Essential Quality lived up to the billing on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.
Coming off a fourth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby, the colt was a 6-5 favorite at Belmont Park. He edged out Hot Rod Charlie to bring an end to the 2021 Triple Crown season.
Jockey Luis Saez played the race perfectly.
At 1½ miles, the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races. Rather than push Essential Quality early, Saez was content to run in the middle of the pack for much of the event and save the horse's stamina.
Hot Rod Charlie was a game challenger, but Essential Quality simply had too much speed down the final stretch.
It was a case of deja vu for the runner-up, who also ran second to Essential Quality in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November.
For the last few months, the drama surrounding Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit has been the dominant story in horse racing. On Saturday, Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie combined for a dramatic finish for fans to remember.