Essential Quality the one to beat in the Blue Grass!

With the injury to Life is Good and the poor effort from Greatest Honour last week in the Florida Derby, Essential Quality is now looking like the heavy favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

That is unless he lays an egg Saturday in the running of the Blue Grass at Keeneland.

The race is the 11th on the Keeneland card and is set for a 3:35 p.m. PDT post.

On the surface it appears to be a one-horse race, but as we saw last week in Florida, anything could happen.

Let us look at the top contenders.

Essential Quality (Brad Cox/Luis Saez/3-5) the undefeated 2-year-old champ had been off since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November when he came back and crushed the field in the slop in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park. Saez has been up for the last three starts and appears to be sitting on a loaded runner.

Highly Motivated (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano/3-1) was heavily favored heading into the Gothm, his first start in four months, but found early trouble before finishing third in the race. I opted to look past that effort and expect to a big run today. He still must answer the question of whether he can handle the distance.

Keepmeinmind (Robertino Diodoro/David Cohen/9-1) did not fire a lick in the Rebel, his first start since November. His only win came in the Kentucky Jockey Club in late November at Churchill. Before then he was third in the BC Juvenile and second in the Breeders’ Futurity, both at Keeneland and losing in both to Essential Quality.

Untreated (Todd Pletcher/Joel Rosario/10-1) could be intriguing. He made his first start in January under the tutelage of Chad Brown and was sixth, beaten by 13 lengths. He then was moved to Pletcher’s barn where in his second start, he cruised to an 8-length maiden win in March. He certainly steps up here, but there is quality in the breeding, and he could be a good one.

Hush of a Storm (William Morey/Sal Gonzalez/15-1) is an interesting runner. He would have been one of the favorites last week in the Jeff Ruby at a Turfway Park, but he was scratched out of the race over the synthetic surface. Turfway is a track where he has exceled, winning three straight races. His closing style is well suited for a Derby run, but there has been no proof he can handle the dirt.

By Dennis Miller