(Essential Quality after winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last November / Coady Photography)
What a difference a week, and a weak leg make.
Just seven days ago, it appeared that no one had a chance to beat the likes of Life Is Good. That is no. That is one. That is no one. Nada. Nary. None.
After running away — and running wide late — in the G2 San Felipe Stakes last time out, the undefeated colt by Into Mischief was rambling along on a loose lead and was well on his way to capturing this year’s 147th running of the Kentucky Derby with still six weeks to go.
Life Is Good appeared to be that good. In fact, he appeared to be Life Is Great.
But if there is one thing that we have learned over the past 146 years of the “Run for the Roses?”
It is not a “Run for the Easy.”
Or a “Run for the Faint of Heart.”
Or a “Run Won in March.”
After a workout earlier this week, it was discovered that the highly-acclaimed and rapidly-developing colt had sustained an injury in a back hind leg. And, it was announced that there colt was being transported back to Kentucky for a complete physical exam by the prominent equine veterinarian Larry Bramlage. And, despite the calm of trainer Bob Baffert — who first cautioned caution and said publicly that the colt may not be off the path to this year’s Kentucky Derby — it was announced by the owners and the leading leaders of WinStar Farm that the colt was going to get a respite and was, indeed, off the path to the big race on the “First Saturday in May.”
Such is life.
Such is Life Is “Not So” Good “Sometimes.”
Now, just a week or so after many of the handicappers were willing to hand over and hand deliver the Kentucky Derby trophy to Life Is Good, the race that was supposed to be no race at all has suddenly become a wide open race, yet again.
Essential Quality — last year’s 2YO Champion and still undefeated in his own right — has always been our #1 pick. And, he will stay there for a bit longer. To say the least, he will stay there — at the very least — until he runs next in the G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on the opening weekend of Keeneland’s annual Spring Meet and on April 3.
EQ has already won over the Keeneland main track twice in his career. He won the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity last October before capturing the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over the same surface last November. He figures to be an overwhelming favorite to make the win in the Blue Grass, too.
But there figures to be a swarm of potential contenders waiting for him in Louisville. Greatest Honour runs on Saturday in the G1 Florida Derby and in a race that has become the preeminent Derby prep over the last 20 years. This Saturday, other contenders and pretenders will line up in the UAE Derby in Dubai and the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.
On April 3, the Santa Anita Derby will be contested and a few of Bob Baffert’s “other” contenders figure to show up there, ready and maybe willing to punch their tickets to Louisville. On that same date, the G2 Wood Memorial will be contested in New York.
A week after that, the G1 Arkansas Derby and the Lexington Stakes will fire up the grill.
Figures to be an interesting six weeks until we get to the first Saturday in May, which just so happens to be the first day in May this year.
And, it figures that no one — no one — will get anointed before the 11/4 miles is contested.
Here’s our latest rankings, after the defection of Life Is Good and the poor performances of some in both the G2 Rebel Stakes and the G2 Louisiana Derby: