Essential Quality clips Hot Rod Charlie to win Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Favorite Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday to give trainer Brad Cox his first win in a Triple Crown race.

Cox could get another from Mandaloun in the Kentucky Derby if Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit is disqualified.

Essential Quality, who went off as the 6-5 favorite, passed early leader Hot Rod Charlie around the final turn and held on to win the 1 1/2-mile $1 million race.

Hot Rod Charlie was second, Preakness winner Rombauer third and Known Agenda fourth.

The striking gray finished fourth as a beaten favorite in the Derby because of a rough trip. Essential Quality showed in the Belmont why he has long been considered one of the top 3-year-olds in the country.

Backdooring his way to becoming the first Louisville-born trainer to win the Kentucky Derby didn’t allow Cox the same joy of victory as the Belmont, which the up-and-coming star will likely remember as his first true Triple Crown triumph.

And Cox saw this coming. He predicted last summer that Essential Quality would be his horse for the Belmont.

“I’ve said that about a lot of horses, probably,” Cox said this week. “This has happened to be one of the few times — the only time — that I’ve had a Belmont horse. He just displayed a lot of stamina early on.”

Essential Quality had plenty of stamina to beat a tough field of seven other horses.

United Arab Emirates ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum owns Essential Quality.

The victory by Essential Quality could bring extra scrutiny of human rights issues involving the sheikh after a judge in England ruled that he orchestrated the abductions of two of his adult daughters.

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