Godolphin homebred Essential Quality returned to his winning form on June 5 with an impressive victory in the 153rd Belmont Stakes (G1) a Belmont Park. The win marked the 103rd time that the third leg of the Triple Crown, known as “The Test of a Champion,” has been won by a Kentucky-bred.

Last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Colt and winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Essential Quality suffered the first defeat of his career in the Kentucky Derby (G1), finishing fourth on The First Saturday in May. He returned to championship form in the Belmont, turning back a determined Hot Rod Charlie to win the 1 ½-mile marathon by 1 ¼ lengths. The one-two finish by Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie replicated the final result of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where the two rivals also combined for the exacta. Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Rombauer finished third in the Belmont. All the entrants in this year’s Belmont were bred in the Bluegrass.

“We were so fortunate to have another opportunity (after running fourth in the Kentucky Derby),” said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA. “He has never run a bad race in his life, and I think he showed today he met the test of a champion. To do what he did as a 2-year-old and come through these races as a 3-year-old with the mile-and-a-half classic, it’s a great tribute to him.”

The win gives Essential Quality’s sire, Tapit, a Gainesway Farm stallion, his fourth Belmont winner.

“With the Tapit on top, we really thought he would get the mile and a half when given the opportunity,” winning trainer Brad Cox said. “We always thought he had the ability. After the Derby, you just have to see what it takes out of them. It’s a demanding race as well as the Belmont…He’s a very smart horse. He has a lot of energy, but he lets you know when he’s ready to run.

“It was a long way around there for a mile and a half, but it was exciting.,” Cox added. “I thought it (the pace) benefitted our horse. Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race and I thought, with the hot pace, we were in a good spot where they’d come back. He (Luis Saez) did a fantastic job putting him in position turning for him and he really showed his stamina late.”