NEW YORK – Favorite Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday to give trainer Brad Cox his first victory in a Triple Crown race – maybe.
Cox could get another from Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby if Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit is disqualified. But Cox was able to enjoy this one with Essential Quality being Hot Rod Charlie by 11 / 4lengths.
Essential Quality, who went off as the 6-5 favorite, passed early leader Hot Rod Charlie around the final turn and held on to win the 1 1/2-mile $1 million race.
“That was a long way around there a mile a half but it was exciting,” Cox said. “It looked like the horse on the inside, he still had run left. I knew it was going to be a battle down the line.”
Preakness winner Rombauer was third and Known Agenda fourth.
The striking gray finished fourth as a beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby because of a rough trip. Essential Quality showed in the Belmont why he has long been considered one of the top 3-year-olds in the country.
Backdooring his way to becoming the first Louisville-born trainer to win the Kentucky Derby didn’t allow Cox the same joy of victory as the Belmont, which the up-and-coming star will likely remember as his first true Triple Crown triumph.