The probable favorite for the 1921 Kentucky Derby is Essential Quality, winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and undefeated in five career starts.  In his last start before the Derby, he won the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, although he was challenged to get by second-placed Highly Motivated.

A win by Essential Quality in the Derby would accomplish three first-time records, for his owner, his trainer, and his sire.

Although Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum—vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai—is one of the two global leaders in breeding and racing horses (John Magnier’s Coolmore Stud is the other), he has never won the Kentucky Derby.  With Essential Quality, the Sheikh’s Godolphin stables has its best chance ever to win the race.

Essential Quality is trained by Brad Cox, who was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Derby since 1875.  To this date, no Louisville-born trainer has been able to win the hometown Derby.  (This is not true of jockeys, as Louisville native Roscoe Goose achieved the feat way back in 1913.  Hall of Fame jockey Charlie Kurtsinger won the Derby, but he was born in nearby Shepherdsville.)

Essential Quality was sired by Tapit, one of the most prolific sires of quality runners in the world.  As accomplished as he is, Tapit has yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner.  Tapit’s stretch-running son Greatest Honour was also scheduled for the Kentucky Derby, but is now being rested for 60 days owing to a disappointing performance in the Florida Derby.

While Essential Quality’s win in the Bluegrass Stakes was not overly impressive, a case can be made that the race was just what he needed–a tightener one month prior to the Kentucky Derby.  The Bluegrass has a history of prepping colts to peak on the first Saturday in May. 

If Essential Quality remains undefeated and wins the Run for the Roses, Sheikh Mohammed, Brad Cox, and Tapit will all make first-time history.


Kentucky Derby Trivia:

See if you can answer the following Kentucky Derby trivia.  Just leave your answer in the comments section and I’ll let you know if you are correct.

Kentucky Derby winners Omar Khayyam in 1917 and Morvich in 1922 share a historical distinction that is unique only to them in the annals of Kentucky Derby history.  What is it?

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