The Kentucky Derby favorite, Essential Quality, is now the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
The standout colt, who ran fourth at Churchill Downs on May 1 and then skipped the May 15 Preakness, is the 2-1 choice for the 153rd running of thoroughbred racing’s third jewel in the Triple Crown.
The Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality, owned by Godolphin Stables, will break from Post 2 and is scheduled to face seven other competitors in the $1.5 million race.
Essential Quality and jockey Luis Saez will be able to see their primary competition up close, as Preakness winner Rombauer, the second choice at 3-1, will break from Post 3.
Hot Rod Charlie (7-2) and Rock Your World (9-2) also figure to receive significant betting interest.
Essential Quality, the champion juvenile colt last season, has won five of his six career races – the Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit won the Derby but that result is still awaiting confirmation because of a positive drug test.
Medina Spirit ran third in the Preakness but can’t compete in the Belmont. Baffert, as well as his horses, are under suspension and ineligible to participate at any track in New York.
A son of Tapit, Essential Quality could become that sire’s fourth Belmont Stakes winner.
Cox was pleased with Essential Quality’s final major workout on Saturday – the fastest of 43 horses at five furlongs — prior to being shipped from Churchill Downs to New York.
“Overall, it was a very good move …” Cox said via Bloodhorse.com. “It didn’t take anything out of him. It’s a real positive sign when you have a work like that leading into the Belmont.
“He’s still a pretty lightly raced horse but has faced adversity in his previous races, which is good going into a Triple Crown race. I think the distance will suit him very well, being a son of Tapit.”
The field for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, with a post time of 6:49 p.m. ET:
1. Bourbonic (15-1)
2. Essential Quality (2-1)
3. Rombauer (3-1)
4. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2)
5. France Go de Ina (30-1)
6. Known Agenda (6-1)
7. Rock Your World (9-2)
8. Overtook (20-1)
–Field Level Media