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Luis Saez blows kisses aboard Essential Quality after winning the 2021 Travers Stakes.
Undercard Stakes - Sword Dancer, Personal Ensign, Ballerina, H. Allen Jerkens, Forego, and Ballston Spa Stakes
The highlight of the Saratoga meeting is the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) featuring the best 3-year-olds on the east coast going 1 1/4 miles on the main track, with 44,507 fans packing the historic upstate oval. A field of 7 went to post under cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70's for the 152nd "Midsummer Derby", with Essential Quality sent off as the 2-5 favorite off wins in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2). In to challenge him included 11-2 second choice Midnight Bourbon, 2nd in the Preakness (G1) before losing his rider in the Haskell (G1) when clipping heels, and 6-1 third choice Dynamic One, winner of the Curlin Stakes after finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Essential Quality (outside) duels with Midnight Bourbon
Previous winners of the Travers
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Essential Quality Saez 2.90 2.30 2.10 1 Midnight Bourbon Santana 4.00 3.30 5 Miles D Prat 4.90 Winning Time: 2:01.96 $1 Exacta 2-1 5.90 $1 Trifecta 2-1-5 48.74 $1 Superfecta 2-1-5-3 132.20
Left: Essential Quality in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brad Cox said, "We were hoping that he wouldn't lose as much ground and have more of a ground-saving trip as opposed to the Jim Dandy. Luis did a good job of recognizing that there wouldn't be a whole lot of pace. He asked him to run out of there and established good position and didn't let Midnight Bourbon get too far away up the backside. I was a little worried up the backside once he cleared up with softer fractions. He's a tremendous horse. He's a champion and he ran like one today."
Right: Essential Quality heads to the barn after the race. Jimmy Bell, president of owner-breeder Godolphin USA said, "I want to thank and acknowledge His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. This is a great accomplishment for the whole Godolphin team to be a part of this magical ride. It says a lot about his breeding and racing program to be able to put an athlete like this to the forefront as a 2-year old and a 3-year old. He's brought a lot of joy to everyone. It's been a great team effort. Brad and his team have done a great job. When you go to the Belmont at 1 1/2, to 1 1/8 [Jim Dandy] to 1 1/4, hats off to the way they brought him into this race in good form. Luis Saez might be the hottest jockey in the country. We're just very fortunate and blessed to be a part of this team."
Left: Essential Quality in the paddock. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "Right from there [the gate] I was on him [Midnight Bourbon] because I knew he was the speed horse, and that horse, when he takes the lead, he keeps going. So, I got on him right from there and put him right there in the beginning. He seemed so perfect. That was the plan, but I always feel like I have so much horse that I can make my move and get going. He gets past the horse and he can stay there, he don't waste energy. It's amazing, that's my second Travers and I'm so thankful to be here and be a part of it in this amazing race. Yeah I feel (pressure from Midnight Bourbon), but I had more horse. I know he's going to give me the fight. He did great."
Right: Essential Quality comes out for the post parade. Cox added, "He's danced a lot of dances and shown up. His lone defeat was the Kentucky Derby, where we felt he was right there in the mix. He's done nothing wrong. We're proud of what he's accomplished this year and he's a very good horse with a fantastic resume. Jimmy and I were observing him after the race, and it looked like he never ran. He wasn't exhausted or fatigued. He's just a tremendous horse."
Left: Second place finisher Midnight Bourbon returns after the race. David Fiske, general manager for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds said, "That was exciting. It could have been just slightly more exciting. I thought he looked the most athletic of his life, at least from what he looked like on TV. He was a leaner, more athletic version of Midnight Bourbon. We've been waiting for this all year. It was a good race. I'm glad that he doesn't appear to have any ill effects from the Haskell [when he clipped heels with Hot Rod Charlie and fell], either physically or mentally. We'll just go on from here."
Right: Third place finisher Miles D heads out to the track before the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "He was third-best by a good margin, but we'll take it. I was just talking to Flavien [Prat] about how pleased I was. Our plan was to try to give him a chance to win and if you can find Essential Quality early in the race, stay right next to him and then test our horse. He was soundly defeated today but he tried all the way to the wire and got third. The two horses that went on to the wire were clearly better than this group today. We'll re-group with our guy. He's lightly-raced and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him."
Left: Shortly after the start of the Travers. Joel Rosario aboard 4th place finisher Keepmeinmind (post 3) said, "It was a slow pace in front of me. He was OK; a little more relaxed than last time. I think with a little more pace he would've done better."
Right: New York Governor Kathy Hochul presented the Man o'War Cup to the connections of Essential Quality. On Tuesday, August 24, Gov. Hochul made history by becoming the first female governor in New York State history.
Also on the card: Undercard Stakes - Sword Dancer, Personal Ensign, Ballerina, H. Allen Jerkens, Forego, and Ballston Spa Stakes
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