Essential Quality, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by jockey Luis Saez, won the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
The horse was the early betting favorite to win the 1.5-mile race and finished ahead of Hot Rod Charlie and the 146th Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer, who finished in second and third place, respectively.
Hot Rod Charlie was the early leader but Essential Quality passed him in the final turn and held on down the stretch to win. The win gave trainer Brad Cox his first Triple Crown victory.
A limited crowd of 11,000 were allowed to attend the “Test of the Champion” with proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test required for entry.
This year’s race did not include Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby winner, after the horse failed a post-Derby drug test. In May, the New York Racing Association temporarily suspended Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert from entering any horses in races at the track that is host to the Belmont Stakes.
Baffert has been suspended from the home of the Kentucky Derby for two years after Medina Spirit’s positive post-race drug was confirmed, the company that runs the Louisville racetrack said Wednesday.
This Belmont Stakes was a return to normalcy after last year, when for the first time in history, the race was the first leg of the Triple Crown after the Covid-19 pandemic upended the schedule. The race is normally the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.