Derby pedigrees: Why Essential Quality can outrun his breeding

Derby pedigrees: Why Essential Quality can outrun his breeding
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Essential Quality leads the 2021 Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 140 points and is the likely Derby favorite.

Essential Quality is undefeated in five career starts, including a runaway 4 1/4-length victory in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and a gutsy neck decision in the Blue Grass (G2) over Highly Motivated.

Last year, the pretty gray colt earned 2-year-old championship honors after defeating his rivals in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The Brad Cox trainee has earnings of $2,265,144 and races for the esteemed Godolphin stable, which also bred him.

Pedigree: Essential Quality (Tapit - Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality) has a miler/middle-distance pedigree, although he may go farther because of his talent, tactical running style and training. He’s bred on the same Tapit/Elusive Quality cross as the listed winning turf sprinter Blind Ambition. (Click here for the Essential Quality pedigree chart).

Tapit is a consistent top five leading North American sire. Since 2014, three of his sons won the Belmont Stakes, and two others placed. Adding to his legacy, Tapit’s grandson Tiz the Law won last year’s Belmont.

Despite his leading sire status and classic-winning offspring. Tapit’s resume lacks a Kentucky Derby winner. The best finish was a third place finish by Tacitus in 2019.

Essential Quality is related to undefeated 2004 Kentucky Derby hero Smarty Jones and 2010 Derby winner Super Saver. The trio are descendants of the Reine-de-Course Striking. The mare is Smarty Jones’ fifth dam, and she is Super Saver and Essential Quality’s seventh dam.

The comparison doesn’t stop there. Elusive Quality Smarty Jones’ sire and the stallion is the damsire of Essential Quality. Smarty Jones’ third dam Stolen Base is Essential Quality’s fifth dam. Stolen Base is the granddaughter of Striking.

Smarty Jones also captured the Southwest Stakes before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the overwhelming fan favorite. His sole career defeat was a one-length defeat at the hooves of Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes.

Essential Quality is the fourth foal and second to compete out of Delightful Quality. The mare is a multiple graded stakes-placed sprinter who earned $253,900 in 13 starts. Essential Quality has an unnamed yearling half-sister by Uncle Mo. Delightful Quality was barren for 2020.

Delightful Quality’s half-sister Folklore (Tiznow) won the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Folklore’s grandson Contrail (Deep Impact) was last year’s champion 2-year-old in Japan.

Delightful Quality’s half-sister Divided Attention (A.P. Indy) won the nine-furlong Ladies Handicap and placed in the Tempted Stakes (G3) and Affectionately Stakes.

Others in the family include Grade 1 winning sprinter/miler Come Dancing (Malibu Moon), who set a new stakes record of 1:08.74 in this year’s Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) at Saratoga, plus Biddy Duke (Bayern), the recent heroine of the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3) over the Santa Anita turf. Essential Quality’s third dam Jeano was a multiple Grade 3-winning sprinter.

Elusive Quality is the damsire of 88 graded/listed winners in North America. The bulk of his daughter’s offspring, led by two-time Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Roy H, are sprinter/milers, although three have won listed events at 1 1/8 miles.



Meet Laurie Ross


 HRN Pedigree Analyst 

 Handicapper 

 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB


Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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