Reigning juvenile male champion Essential Quality, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), will bypass the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on May 15 with the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1) among the options being considered for his next start.
Trainer Brad Cox announced on Steve Byk’s radio show May 4 plans to skip the middle leg of the Triple Crown with the son of Tapit, who finished a length and a head behind race winner Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby. In a follow up conversation with TVG, Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA, owner and breeder of Essential Quality, confirmed the decision to not go on to Baltimore but added that the colt’s next outing was still being determined.
“(The Belmont) is part of the conversation but that’s not definitive at all,” Bell said. “We’re skipping the Preakness, that’s for sure, and our primary goal is to run in the Travers and we’ll work backwards from there. His next start may or may not be in the Belmont as all options are being considered. It’s a consideration, but all options are open for consideration primarily with the Travers being the main objective and then backing up from that.”
Essential Quality was sent off as the betting favorite in the May 1 Kentucky Derby but was bumped at the start and raced wide throughout. That effort marked the first loss for the 2020 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner in six career starts, but Cox said the following morning he thought the colt lost nothing in defeat.
“Not taking anything away from the top three horses but (Essential Quality) was the best horse yesterday,” Cox said Sunday morning. “Some people may not agree with that but I think he was the best horse yesterday. He ran a huge race, very proud of his effort.”
Godolphin already has one confirmed candidate for the Belmont Stakes in Group 2 UAE Derby-winner Rebel’s Romance (IRE). The gelded son of Dubawi (IRE) has won 4-of-5 starts and arrived at Belmont Park on May 2 to prepare for his expected start in the 1 ½-miles race.
Essential Quality was one of two confirmed defections from the Preakness field on May 4. Trainer Ken McPeek told publicist Jennie Rees that graded stakes winner King Fury would also miss the race after the fever that knocked him out of the Derby had flared up again along with a cough.
““There’s no way to make the Preakness,” McPeek said. “It’s a no-brainer.”