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Undefeated Essential Quality headlines field of nine for Saturday’s 87th Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland


Godolphin’s undefeated homebred Essential Quality, the champion 2-year-old male of 2020, is the 3-5 morning line choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds entered Tuesday for Saturday’s 97th running of the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

A major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) to be run May 1 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first- through fourth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.

The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the final race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 6:35 p.m. (ET) post time. First post time for the card that features six graded stakes is 1:05 p.m.

Essential Quality in the 2020 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. (Photo courtesy Godolphin)

Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality debuted Sept. 5 at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day and followed that 6-furlong triumph with victories in Keeneland’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to sew up the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old.

In his lone start of 2021, Essential Quality won the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park by 4¼ lengths on Feb. 27.

On Tuesday morning, Essential Quality made his first appearance on the Keeneland main track since his Breeders’ Cup victory. He galloped about 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Elver Vargas.

Luis Saez, who has been aboard for Essential Quality’s past three victories, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position four. Saez won the 2016 Toyota Blue Grass on Brody’s Cause.

Brody’s Cause is the most recent of four horses to complete the Breeders’ Futurity-Blue Grass double. The others are Carpe Diem (2014-2015), Dullahan (2011-2012) and Round Table (1956-1957).

The second choice at 7-2 on Mike Battaglia’s morning line is Klaravich Stables’ Highly Motivated.

Trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Javier Castellano, Highly Motivated returns to Keeneland, where he won the Nyquist on the Breeders’ Cup’s Future Stars Friday undercard. Third in the Gotham (G3) in his 2021 debut, Highly Motivated will break from post position three.

Brown and Castellano will be seeking their second Toyota Blue Grass victories. Brown saddled Good Magic for the 2018 triumph and a year later, Castellano rode Vekoma to victory.

A co-third choice at 8-1 on the morning line is Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm’s Keepmeinmind.

Trained by Robertino Diodoro, Keepmeinmind returns to Keeneland, where he ran second to Essential Quality in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He closed 2020 by scoring his first win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Sixth in the Rebel (G2) in his 2021 debut, Keepmeinmind will be ridden Saturday by David Cohen and break from post nine. Keepmeinmind is scheduled to arrive at Keeneland Wednesday night from Oaklawn Park.

Also at 8-1 is Team Valor International’s Untreated, a recent maiden winner at Tampa Bay Downs who will break from post two under Joel Rosario. Rosario won the 2011 Toyota Blue Grass on Brilliant Speed.

Three-time winner Todd Pletcher trains Untreated. Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

In addition to Saez, Rosario and Castellano, Rafael Bejarano will be seeking another Toyota Blue Grass victory.

Bejarano will be aboard BBN Racing’s Hidden Stash (20-1) and break from post one. Trained by Vicki Oliver, Hidden Stash finished third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his two starts of 2021.

In addition to Brown and Pletcher, one other trainer will attempt to add to his Toyota Blue Grass victory totals.

Dale Romans, who will sent out Sittin On Go (30-1) for Albaugh Family Stables, has won the race twice with Dullahan and Brody’s Cause. Corey Lanerie has the mount on the winner of the Iroquois (G3) last September and will break from post position eight.

The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, will riders and morning line odds from the rail out, is: Hidden Stash (Bejarano, 20-1), Untreated (Rosario, 8-1), Highly Motivated (Castellano, 7-2), Essential Quality (Saez, 3-5), Rombauer (Florent Geroux, 15-1), Leblon (Albin Jimenez, 30-1), Hush of a Storm (Santiago Gonzalez, 15-1), Sittin On Go (Lanerie, 30-1) and Keepmeinmind (Cohen, 8-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.

From Keeneland


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