2021 Travers Stakes Contenders: Essential Quality

The 152nd Travers Stakes, the Mid-Summer Derby, is Aug. 28 at Saratoga Race Course. The top race of the summer for 3-year-olds is contested at 1¼ miles with a purse of $1.25 million. In the days leading up to the race, usracing.com will publish profiles of the contenders. Profiles will be updated with post position, odds, and jockey following the draw scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24.

By Ed McNamara

The best horse of his generation never has run a bad race, and only an endlessly wide trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1) has kept him from being 8-for-8. His talent never has been in question. Neither is his grit after he overcame horrible racing luck on July 31 in Saratoga’s 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy Stakes (G2).

Essential Quality at the Jim Dandy Stakes – Photo Courtesy of Joe Labozzetta

Essential Quality had a nightmare journey in the traditional prep for the Travers Stakes (G1) and still managed to win. He wasn’t fully cranked and had to call on his class to turn back Keepmeinmind by a half-length. Rarely does a 2-5 shot have to work so hard and display such a strong will.

“There was a lot of ground lost today,” trainer Brad Cox said. “When they straightened up in the stretch, I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve been wide both turns,’ and then we see (Keepmeinmind) slip up the inside and look like he had some run left. It made for some anxious moments down the lane.”

Cox figures the hard race will move his superstar forward for the 1 1/4-mile Travers.

“He got something out of it, I do think that,” he said. “I think this was a good tightener for him.”

Eight others have been nominated to the Travers: Keepmeinmind, Curlin Stakes winner Dynamic One, Bourbonic, King Fury, Masqueparade (third in the Jim Dandy), Midnight Bourbon, Miles D and Weyburn.

Dynamic One may have the best chance for the upset.

Betting advice: The odds again will be very short on Essential Quality, who as always should be tough to beat.

If you’re not willing to take even money or less, he’s a must-use in multiple-race wagers.

2021 Travers Stakes Profile: Essential Quality

Post position: TBD

Odds: TBD

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Luis Saez

Owner: Godolphin LLC

Career record: 8-7-0-0

Career earnings: $3,545,144

Best Equibase speed rating: 109

Pedigree: Tapit-Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality

Color: Gray/roan

Running style: Stalker

Notes: Essential Quality looked as sharp as ever on Aug. 14, when he worked a bullet 5 furlongs in 59 2/5 seconds at Saratoga … If you’re thinking about trying to beat him, here’s an encouraging factoid. No horse has completed the Jim Dandy-Travers double since Alpha dead-heated with Golden Ticket in 2012. Kiaran McLaughlin, Luis Saez’s agent, trained Alpha … Jimmy Bell, head of Godolphin’s United States operations, on Essential Quality’s essential quality: “The really good horses just show up and find a way to get things done, and he has seemed to do that every start. Consistency has been his hallmark.” … Essential Quality has a pair of Grade 1 wins – the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Belmont Stakes and a pair of Grade 2 wins – the Blue Grass and the Jim Dandy.