On an action-packed Saturday morning beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs, Godolphin’s undefeated champion colt Essential Quality continued his march to the $3 million Kentucky Derby with a swift five-furlong move in 59.6 early Saturday morning. Fellow Derby contenders Mandaloun (six furlongs, 1:11.4) and Soup and Sandwich (five furlongs, 59.8) also worked toward their start in the Run for the Roses.
Essential Quality, the recent winner of the $800,000 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, worked at 5:15 a.m. (all times Eastern) with jockey Luis Saez aboard through splits of 12.8, 24.6 and 47.4. The gray Tapit colt began his work one length behind two-time winning stablemate Spa City and finished even at the wire. Spa City’s final five-furlong time was 59.8, according to Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols. Essential Quality galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.2 and completed seven furlongs in 1:28.6.
“I’m not taking a deep breath yet but we’re very pleased with where we are at today two weeks from the Derby,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He really had to work for that win in the Blue Grass and we were very pleased how well he ended up bouncing out of it.”
WATCH: Essential Quality breezed 5 furlongs in :59.60 with jockey Luis Saez aboard.April 17, 2021
Following Essential Quality’s move, Juddmonte Farm’s Mandaloun worked with jockey Florent Geroux aboard in company with maiden winner Colonel Bowman. The duo began their six-furlong move from the five-eighths pole through splits of 12.40, 24.2, 35.6 and 58.8. Mandaloun continued to extend his stride in front of Colonel Bowman through a seven-furlong gallop out in 1:25.2 and completed one-mile in 1:41.6. Colonel Bowman’s final six-furlong time was 1:11.8.
“(Mandaloun) worked great,” Cox said. “We were all puzzled after the Louisiana Derby (G2) but he’s been doing great since that race maybe that was just a head scratcher. He’s a really good looking son of Into Mischief and we know he’s better than what we saw in his last start.”
At 7:30 a.m., Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Soup and Sandwich cruised five furlongs with jockey Tyler Gaffalione on board. The undefeated son of Into Mischief worked in company with four-time winner Epic Dreamer through opening fractions of 12.4, 24.2 and :35.2. Soup and Sandwich began drawing clear of his workmate at the wire and galloped out strongly in front with a six-furlong time of 1:12.4 and completed seven furlongs in 1:25.2.
“This horse is just starting to figure things around the racetrack,” trainer Mark Casse’s assistant David Carroll said. “Tyler was in cruise control around there and that gallop out was great.”
Saturday started the 7:30-7:45 a.m. training period for Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders. During that time window, Phoenix Thoroughbred’s $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Crazy Beautiful worked a five-furlong bullet move in :59 with opening fractions of 12.4, 24.0, 35.4 and 47.0 She completed her work with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:12.4.
Fellow Oaks contender Ava’s Grace, the runner-up in the $600,000 Fantasy (G3) behind Pauline’s Pearl, worked a half-mile in 48.6 at 5:15 a.m. with jockey Adam Beschizza up. Owned by Cypress Creek Equine and trained by Robertino Diodoro, Ava’s Grace has yet to finish off the board four starts with one win, one second and two third-place finishes.