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Post Time Favorite Essential Quality Wins Belmont Stakes

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • Post time favorite Essential Quality ran down pacesetter Hot Rod Charlie in the stretch to win the $1.5 million Grade 1 Belmont Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths.
  • Hot Rod Charlie finished second with Preakness winner Rombauer taking third.
  • Essential Quality was coming off of a disappointing fourth place run in the Kentucky Derby.

Horse racing enthusiasts who had handicapped Belmont Stakes favorite Essential Quality to bounce back nicely from a substandard run in the Kentucky Derby were rewarded with victory on Saturday. The Brad Cox trained horse came back strong from his first career loss to take the $1.5 million USD Grade 1 Belmont Stakes–the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.

Essential Quality ran down pace setting Hot Rod Charlie in the stretch to win the Belmont Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. The rest of the field was in the next area code with third place Rombauer finishing 13 lengths behind the winner. Known Agenda finished fourth followed by Bourbonic, Rock Your World, Overtook and France Go da Ina. Essential Quality becomes the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner as a two year old to take the Belmont Stakes since Triple Crown winning American Pharoah did it in 2015. He’s the fourth of the offspring from stallion Tapit to win the Belmont along with Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and Tapwrit (2017).

The victory capped off a huge day for Essential Quality’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing on both sides of the Atlantic. Earlier in the day, Godolphin owned Adayar won the Epson Derby in England in a moderate upset over disappointing favorite Bolshoi Ballet. Goldophin’s US racing manager suggested that the day was among his career highlights:

“This will rank near the top for quite a while. It’s a huge day.”

For trainer Brad Cox, it is technically his first Triple Crown race victory though the record books will most likely show it as his second. Cox is the trainer of Mandaloun, who will likely be named the winner of the Kentucky Derby following the anticipated disqualification of Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit due to a failed drug test. Cox partially dismissed talk of the Belmont being a ‘redemption’ race for Essential Quality pointing out that he ran well in the Kentucky Derby despite a troubled trip throughout:

“People said this was like a redemption thing for him and I guess it may have been. Whenever you’re defeated you got to get back on track. He was able to do that today and I’m glad he was back in the winner’s circle.”

It was also the first official Triple Crown race win for jockey Luis Saez–ironically, he was involved in a Kentucky Derby disqualification in 2019 aboard Maximum Security who crossed the finish line ahead of the field but was ruled to have interfered with another horse. Saez is happy to have his two time bad Derby luck behind him:

“Oh my God, it was something so special. I’m so proud to be here and come away with the victory. The Derby was a little bit of an unlucky start, you know, stuff happens, so I’m okay.”

The biggest surprise of the race was the quick fade of Rock Your World. Tabbed as the only ‘real speed’ in the race, Rock Your World joined Hot Rod Charlie for the battle at the front of the field only to fade at the 5/16th pole. In another of the race’s many ironies, Rock Your World was expected to have little trouble at the distance with the stamina of the other expected pace setters in question.

Essential Quality paid $4.60 for the win, $3.00 for place and $2.60 for show. Hot Rod Charlie returned $4.10 and $2.90 with Rombauer paying $3.50 to show. The 2-4 exacta paid $7.50, the 2-4-3 trifecta paid $10.85 and the 2-4-3-6 Superfecta paid $6.07.

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