Kentucky-breds made their presence felt during Breeders’ Cup’s Future Stars Friday, capturing three of the day’s five Breeders’ Cup races.
Godolphin homebred Essential Quality remained undefeated in three career starts with a determined victory in the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Ridden by Luis Saez, Essential Quality rated off a swift pace upfront in the early stages. He lengthened stride in the lane and rolled by fellow Kentucky-bred Hot Rod Charlie in deep stretch, defeating that rival by three-quarters of a length at the wire with Kentucky-bred Keepmeinmind getting up for third. In stamping himself as an early favorite for next year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), Essential covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.09 for trainer Brad Cox.
“He overcame a lot today. He’s a nice colt,” said Cox. “Distance is no issue with him. He’ll run all day. I’m very proud of him and I’m so happy for the Godolphin organization. What a horse.”
The Juvenile was the second consecutive Grade 1 for the handsome gray colt who captured the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Oct. 3 in his prior start. Essential Quality became the sixth Breeders’ Cup winner for leading sire Tapit and he is out of the Elusive Quality mare Delightful Quality.
“This was a pretty amazing performance today,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA. “To do what he did to come from off the pace, to run them down like that in his third lifetime start, it takes a ton of talent to do that. I’m sure he’s still learning. It’s so exciting for everybody this is what you live and dream of.”
Jockey Joel Rosario gave Vequist a rail-skimming ride to win the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), defeating three previously unbeaten Grade 1 winners. Owned by Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, and Swilcan Stables, Vequist ranged up alongside Dayoutoftheoffice in the stretch, kicked clear of that rival late, and scored going away by two lengths. Trained by Robert Reid Jr., Vequist is a daughter of leading first-crop sire Nyquist, himself a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner in 2015. She is produced from the Mineshaft mare Vero Amore, and she was bred in Kentucky by Swilcan Stables.
“My wife, Ginny, did a sensational job with her all week,” said Reid. “She really thrived on this air and the weather. She looked great coming in. I knew we would be laying up close. She’s a sharp filly. She doesn’t mind the inside obviously. I don’t know that you ever have that kind of feeling but we knew she was doing very well and we know she’s a talented filly.”
A 9 ½-length winner of the Spinaway S. (G1) in September in Saratoga, Vequist finished second to Dayoutoftheoffice last time out in the Frizette S. (G1). The $1,040,000 winner’s share of the lucrative purse increased Vequist’s bankroll to $1,235,500. Kentucky-bred Dayoutoftheoffice held second and Kentucky-bred Girl Daddy finished third.
Fire at Will got Kentucky in the win column first on Friday’s program, posting an impressive three-length score in the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Owned by Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamond Farm, Fire at Will stalked early, collared pacesetter Outadore in the lane, and shot clear late to win by three lengths to lead a Kentucky-bred sweep of the top three spots. Battleground finished a rallying second for the Aiden O’Brien barn and early leader Outadore held third for trainer Wesley Ward. Piloted by Ricardo Santana Jr., Fire at Will covered the one-mile distance in 1:35.81.
By Declaration of War out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Flirt, Fire at Will captured the Pilgrim S. (G2) in wire-to-wire fashion at Belmont Park in his previous start and won the With Anticipation S. over the main track at Saratoga in September. With the $520,000 winner’s share of the purse, the Keeneland September sale graduate now boasts earnings of $657,932 for trainer Mike Maker.