19: G2 Los Alamitos Futurity 3/2-0-0 Won Bob Hope by Nearly 8 / Over Spielberg
5 Keepmeinmind Loaban Roberto Diodoro David Cohen 1st in G2 KY Jockey Club @ CD TBD (Last Official Work in Nov) 4/1-2-1 Won KJC As Maiden / Placed in 2 Other G1s
6 Caddo River Hard Spun Brad Cox Florent Geroux 1st in MSW @ CD TBD (Breezed 1/2 on 12-11 @ CD) 3/1-2-0 Broke MSW by Nearly 10 / Beat Greatest Honour
7 Hot Rod Charlie Oxbow Doug O’Neill Tyler Gaffalione 2nd in G1 BC Juvenile @ KEE TBD (Last Work in Oc.) 5/1-1-1 Sold in Feb. 2019 for $17K / 2nd in BC @ 94-1 odds
8 Mandaloun Into Mischief Brad Cox Florent Geroux 1st in ALW @ CD TBD (Breezed 1/2 on 12-12 @ FG) 2/2-0-0 Closer Should Love Extra Ground Coming
9 Dr. Schivel Violence Mark Glatt Flavien Pratt 1st in G1 Del Mar Futurity @ DM TBD (No Recent Works) 4/2-1-1 Has Won 2 In Row / Beat Spielberg in last
10 Petruchio Into Mischief Richard Mandella Mike Smith 1st in MSW @ Del Mar Dec. 19: G2 Los Alamitos Futurity 4/1-1-2 MSW Win Came Over Grass / Big Test Coming Soon
11 Whiskey Double Into Mischief Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana, Jr. 1st in MSW @ CD TBD (Breezed 5F on 12-8 @ FG) 1/1-0-0 Broke MSW on 6-27 Going 6F / Long Layoff / Next?
12 Get Her Number Dialed In Peter Miller Flavien Pratt 1st in G1 American Pharoah TBD (No Recent Works) 3/2-0-0 Speedster Won G1 AP at 11/16-miles in Sept. / Next?
13 Highly Motivated Into Mischief Chad Brown Javier Castellano 1st in Nyquist Stakes TBD (Last Work on 11-1) 3/2-1-0 Won Nyquist on BC Undercard / Impressive / $240K Weanling
14 Prisoner Violence Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr. 1st in MSW @ Belmont Park TBD (No Recent Works) 1/1-0-0 Broke MSW on Debut / Came on 6-3/ What’s Up?
15 Jackie’s Warrior Maclean’s Music Steve Asmussen Joel Rosario 4th in G1 BC Juvenile @ KEE TBD (Last Work on 11-1) 5/4-0-0 Unbeaten Streak Ended in BC / Distance Is Serious ?
16 Brooklyn Strong Wicked Strong Danny Velazquez Joel Rosario 1st in G2 Remsen Staeks @ AQU TBD (Last Work on 11-28 at Del) 4/3-0-1 Remind Me, Again…How Many NY-breds Have Won KY Derby?
17 Vittorio Ghostzapper Simon Callaghan Mike Smith 1st in MSW @ Del Mar TBD (No Recent Works) 2/1-0-0 Easily Whipped Petruchio In Debut Win / Impressive
18 Olympiad Speightstown Bill Mott Junior Alvarado 1st in MSW @ Saratoga TBD (No Recent Works) 2/1-0-1 Impressive Winner in Last / Eat Caddo River Easily in That One
19 Team Merchants Nyquist Doug O’Neill Kendrick Carmouche 1st in MSW @ Saratoga TBD (No Recent Works) 2/1-0-0 Broke MSW Last Out at SAR in Sept. / Whipped Ten for Ten
20 Smiley Sobotka Brody’s Cause Dale Romans Julien Leparoux 2nd in G2 KY Jockey Club @ CD TBD (Last Work on 11-21) 3/1-2-0 Speedster Is Game / Easily Beat Roomate Sittin On Go in Last
AE List Horse Sire Trainer Jockey Last Race Next Race Comments
1 Midnight Bourbon Tiznow Steve Asmussen Ricardo Santana, Jr. 3rd in G1 Champagne @ Belmont TBD (Breezed 1/2 on 12-9 @ FG) 4/1-1-2 Beaten Over 14 in G1 Champagne / Beaten 21/2 in G3 Iroquois
2 Arabian Prince Mshawish Dallas Stewart Tyler Gaffalione 3rd in G2 KY Jockey Club @ CD Jan. 16: G3 Lecomte Stakes 3/1-0-1 Beaten 21/2 Lengths in G2 KJC / Came Late / Likes Distance
3 Reinvestment Risk Upstart Chad Brown Irad Ortiz, Jr. 10th in G1 BC Juvenile @ KEE TBD (Last Work on 11-1 @ Belmont) 4/1-2-0 Made No Move in BC Juv / Before That? Super Consistent
4 Greatest Honour Tapit Shug McGaughey Trevor McCarthy 2nd in MSW @ Aqueduct TBD (Breezed 1/2 on 12-11 @ Payson) 3/0-1-2 Lost by a Head to Known Agenda In Last / Beat 3rd by 21
5 Restored Order Tapizar Todd Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr. 1st in MSW @ Saratoga Dec. 19: Sugar Bowl Stakes 3/1-0-1 Not Raced Since Breaking MSW at SAR on 9-5 / Works? / Hmm
6 Ten for Ten Frosted Shug McGaughey Junior Ortiz 2nd in G2 Remsen Stakes @ AQU TBD (Last Work on 11-29 at BEL) 4/1-3-0 2nd in G2 Remsen & G3 Nashua / Sold for $410K / Speedy
7 Girther Brody’s Cause Peter Miller Ricardo Gonzalez 2nd in G2 Best Pal @ Del Mar TBD (No Recent Works) 3/1-1-0 2nd by Neck in Best Pal / Speed-type / Sold for $20K
8 Sittin on Go Brody’s Cause Dale Romans Corey Lanerie 6th in G2 KY Jockey Club @ CD TBD (Last Work on 11-22 at CD) 4/2-0-0 Back-to-Back Poor Outings / Did Win G3 Iroquois @ CD / Mixed
9 Known Agenda Curlin Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 3rd in G2 Remsen Stakes @ AQU TBD (Last Work on 11-28 at BEL) 3/1-1-1 Beat Greatest Honour in MSW Win / Lost by 2 to Highly Motivated
10 Freedom Fighter Violence Bob Baffert Drayden Van Dyke 1st in MSW @ Del Mar TBD (Last Work on 12-11 at LA) 1/1-0-0 Purchased for $120K at 2019 KEE Sept / Gearing Back Up / Distance?

(Info Compiled by Gene McLean)

More Looks at Essential Quality:

(Essential Quality / Photos by Holly M. Smith)