The great sire, Tapit, was 20 on Saturday and received quite the birthday gift. Not one, but two of his sons took both major Kentucky Derby prep races in less than an hour. And, they were homebreds. What an exciting weekend for the old guy and the folks at Gainesway Farms, where he stands at stud for $185,000.
Essential Quality made his 2021 racing debut in the G3 $750,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn for trainer Brad Cox. The undefeated son of Tapit out of the Elusive Quality mare, Delightful Quality, romped to a 4 1/4 length victory over the sloppy track, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.48. He received a huge 96 Beyer for his effort. The Godolphin homebred was named male juvenile champion for his two G1 wins as a two-year-old, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. What a horse! I could not have been more impressed with his performance on Saturday, especially off a nearly three month layoff.
Meanwhile, down in Florida, Greatest Honour spotted the leader more than eight lengths in the G2 $300,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes only to come rolling down the track like a runaway train to defeat Drain the Clock by 1 1/2 lengths. This homebred son of Tapit out of the Street Cry mare, Tiffany’s Honour, covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.02 and earned an 89 Beyer for his effort. Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was glad to have these shorter races behind him. In fact, the direct quote was, “The farther the better for him. ” I believe that. If he stays healthy, I think he is your 2021 Belmont winner.
In the fourth Kentucky Derby Futures pool this weekend, Essential Quality will open up as the 7-2 favorite. However, there are three prep races on tap for Saturday, including the G2 1 1/16 mile San Felipe in California featuring an all-star lineup, so the Futures odds could change. Trainer Bob Baffert sends out Life is Good and Medina Spirit, who finished one-two in the G3 Sham. They will face some excellent horses in the likes of Dream Shake, The Great One, and Roman Centurian.
Other prep races of interest this weekend are the Gotham in New York and the G2 Tampa Bay Derby. Topping the list of twelve contenders in Tampa is Candy Man Rocket, who won the Sam F. Davis over this same track in early February. The Gotham attracts Freedom Fighter, a shipper from the Baffert barn, and the third runner of the five potential Baffert Kentucky Derby contenders in the mix on Saturday. Baffert also trains the undefeated and highly touted Concert Tour, along with Spielberg, runner up to Essential Quality in the Southwest.
Both Baffert and Brad Cox are locked and loaded for the first Saturday in May. This east coast versus west coast showdown is on fire!!!