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Essential Quality fights off Hot Rod Charlie to win Belmont

Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality gallops before dawn on the track at Churchill Downs. April 21, 2021 Af5i6154

Essential Quality outran Hot Rod Charlie during a stretch duel to capture the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Trainer Brad Cox notched his first victory in a Triple Crown race, though his Mandaloun could be named winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby after Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance following the race.

Hot Rod Charlie and jockey Flavien Prat employed a fast, early pace and led well into the far turn. Essential Quality, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Luis Saez, moved up from mid-pack with about a half-mile to go.

The two 3-year-old colts pulled away from the field and battled down the stretch before Essential Quality hit the wire in front.

Essential Quality posted a winning time of 2:27.11 for the 1 1/2 miles. He paid $4.60, $3.00 and $2.60. The Godolphin-owned colt won the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Eclipse Award last year as best 2-year-old.

Hot Rod Charlie, who went off at 9-2, finished second. Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer, ridden by John Velazquez, was third, ahead of Known Agenda and Jose Ortiz.

The $1.5 million race was run before an estimated crowd of 11,000 fans.

–Field Level Media