Godolphin strike again as Essential Quality romps home in Belmont Stakes
Godolphin completed a sensational across-the-globe Classic double when Essential Quality won the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, hours after Adayar’s triumph in the Derby at Epsom.
Sent off the 13-10 favourite, Essential Quality, who could manage only fourth in the Kentucky Derby after also starting market leader, engaged in a thrilling duel with Hot Rod Charlie rounding the home turn.
The pair battled together up the straight before Essential Quality pulled one and a quarter lengths clear under Luis Saez to give trainer Brad Cox a first Triple Crown-race victory. Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer took third, 11 lengths behind the leading pair.
"This is unbelievable. This is what it's all about – the Classics. Obviously, it's my first taste. Unbelievable," said Cox, before pausing to deliver a few words to his wife Livia on the phone.
"Congratulations. I love you," he told her.
The trainer, who could soon be awarded a second Triple Crown contest via his Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun should Medina Spirit be disqualified, continued: "It's kind of like redemption, I guess you could say. Right now I think he is [the best three-year-old]. That was a tremendous race right there."
Essential Quality, a Godolphin homebred son of Tapit, was champion two-year-old after a pair of Grade 1 victories last campaign, including in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which Hot Rod Charlie again finished second.
Winning rider Saez was also triumphing in a Triple Crown race for the first time and dedicated the victory to his brother Juan, a jockey who was killed in a riding accident in 2014.
"I had a lot of horse and the good thing about Essential Quality is that he always fights," said Saez. "He doesn't care who it is, he's going to want to beat them. So I knew he was going to show up at the top of the stretch."
Elsewhere on a Belmont Park card featuring eight top-flight races, Derby winning-trainer Charlie Appleby's brilliant day continued as Althiqa led home a 1-2 for him and Godolphin in the Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes. She was partnered by Mike Smith and beat Summer Romance, ridden by Saez.
The other Grade 1 winners were Drain The Clock (Woody Stephens Stakes), Search Results (Acorn Stakes), Casa Creed (Jaipur Stakes), Letruska (Ogden Phipps Stakes), Silver State (Metropolitan Handicap) and Domestic Spending (Manhattan Stakes).