In the days leading up to the 153rd running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on Saturday (June 5), usracing.com is profiling the contenders. The 1 ½-mile race at Belmont Park is the final leg of the Triple Crown.
By Ed McNamara
He was bumped hard at the start, had to run five-wide for much of the race and still fell short by only a length in the Derby. Trainer Brad Cox said he was the best horse that day, and you can’t argue with him.
You have to give the previously undefeated 2-year-old champion another chance, which is why he’s the 2-1 favorite in Saturday’s 153rd Belmont Stakes (G1).
Essential Quality kept coming in the Derby until hanging late. Trainer Brad Cox thinks that experience may be helpful in the grueling, 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
“He’s still a pretty lightly raced horse but he’s faced adversity, which is good going into a Triple Crown race,” Cox said. “His weight is great; his energy level is great. Everything has gone well with him since the Derby, and I think the Belmont distance will suit him well, being a son of Tapit.”
Tapit finished ninth in the 2004 Derby and skipped the Belmont, but his DNA has had a major influence upon the “Test of the Champion.” He sired three of its last seven winners — Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), and Tapwrit (2017).
Essential Quality trained well at Churchill Downs before taking a van ride to New York. He had two sharp 5-furlong works — 59 4/5 seconds on May 21 and 59.40 on May 28. Cox loved what he saw this past Saturday, telling drf.com, “It’s a real positive sign when you have a work like that heading to the Belmont.”
It won’t be easy for Essential Quality to beat Rombauer, Hot Rod Charlie, Rebel’s Romance, Rock Your World and Known Agenda, but it won’t be a surprise if he does. If you can get 5-2 on him, a win bet would be justified, and he’s a must-use in any exotics.
Post position: 2
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Luis Saez
Owner: Godolphin LLC
Career record: 6-5-0-0
Career earnings: $2,415,144
Best Equibase speed rating: 109
Pedigree: Tapit-Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality
Running style: Stalker
Notes: Godolphin has won more than 5,000 races, including most of the world’s most prestigious events, but has been shut out in the American classics. Its best Belmont finish was by Frosted, who ran second to 2015 Triple Crown hero American Pharoah … If Derby winner Medina Spirit is disqualified because of a drug positive, Cox’s Mandaloun would be moved up from second and give the Louisville native a victory in his first Derby try. He said that’s not the way he’d like to win the race he wants most … Kiaran McLaughlin is the agent for Essential Quality’s rider, Luis Saez. McLaughlin trained 2006 Belmont champion Jazil.
|1||Bourbonic||15-1||Kendrick Carmouche||Todd Pletcher|
|2||Essential Quality||2-1||Luis Saez||Brad Cox|
|3||Rombauer||3-1||John Velazquez||Michael McCarthy|
|4||Hot Rod Charlie||7-2||Flavien Pratt||WDoug O’Neill|
|5||France Go de Ina||30-1||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Hideyuki Mori|
|6||Known Agenda||6-1||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher|
|7||Rock Your World||9-2||Joel Rosario||John W. Sadler|
|8||Overtook||20-1||Manny Franco||Todd Pletcher|
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.