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Keeneland busy stakes day is big day for the track — $22.7 million handle third largest single day in history

Godolphin’s undefeated homebred Essential Quality prevailed by a neck after a prolonged stretch duel with Highly Motivated to win the 97th running of the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) for 3-year-olds Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.

The Toyota Blue Grass was the final event of the day’s 11-race card, which featured six stakes worth $2.1 million. The Pick 5 handled a record $1,485,090, eclipsing the previous mark of $1,395,051 set on Toyota Blue Grass Day during the 2020 Summer Meet. All-sources wagering on Toyota Blue Grass Day totaled $22,723,197 to be the third-highest single day handle in Keeneland history.

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Jockey Luis Saez talks about the race; aiming to win his first Derby

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Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Luis Saez, Essential Quality covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:48.50. The victory was the fourth of the afternoon for jockey Luis Saez and his second in the Toyota Blue Grass. He rode Brody’s Cause to victory in 2016.

With the victory, Essential Quality earned 100 qualifying points toward the 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) to be run May 1 at Churchill Downs. Essential Quality has 140 points.

Bluegrass Stakes (Keeneland photo)

The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box when entries are taken April 27.

Now undefeated in five starts with three of those victories at Keeneland, including the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Essential Quality is a Kentucky-bred son of Tapit out of the Elusive Quality mare Delightful Quality. The $480,000 winner’s share increased his earnings to $2,265,144.

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Keeneland will be closed Easter Sunday with racing scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. with an eight-race program.
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Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat remained undefeated in four starts as she caught Pass the Champagne in the shadow of the wire to post a head victory in the 84th running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Joel Rosario, Malathaat covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:42.94. The victory is the first in the Central Bank Ashland for Pletcher and second for Rosario, who won in 2014 aboard Rosalind.

For Shadwell, the victory marked the operation’s eighth graded stakes win at Keeneland. For this achievement, Shadwell received a Keeneland Tray as part of Keeneland’s signature Milestone Trophy Program. Only 20 other owners have such an accomplishment in Keeneland history.

With the victory, Malathaat earned 100 qualifying points toward the 147th running of the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run April 30 at Churchill Downs. Malathaat has a total of 110 points with the initial 10 coming from her victory in the Demoiselle (G2) that closed her 2020 campaign. The Oaks is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box when entries are taken April 26.

Pass the Champagne picked up her first 40 Oaks points and third-place finisher Will’s Secret added 20 points to hike her total to 80. Moon Swag’s 10 points for finishing fourth gives her 22 points.

Purchased at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $1.05 million, Malathaat is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Curlin out of the A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia.

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Essential Quality is the fifth horse to win the Breeders’ Futurity at 2 and the Blue Grass at 3. The others are Brody’s Cause (2015-2016), Carpe Diem (2014-2015), Dullahan (2011-2012) and Round Table (1956-1957).

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Jockey Luis Saez

Saturday afternoon at Keeneland belonged to jockeys Joel Rosario and Luis Saez, who combined to win nine races on the 11-race program and continue their domination of the opening weekend of the 15-day Spring Meet in which they have combined to win all nine stakes.
Rosario won five races Saturday, including four consecutive stakes: the Commonwealth (G3) on Flagstaff, Shakertown (G2) on Bound for Nowhere, Central Bank Ashland (G1) on Malathaat and Madison (G1) on Kimari. On Friday, Rosario won the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3) on Scarlett Sky and the Palisades Turf Sprint on Chasing Artie.
Saez won four races Saturday headlined by Essential Quality in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) plus the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association. On Friday, Saez won the Beaumont (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select on Twenty Carat.

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Ten Broeck Farm’s Kimari surged to the front in midstretch and went on to post a three-quarters of a length victory in the 20th running of the $300,000 Madison (G1) for fillies and mares Saturday afternoon.

Keeneland photo

Also capturing graded stakes on the afternoon were Starlight Racing’s Jouster in the 33rd running of the $200,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association for 3-year-old fillies, Wesley Ward’s Bound for Nowhere in the 25th running of the $200,000 Shakertown (G2) for 3-year-olds and up and Lane’s End Racing and Hronis Racing’s Flagstaff in the 34th running of the $200,000 Commonwealth (G3) for 4-year-olds and up.

Kimari extended the amazing opening weekend run for trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Joel Rosario.

For Ward, it was his fourth stakes victory in the past two days and his second win in the Madison to go with the triumph by his Judy the Beauty in 2014.

For Rosario, it was his fourth stakes victory Saturday and sixth in two days.

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