Coming in as the favorite, the TAPIT colt was truly tested yesterday as HOT ROD CHARLIE was the determined pacesetter setting blistering fractions of :22.78 and :46.49. He simply was not going to give up the lead. Meanwhile, ESSENTIAL QUALITY found a comfortable spot in fifth, tracking the frontrunner.
Still determined, HOT ROD CHARLIE continued to lead well into the stretch when ESSENTIAL QUALITY moved in and the pair battled to the wire leaving the field behind them. ESSENTIAL QUALITY hit the wire 1 ¼ lengths ahead of HOT ROD CHARLIE who was 11 ¼ lengths ahead of the rest of the field.
ROMBAUER, the Preakness winner, finished third, followed by KNOWN AGENDA, BURBONIC, ROCK YOUR WORLD, OVERTOOK and FRANCE GO DE INA.
"He broke well, but it took four or five strides to get position going into the first turn. I was a touch shocked. I though we'd be a little closer on our own. When we saw the opening quarter, i felt good. And then the 46 he was laying mid pack on the outside. At that point, even going the distance, he should be closing at this pace. Luis did a good job of getting him into position. Turning for home, we were pretty much on even terms with the leader. Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race to hang around that late after doing most of the dirty work. Our horse really showed his talent and stamina," Cox said.
This was the first Belmont Stakes win for both Brad Cox and jockey Luis Saez. "It was a pretty nice trip. That's what I was expecting, we knew there was going to be a lot of speed, so we tried to get a clean break and be right there. I knew he was going to run his race at the top of the stretch.On the backside, he picked up the bridle and was moving pretty well, so I'm not going to try to take him back and go inside when he was running pretty well," said Saez.
President of Godolphin USA, Jimmy Bell stated, "We were so fortunate to have another opportunity [after the Derby]. He has never run a bad race in his life, and I think he showed today he met the test of a champion. To do what he did as a 2-year-old and come through these races as a 3-year-old with the mile and a half Classic, it's a great tribute to him."
ESSENTIAL QUALITY started his racing career by breaking his maiden in his first start at Churchill Downs September 5, 2020 and went straight into the stakes action claiming the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1), the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the Southwest Stakes (G3), and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2). The wildcard of all of his starts being the Kentucky Derby, which Goldolphin wanted so badly, was a fourth place finish, but yet was still a great race for the colt. He skipped the Preakness and prevailed yesterday in the Belmont Stakes (G1). he has a total of $3,215,144 in lifetime earnings.