Essential Quality outclasses rivals on G3 Southwest Stakes return
Champion juvenile Essential Quality passed the first test of his three-year-old season with flying colours as he stormed to an easy win in the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, USA, on Saturday, 27 February.
The unbeaten dual G1 winner, making his first start since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November, raced in fifth of the seven runners for Luis Saez before graduating to fourth after the first three furlongs.
Essential Quality loomed up to third on the outside of Jackie’s Warrior and Woodhouse as the trio drew clear leaving the back straight. The Godolphin colt ran on around the front two turning in, establishing a clear lead at the top of the straight.
Spielberg briefly looked set to lay down a challenge to Essential Quality approaching the final furlong but the Brad Cox-trained colt galloped out strongly, increasing his advantage in the closing stages to score by four and a quarter lengths on a sloppy track.
Brad Cox said: “Essential Quality was able to lay close today. Luis did a good job of getting him off the rail from the one hole and it was a fantastic job in the first sixteenth of a mile to get him in position.
“It looked like he was pulling a little bit up the back side but Luis gave him a little tug and he responded well, shutting off a little bit and relaxing. When Luis asked him to pick up, he really stayed on. He has got a lot of stamina – he is a horse that I think the further we go, the better he is going to get.
“You never know when they go from two to three. Just as long as they are training well doesn’t mean that they will move forward, but I thought he moved forward today. I thought it was a huge effort and it was what I was hoping to see.
“Two horses in the field had won a total of four G1s, so this was a really good group of horses. Essential Quality showed up and responded really well. He handled everything extremely well since arriving here on Wednesday.
“We will wrap him in bubble wrap, try to get one more race into him and then, hopefully, the Kentucky Derby.”