Cox soon found out first-hand the difficulty of winning the race, with Essential Quality getting bumped at the start then having a wide trip to finish fourth. His other entry, Mandaloun, broke better but was unable to catch Medina Spirit down the stretch, finishing second by a half length.
“Luis (Saez) made the comment, leaning out, he thought it really cost him,” Cox said of Essential Quality’s trip. “He felt like he would have got there if he had been a little more focused on moving as opposed to leaning. That’s something he’s never really done before.”
Despite the loss by the favorite, Cox said he was pleased by the effort of Essential Quality. He also praised Mandaloun’s runner-up effort.
“I’m proud of both of them,” Cox said. “They run hard. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”
At the end, it was Mandaloun – who entered off a disappointing sixth in the Louisiana Derby – who was able to produce best in the race for Cox.
The Into Mischief colt is a homebred for Juddmonte Farms.
“I really thought he was going to get by there for a minute,” Cox said. “But the last little bit he just kind of got a little tired late.”
The colt’s jockey, Florent Geroux, praised his effort after the race.
“He absolutely ran his heart out,” Geroux said. “Words can’t describe how proud I am of him. What a race and what a horse. Well done to trainer Brad Cox. He got him ready to run off the Louisiana Derby effort. He showed us he is the horse we always thought. We just got beat.”
Cox left open the possibility of running both of the colts in two weeks at Pimlico in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
“I’m sure there’s a chance,” Cox said. “We’ll once again see how they come out of it and watch them over the next few days.”
As for Cox himself, despite a disappointing first showing, he remained confident of his Derby future.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert earned a record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby win in the race, with Medina Spirit. Cox was asked if he could imagine another trainer accomplishing that feat.
“Yeah,” Cox said. “Me. I believe that. We’ll see what happens.”