(Essential Quality / Coady Photography)

Editor’s Note:

Just about a month ago, this year’s field for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby looked like it could be one of the best ever assembled for the “First Saturday in May.”

There was Life Is Good, a remarkable and astounding speedster from the barn of Derby Mastermind Bob Baffert. He resembled Life Is Great. Not just “good.”

There was Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey back in the Triple Crown discussion with the likes of Greatest Honour, who appeared to be the classy closer of this year’s group. His run in the G2 Fountain of Youth was both spectacular and surprising on a historic speed-favoring surface.

There was Medina Spirit, another talented runner for Team Baffert. Going into the G1 Santa Anita Derby, this colt’s only losses had come to the heels of Life Is Good.

There were so many others.

So many others were set to challenge and contest the 2YO Champ and undefeated Essential Quality. So many others were ready to test the fortitude and talent the qualities of Essential Quality. So many others.

Now, just a few weeks away?

There just doesn’t appear to be any others.

Life Is Good is gone. To the sidelines.

Greatest Honour is gone. Ankle injury.

Medina Spirit may be in Louisville on the May 1. But seriously? Maybe only in “spirit.”

The one still standing?

Essential Quality.

Who, by the way, is standing real tall. Figuratively. Literally.

The son of Tapit is standing real handsomely, too. In fact, EQ looks more like GQ.

After winning the G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, finally overcoming Highly Motivated in deep stretch, Essential Quality is undoubtedly and deservingly the #1 contender going into this year’s version of the 11/4-mile KY Derby.

“The Pressbox” has had Essential Quality #1 in our rankings from the beginning. And, no matter what happens this weekend — what with the G1 Arkansas Derby and the G3 Lexington Stakes still to be contested — we will keep EQ right at the top.

Concert Tour, another possible from the Baffert barn, may stamp his ticket to Louisville this Saturday in the G1 Arkansas Derby. He may be the real deal, too. But he will not surpass our top pick.

Proxy, another talented son of Tapit, may stamp his ticket to Louisville this Saturday in the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. He may find a way to finally win. But he will not surpass our top pick.

If he stays healthy, our top pick will stay our top pick all the way to the big race on May 1.

After all, he has proven to have all the essential qualities to be a great one. Including a KY Derby winner.

Here’s our updated rankings:

RankingsHorseSireTrainerJockeyLast RaceNext RaceComments
1Essential QualityTapitBrad CoxLuis Saez1st in G2 Blue Grass StakesMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyClearly #1 Going Into Derby…Clearly
2Concert TourStreet SenseBob BaffertJoel Rosario1st in G2 Rebel StakesApril 10: G1 Arkansas DerbyCan He Duplicate Rebel Run?
3Highly MotivatedInto MischiefChad BrownJavier Castellano2nd in G2 Blue Grass StakesMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyThis One May Be “The Shocker”
4Hot Rod CharlieOxbowDoug O’NeillJoel Rosario1st in G2 Louisiana DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyWho Will Rosario Pick to Ride?
5Rock Your WorldCandy RideJohn SadlerU. Rispoli1st in G1 Santa Anita DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyTurf Speedster Wins Derby? Headlines Galore
6Known AgendaCurlinTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz, Jr.1st in G1 Florida DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyLegit? I Have Questions
7Caddo RiverHard SpunBrad CoxFlorent Geroux5th in G2 Rebel StakesApril 10: G1 Arkansas DerbyWhat Happened Last Out?
8MandalounInto MischiefBrad CoxFlorent Geroux6th in G2 Louisiana DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyWhat Happened Last Out II?
9Midnight BourbonTiznowSteve AsmussenJoe Talamo2nd in G2 Louisiana DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyMoves Up With Defections
10RombauerTwirling CandyMichael McCarthyFlorent Geroux3rd in G2 Blue Grass StakesMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyDeep Closer Will Need Help
11WeyburnPioneerof the NileJames JerkensTrevor McCarthy4th in G2 Wood MemorialMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyI Have Serious Doubts
12ProxyTapitMichael StidhamJohn Velazquez4th in G2 Louisiana DerbyApril 10: G3 Lexington StakesCould Move Up With Big One
13HeliumIronicusMark CasseJulien Leparoux1st in G2 Tampa Bay DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyGets a New Rider … But?
14Soup and SandwichInto MischiefMark CasseJohn Velazquez2nd in G1 Florida DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyI’m Still a Skeptic
15Like the KingPalace MaliceWesley WardDrayden Van Dyke1st in Jeff Ruby SteaksMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyI’m Rooting Here
16SainthoodMshawishTodd PletcherGerardo Corrales2nd in Jeff Ruby SteaksMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyMay Be Pletcher’s Best Hope
17O BesosOrbGreg FoleyMartin Pedroza3rd in G2 Louisiana DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyCan He Improve Enough to Fit?
18Medina SpiritProtonicoBob BaffertJohn Velazquez2nd in G1 Santa Anita DerbyMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyPedigree Doesn’t Suggest 11/4 Distance
19HozierPioneerof the NileBob BaffertMartin Garcia2nd in G2 Rebel StakesApril 10: G1 Arkansas DerbyLove to See This One Improve
20Dynamic OneUnion RagsTodd PletcherJose Ortiz2nd in G2 Wood MemorialMay 1: G1 Kentucky DerbyNeeded the Wood Distance…Improving