Essential Quality displays heart of a Champion in G1 Belmont Stakes
Essential Quality rebounded from his Kentucky Derby defeat as he outfought Hot Rod Charlie in a pulsating renewal of the G1 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, USA, on Saturday, 5 June.
The Champion juvenile of 2020, who was bumped at the start and endured a wide trip when fourth in the Run for the Roses, broke cleanly for Luis Saez and raced in fifth of the eight runners as Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World set strong fractions in front.
Essential Quality passed Rombauer to go a close fourth as the runners started to bunch at the half-way point before making a significant move on the outside of the field rounding the far turn.
The Brad Cox-trained colt challenged Hot Rod Charlie approaching the final quarter-mile and the two pulled clear entering the straight.
Both horses battled bravely down the home stretch, with Essential Quality gaining a slight lead with a furlong to race before galloping out gamely, increasing his advantage to a length and a quarter at the line.
Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer took third, a full 11 and a quarter lengths behind Hot Rod Charlie.
Godolphin USA President Jimmy Bell said: “Essential Quality has never run a bad race in his life and I think he met the test of a Champion today. To do what he did as a two-year-old and come through these races as a three-year-old and the mile and a half Classic is a great tribute to him.
“In all fairness, he probably ran as good a race as he has ever run in the Kentucky Derby. We all wish for a better trip but it wasn’t meant to be and that’s horseracing. We were just looking forward for an opportunity to showcase his talent and versatility. We are very happy that he got the job done for us today.
“What a tribute this is for Sheikh Mohammed. This represents his breeding and racing program. We are honoured to be part of it and it’s great to be on this stage representing him. It’s just a great day for the Godolphin team.”
Hugh Anderson, Godolphin Managing Director (UK and Dubai) said: “Winning G1 races of the quality of the Derby, the Just a Game Stakes and the Belmont Stakes is testament to the international strength in depth of Godolphin right now. It’s thrilling to be part of this team and wonderful to be able to repay the loyalty and devotion that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed shows to us. I’m ready to be proved wrong but I think this must be one of the best days in Godolphin’s history.”
Brad Cox said: “That was a long way round there going a mile and a half but it was exciting. I thought the pace benefited our horse. Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race and I think we were in a good spot with the hot pace, where they would come back.
“Luis did a fantastic job of getting Essential Quality into position turning for home and he was able to really show his stamina late. It looked like Hot Rod Charlie still had running left, so I knew that it was going to be a battle down the lane. Right now, I think Essential Quality is the best three-year-old in the country. That was a tremendous race.
“I want to thank Sheikh Mohammed. He has been supporting us for the last two years and Godolphin is a tremendous organisation, a world-class organisation. We wouldn’t be here without this great horse and his support, so I really want to thank him.”
Luis Saez said: “We were so confident that we were going to win the Kentucky Derby. He was ready for that day but we had a little unlucky start and got bumped. Today, the main thing was trying to break clean and I knew that he was going to do the rest.
“I had a feeling about Essential Quality the first time I rode him. I have been riding a lot of good horses but when he won the Breeders’ Futurity pretty easily, I was excited. I know that he has a lot of talent and he was my first Breeders’ Cup winner, so he is more special than anything.”