Essential Quality, the beaten favorite at the Kentucky Derby last month, galloped ahead of the rest of the eight-horse field and battled down the lanes with Hot Rod Charlie to win the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Saturday.
The Brad Cox-trained horse was the favorite coming into Belmont and did not disappoint as it barreled down the one-and-a-half mile track at Big Sandy, setting up a race that began with an exhilarating, hot torrid pace and ended with the winner outpacing Hot Rod Charlie by a length and a half.
The Belmont is normally the final jewel in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, but with the absence of Derby winner Medina Spirit, there was no chance of the sport's biggest culmination for the race this year.
Still, Essential Quality lived up to the hype and electrified the crowd of 11,000 race fans.
Here is a recap of the payouts for the top three finishers in Saturday's race:
1. Essential Quality (2-1): $4.60, $3.00, $2.60
2. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2): x, $4.10, $2.90
3. Rombauer (7-1): x, x, $3.50
NBC Sports provided a replay of Essential Quality's winning run:
Order of Finish
1. Essential Quality
2. Hot Rod Charlie
4. Known Agenda
6. Rock Your World
8. France Go De Ina
Coming into the race, Essential Quality was a 2-1 favorite to win it, just like at the Kentucky Derby.
But unlike its fourth place finish at Churchill Downs, jockey Luis Saez rode the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned horse to a largely expected victory.
Belmont is usually not kind to the betting favorite, as 12 of the last 15 favorites have lost the longest race there is in the sport.
Essential Quality was able to reverse that trend, though, and set the stage for big races to come.
With the win, the gray colt and Hot Rod Charlie separated themselves out of all the three-year-olds as the front-runners to beat.
"Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race and I thought [with] the hot pace we were in a good spot where they would come back," Cox said after the race. "Luis did a fantastic job of getting him in position turning for home, and he was able to really show his stamina late."
Preakness winner Rombauer, ridden by legendary jockey John Velazquez, came in third, with Known Agenda closing out the top four.