Undefeated in five starts with two Grade 1 victories to his name, Essential Quality drew post 14 and was installed as a 2-1 morning-line favorite to bring Godolphin its first Derby victory in 11 tries as an owner. The Tapit colt could also bring first wins in the race to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox and to jockey Luis Sáez, who crossed first two years ago with Maximum Security only to be disqualified for interference with rivals.
Cox had to sweat Essential Quality being one of the few horses left with the dreaded post 1 still being a possibility. “It got a little nerve-racking,” he said. “I think (14) will be a good spot. He’s got good tactical speed that he’ll be able to get into a good position from there.”
Also undefeated, Rock Your World drew post 15, next door to Essential Quality, and was made the 5-1 second choice on the strength of his victorious dirt debut this month in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
“Any kind of outside post is in the happy meter,” trainer John Sadler said. “It’s a good post. We got a top rider (Joel Rosario), and he’ll be aware of where everybody is, not just Essential Quality. Our horse has a high cruising speed, and he can sustain it. Realistically, he could lay a little off the pace.”
Off his first-place finish in the Florida Derby (G1), Known Agenda got stuck with the rail and is 6-1.
“It certainly wasn’t the one we were hoping for,” said Known Agenda’s trainer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner. “Sometimes you get bad trips from good posts and good trips from bad posts. Nothing we can do about it. We’ll just focus on the things we can control.”
Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Hot Rod Charlie will start from stall 9 and is 8-1.
“It’s a great post,” said trainer Doug O'Neill, also a two-time Kentucky Derby winner. “We have so much confidence in (jockey) Flavien Prat. He’s so successful. He’s going to I imagine break, and he’ll go at it and then just play the pace. If the pace is slow and nobody else goes, at least we showed in the Louisiana Derby that we could go to the front. I think Flavien is just going to go in with an open mind.” The final 20 horses, their jockeys, trainers and projected odds.