Horse racing: Essential Quality early Kentucky Derby favourite

(Reuters) - Essential Quality was installed as the early 2-1 favourite for Saturday's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville after drawing the 14th gate for the Run for the Roses on Wednesday.

The undefeated grey colt, who is owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin, will have jockey Luis Saez aboard in the 20-horse race that is the first jewel of U.S. thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

"I think it'll be a good spot," said Essential Quality trainer Brad Cox. "He's got good tactical speed that he'll be able to get into a good position from there."

Essential Quality, perfect in five career starts, will attempt to become the first reigning juvenile champion since Nyquist in 2016 to win the Kentucky Derby.

The race will also be a chance at redemption for Saez given he crossed the finish line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby aboard Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interference.

Rock Your World, the 5-1 second favourite, will start from Essential Quality's outside in the 15th post while third choice Known Agenda (6-1) will start along the rail, a position considered too far inside for the crowded Derby field.

"Obviously it's not what we were hoping for. But, of course, this is one of the things you can't control," said Known Agenda trainer Todd Pletcher, a two-times Kentucky Derby winner who will have four starters in Saturday's race.

"With the new (20-stall) gate, we're hopeful that things will be better than they were in the past and the post won't be that bad."

Trainer Bob Baffert is seeking a record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby victory and will have one starter this year, dark bay colt Medina Spirit (15-1), who will break from the eighth post.

"He looks great," Hall of Fame trainer Baffert said of Medina Spirit. "He's happy. A lot of our horses come off the deep surface at Santa Anita and do really well here. He's doing really well, but to me it's Essential Quality's race."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

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