(Essential Quality / Coady Photography)
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?
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:
|Rankings||Horse||Sire||Trainer||Jockey||Last Race||Next Race||Comments|
|1||Essential Quality||Tapit||Brad Cox||Luis Saez||1st in G2 Blue Grass Stakes||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Clearly #1 Going Into Derby…Clearly|
|2||Concert Tour||Street Sense||Bob Baffert||Joel Rosario||1st in G2 Rebel Stakes||April 10: G1 Arkansas Derby||Can He Duplicate Rebel Run?|
|3||Highly Motivated||Into Mischief||Chad Brown||Javier Castellano||2nd in G2 Blue Grass Stakes||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||This One May Be “The Shocker”|
|4||Hot Rod Charlie||Oxbow||Doug O’Neill||Joel Rosario||1st in G2 Louisiana Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Who Will Rosario Pick to Ride?|
|5||Rock Your World||Candy Ride||John Sadler||U. Rispoli||1st in G1 Santa Anita Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Turf Speedster Wins Derby? Headlines Galore|
|6||Known Agenda||Curlin||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||1st in G1 Florida Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Legit? I Have Questions|
|7||Caddo River||Hard Spun||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux||5th in G2 Rebel Stakes||April 10: G1 Arkansas Derby||What Happened Last Out?|
|8||Mandaloun||Into Mischief||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux||6th in G2 Louisiana Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||What Happened Last Out II?|
|9||Midnight Bourbon||Tiznow||Steve Asmussen||Joe Talamo||2nd in G2 Louisiana Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Moves Up With Defections|
|10||Rombauer||Twirling Candy||Michael McCarthy||Florent Geroux||3rd in G2 Blue Grass Stakes||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Deep Closer Will Need Help|
|11||Weyburn||Pioneerof the Nile||James Jerkens||Trevor McCarthy||4th in G2 Wood Memorial||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||I Have Serious Doubts|
|12||Proxy||Tapit||Michael Stidham||John Velazquez||4th in G2 Louisiana Derby||April 10: G3 Lexington Stakes||Could Move Up With Big One|
|13||Helium||Ironicus||Mark Casse||Julien Leparoux||1st in G2 Tampa Bay Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Gets a New Rider … But?|
|14||Soup and Sandwich||Into Mischief||Mark Casse||John Velazquez||2nd in G1 Florida Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||I’m Still a Skeptic|
|15||Like the King||Palace Malice||Wesley Ward||Drayden Van Dyke||1st in Jeff Ruby Steaks||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||I’m Rooting Here|
|16||Sainthood||Mshawish||Todd Pletcher||Gerardo Corrales||2nd in Jeff Ruby Steaks||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||May Be Pletcher’s Best Hope|
|17||O Besos||Orb||Greg Foley||Martin Pedroza||3rd in G2 Louisiana Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Can He Improve Enough to Fit?|
|18||Medina Spirit||Protonico||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez||2nd in G1 Santa Anita Derby||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Pedigree Doesn’t Suggest 11/4 Distance|
|19||Hozier||Pioneerof the Nile||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||2nd in G2 Rebel Stakes||April 10: G1 Arkansas Derby||Love to See This One Improve|
|20||Dynamic One||Union Rags||Todd Pletcher||Jose Ortiz||2nd in G2 Wood Memorial||May 1: G1 Kentucky Derby||Needed the Wood Distance…Improving|