Essential Quality capped a huge day for Godolphin on Saturday by giving the worldwide racing behemoth its second transatlantic classic victory of the day, and its first on American soil, in the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1).
The reigning juvenile champion, who endured his first career defeat when crossing the wire fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the favorite, did not disappoint bettors on Saturday as an even stronger favorite in the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion" at Belmont Park.
Sent off at 13-10, Essential Quality rated in midpack behind a strong pace set by Hot Rod Charlie. After making a three-wide bid around the far turn, Essential Quality took a short lead before the quarter pole, but needed much of the stretch to put away a determined Hot Rod Charlie, who turned in an incredible effort in defeat given the pace he set.
Under Luis Saez, Essential Quality won by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 2:27.11 over a fast track. He paid $4.60 to win. It was a big gap of 11 1/4 lengths from runner-up Hot Rod Charlie to Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer, who placed third. The order of finish was rounded out by Known Agenda, Bourbonic, Rock Your World, Overtook, and France Go de Ina.
For Godolphin, the Belmont win came hours after the stable won an upset victory in the famed Epsom Derby (G1) in England with Adayar. The latter's trainer, Charlie Appleby, also trained the fillies Althiqa and Summer Romance to a one-two finish in the Just a Game (G1) at Belmont on Saturday.
This was trainer Brad Cox's first win in the Belmont and jockey Saez's first win in a Triple Crown race. Saez was aboard Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby when that colt was disqualified from first due to interference.
The Belmont was the fifth career stakes win for Essential Quality, who captured the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland last fall en route to Eclipse Award honors as champion juvenile colt. He preceded his Kentucky Derby fourth with scores in the Southwest (G3) and Blue Grass (G2). He's now earned $3,215,144.
Essential Quality is the fourth Belmont winner sired by Tapit, who also sired Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), and Tapwrit (2017). Tapit now shares the record for most Belmont winners sired with the famed 19th century stallion Lexington.
Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin, Essential Quality was produced by the Grade 3-placed Delightful Quality, an Elusive Quality half-sister to 2005 champion juvenile filly Folklore.