Essential Quality Odds to Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
When Essential Quality goes into the gate for the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby, he’ll be looking to be snap a string of two straight Derbies in which the favorite at post time has not won the race. Before the upsets of Authentic (8/1) in 2020 and Country House (65/1) in 2019, the favorites were on a bit of a roll, having won the Derby in 2018 (Justify), 2016 (Nyquist), 2015 (American Pharoah), 2014 (California Chrome), and 2013 (Orb). In all, 51 of the 146 Derbies have been won by the favorite, and it is my belief that Essential Quality is a horse that has what it takes to make that number 52.
Odds: Essential Quality will go off as the morning line favorite for the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby. He’s currently listed at +325 online and +200 at William Hill. Be sure to shop around for the best available line.
Breeding: In order to understand the breeding and pedigree of Essential Quality, we must first look at the family tree (if you will). Essential Quality is a gray colt, bred in Kentucky by way of Tapit and Delightful Quality. Tapit was good enough to win two stakes races (The Grade 3, Laurel Futurity, and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial). He was bred to go extended distances, and that will be to Essential Quality’s benefit come Derby Day. His mom, Delightful Quality, was just a two-time winner but finished second on eight occasions. She was bred for sprinting as she never ran longer than 7F, so the speed aspect is available for Essential Quality to tap into.
Trainer: If there is a hotter trainer in the horse racing game than Brad H. Cox, I’ve yet to come across him. Cox has been on a roll over the last year and a bit, which culminated in him winning the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2020. That year, Cox won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Monomy Girl, the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Knicks Go, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Essential Quality, and the Breeders’ Cup Fillies Turf with Aunt Pearl. He also finished second in earnings in 2020, but he’s yet to get his name associated with winning the Kentucky Derby. Cox picked up right where he ended 2020, winning nine stakes races so far this season, two of them coming with Essential Quality. If there’s a trainer you want training your horse in 2021, it’s got to be Brad H Cox.
Jockey: Luis Saez has been on board Essential Quality every step of the way, and he’ll get the mount once again when it matters most. Saez has had a tremendous year so far at Keenland, having connected for 86 wins in 475 starts, which is good enough for a win percentage of 18 percent. He’s also hit the tote board 164 times, so you know Saez knows how to maximize a horse’s effort. Typically, when I look to back a horse at the Derby, I look for a jockey with experience, and Saez has that in spades. Saez is coming off an impressive win with Mystic Guide in the $12-Million Dubai World Cup, and his confidence level should be sky high aboard Essential Quality.
Last race: Essential Quality’s last race came in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3. In that race, he went off as the 1-2 favorite and stalked the leader in the two path until the 1/16 pole before unleashing a final surge to win by half a length. It was more work than it should have been against a field that was below his talent level. However, the fact that he grinded out a win while keeping some effort in reserve goes to show you the talent this horse has. Trainer, Brad Cox has been on record of saying that he is extremely pleased with how his horse came out of that race and has trained in the days since that race.
Prior experience: Essential Quality made his debut as a two-year-old on September 5, 2020, at Churchill Downs. He was running a six-furlong Maiden Special Weight race and went on to win that race. From there, he moved to the Stakes scene and claimed the Grade 1 Claiborne Futurity on October 3 at Keenland. Bigger and better things awaited the following month as he captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on dirt going 1 1/16 miles. February 27 saw him win the Southwest Stakes at Oakland, and then he followed it up with a win at Keeneland in the Blue Grass.
Can Essential Quality Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby? There are a lot of things that are going in favor of Essential Quality winning the Kentucky Derby. For starters, the trainer is as hot as anyone. The jockey has had an impressive season to date. The breeding pedigree is a mixture of speed and stamina, which is what’s needed. The only thing that could be a detriment is the possible post position he’s drawn into. Nonetheless, he’ll go off as the favorite, and favorites have won the Derby five times in the last eight years. He’ll be looking to be just the 10th horse in 30 tries to exit the Kentucky Derby with his unbeaten record still intact. I say he does it.
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