Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Florida Derby Winners
If you’re looking for a reason to bet against probable favorite Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, don’t turn to Mother Nature for help.
Should there be a wet track for the May 1 opening jewel in the Triple Crown, the undefeated 2-year-old champion is one of six probable starters among the expected field of 20 (as of April 21) that own a victory over that surface.
Owned by Godolphin, Essential Quality began his 3-year-old campaign Feb. 27 in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park by skipping to a 4 ¼-length victory on a sloppy track for the widest margin of victory in his young career.
Off that performance and a pedigree that features Tapit as his sire and an Elusive Quality mare as his dam, there’s no reason for your eyes to be turning red if you like Essential Quality and raindrops are falling on his head come the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
Interestingly, half of the 20-horse field has raced on a wet track and only one of them lacks a top-three finish on an off-track. That distinction falls to Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino runner-up Dynamic One who was ninth on a track rated good in his Nov. 14 debut.
Depending on the amount of rain and when it might arrive, only Essential Quality and Highly Motivated – who were 1-2 respectively on a dry track in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes – Bourbonic, and O Besos have run on wet, soaked tracks labeled sloppy or muddy.
Highly Motivated was second by a neck in his Aug. 29 career debut on a muddy track at Saratoga.
Bourbonic, the 72.25-1 winner of the Wood Memorial, won a $50,000 maiden-claiming race on a track rated good and then was second by four lengths on a sloppy track in an allowance race.
O Besos was sixth on a sloppy track in his career debut but broke his maiden on a track rated good in his subsequent start.
The rest have run on tracks rated good, which often means a drying-out surface.
The Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit is the only other winner of a stakes on a wet track as he prevailed on a good surface in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
The other off-track winners are Mandaloun, who captured his career debut on a good track, and Hidden Stash, who took a maiden race on a good track in his third start.
The list of starters with wet track experience also includes Known Agenda, who was third in the Remsen Stakes on a sloppy track; Like the King, third in an allowance race on a good track; and Hot Rod Charlie, who was third in the Robert B. Lewis.
Should King Fury escape the also-eligible list and run on a wet track, he would be doubly blessed as he triumphed in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes on a sloppy track in his lone start at age 3.