An exercise rider works out Kentucky Derby entry Essential Quality at Churchill Downs
An exercise rider works out Kentucky Derby entry Essential Quality at Churchill Downs Image Credit: USA Today

Dubai: History beckons for Dubai’s internationally renowned Godolphin stable in Saturday’s 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, America’s most famous race which takes place at its traditional home at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

Essential Quality, a Godolphin homebred by Tapit, will bid to gift His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, an elusive first success in the 10-furlong Classic which is often referred to as ‘the most exciting two minutes’ in sport.

Unbeaten in five career starts, Essential Quality will bid to become the 52nd favourite to win the Derby and also give Eclipse Award and leading North American handler Brad Cox a first win in the race on his debut appearance.

Essential Quality is among a maximum field of 20 horses who will vie for a purse of $3 million with other fancied contenders including John Sadler’s unbeaten Rock Your World (5-1), Todd Pletcher’s Florida Derby scorer Known Agenda (6-1) and Hot Rod Charlie (8-1), the Doug O’Neill-trained Louisiana Derby victory who was second to Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Mile last November.

Essential Quality will be ridden by Panamanian jockey Luis Suarez who is best remembered for his exploits aboard the 2020 Saudi Cup-winner Maximum Security.

Looking ahead to what can be a historic day for both Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin stable and himself, Brad Cox put things in perspective when he told the Godolphin website: “My only concern with Essential Quality is getting a good trip. I think if he runs the race he has been running, he is going to be there.

“It is a 20-horse field, so you have to overcome certain things and have some racing luck. If he gets the racing luck and a clean trip, we should be in a great position.”

“He hasn’t missed a beat in his career. He has run five big races and his work schedule has been extremely steady, so he is a very solid horse in terms of soundness,” added Cox, 41, who is bidding to become the first Louisville native to win the Derby.

“He is happy and feeling good but he’s a classy horse who knows when to turn it on and off. I think it’s a good quality to have in terms of a Derby horse. It is going to be loud with a big crowd on Derby Day but we are hopeful and confident that he will be able to handle it.

Upon winning the Kentucky Derby Cox said: “It would be the biggest thing we’ve accomplished, and the biggest thing you can accomplish in this business.

“It’s been a long run. We’ve paid our dues and it’s put us in this position. We’re thankful for the clientele and the help we have that has given us this opportunity.”

At A Glance

Kentucky Derby (Grade 1)
At Churchill Down, Louisville, Kentucky
Sunday 2:57am UAE
Distance 2,000m (Dirt)
2020 Winner Authentic, ridden by John Velasquez
Latest Odds
2/1 Essential Quality, 5/1 Rock Your World, 6/1 Known Agenda, 8/1 Hot Rod Charlie, 10/1 Highly Motivated, 15/1 Mandaloun, 15/1 Medina Spirit, 20/1 Midnight Bourbon, 20/1 King Fury, 20/1 Dynamic One, 20/1 O Besos, 30/1 Super Stock, 30/1 Bourbonic, 30/1 Soup And Sandwich, 50/1 Like The King, 50/1 Hidden Stash, 50/1 Keepmeinmind, 50/1 Brooklyn Strong, 50/1 Helium, 50/1 Sainthood. Source: attheraces