After the first two legs of the Triple Crown were won by 12/1 betting underdogs, it was time for a favorite to take care of business, and finally, Essential Quality delivered with a length and a quarter victory over stubborn Hot Rod Charlie.

The Brad Cox trained colt went off with odds of 9/5; from the second post position after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby as the 2/1 favorite.

It’s been an eventful Triple Crown season, with Medina Spirit testing positive for illegal levels of betamethasone after winning the Kentucky Derby in an exciting finish over Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie.

His status as champion is still undetermined; but conventional wisdom dictates that eventually, Medina Spirit will be disqualified, with Mandaloun becoming the winner.

Rombauer surprised the horse racing community by catching and passing pre-race favorite Midnight Bourbon; down the stretch to win the Preakness Stakes going away by three and a half lengths. Medina Spirit finishing third. The result eliminated any chance that there could be a 14th Triple Crown winner in 2021.

Ordinarily, the Belmont Stakes can become a forgotten race without a Triple Crown on the line; but this year the $1.5 million contest attracted a deep and well-rested field; with only two entries coming off an appearance in the Preakness three weeks ago. Five other horses had last raced in the Kentucky Derby, but neither Medina Spirit nor Mandaloun was entered.

Essential Quality: Belmont Stakes Race Recap

Hot Rod Charlie set a torrid pace on a track that was listed as fast but was still damp from rains earlier in the week; running the first quarter-mile in 22.78 seconds with Essential Quality tucked into the fifth position, six lengths off the pace. Essential Quality started to make his move just before the field completed a mile; moving to third place with Hot Rod Charlie still in the lead.

At the quarter pole; Essential Quality nosed in front of Hot Rod Charlie as the two horses began to separate from the rest of the field, with Rombauer trailing the pair by ten lengths; as they hit the top of the stretch. Hot Rod Charlie was persistent down the stretch, but Essential Quality finally began pulling clear in the last half-furlong, crossing the finish line with his biggest lead of the race.

With the win, trainer Brad Cox picked up his first Triple Crown race victory after experiencing a lot of success in the Breeders’ Cup Series.

Essential Quality was the 2020 Eclipse Award winner for Champion; two year old and is on track to become a repeat winner as a three-year-old.

The trio of races in the Triple Crown Series were all extremely competitive and went down to the wire; something the sport needed after the Covid-19 induced disruption in 2020; with the races run out of order and over the course of four months instead of five weeks. Hopefully, race tracks can look forward to full capacity and a return to the normal festive environments for 2022.

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