Essential Quality (Tapit – Delightful Quality by Elusive Quality) put the seal on a day to remember for Godolphin with victory in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) in New York on June 5.
Just hours after the Charlie Appleby-trained Adayar (Frankel – Anna Alai by Dubawi) stormed to glory in the Cazoo Derby (G1) at Epsom, Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality produced a high-class performance of his own to land the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Having lost his unbeaten record when a close fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), the grey Tapit colt was given a fine ride by Luis Saez who was alive to the brisk pace set by Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World, wary of not leaving his mount too much to do.
Hot Rod Charlie set wild fractions of :22.78 and :46.49 for the first half of the 1 1/2 mile classic, being pressed by Rock Your World, and yet was coasting around the final turn when Essential Quality came to call.
A thrilling stretch battle ensued and only late, Essential Quality drew ahead to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 2:27.11. He earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure from Daily Racing Form.
Essential Quality is the fourth winner of the Belmont for Tapit, tying the record set by Lexington, a son of Boston born in 1850, as the only other stallion to sire four winners: General Duke (1868), Kingfisher (1870), Harry Bassett (1871), and Duke of Magenta (1878)
Cox – winning his first Triple Crown race – told NBC Sports: “That was a long way around there, a mile and a half. I thought it (pace set by Hot Rod Charlie) would benefit our horse – obviously Hot Rod Charlie ran a tremendous race, I thought with the hot pace we were in a good spot where they would come back.
“He ran (Hot Rod Charlie) a tremendous race on the lead and we did a fantastic job of getting in position turning for home – he was really able to show his stamina late.
“It looked like the horse on the inside (Hot Rod Charlie) still had running left (turning for home), so I knew it was going to be a battle down the lane.”
Cox may get another Triple Crown race victory if Medina Spirit is disqualified from the Kentucky Derby due to a positive test. Cox trainee Mandaloun was second for Juddmonte Farms.
Godolphin’s two classics were not the only races Sheikh Mohammed’s famed farm won. The filly Althiqa won the Just a Game Stakes earlier on the Belmont card. She is trained by Charlie Appleby.
Also on the stakes-laden Belmont card, Canadian-born trainer Robertino Diodoro sent out the streaking Lone Rock to win the 132nd Brooklyn Stakes (G2) for Flying P Stable. Lone Rock, a son of Majestic Warrior, is from the Ontario mare Ruby Lips, a graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare bred by Garland Williamson’s Hillsbrook Farm. Ruby Lips is from Williamson’s foundation mare Its a Ruby, dam of Like a Gem and granddam of Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Like.
With regular rider Ramon Vazquez up, Lone Rock broke sharply from the outside post and established a stalking position in second to the outside of Musical Heart, piloted by Kendrick Carmouche, who led the nine-horse field into the first turn.
Musical Heart dictated terms down the backstretch with Lone Rock content to stalk from the leader’s flank, while Ry’s the Guy, Moretti and Tizamagician, who hopped at the start, jostled for position through splits of :23.91 seconds, :47.85 and 1:12.65 on the fast main track.
Lone Rock loomed large as Musical Heart led the field into the final turn and once asked by Vazquez was quickly in command approaching the quarter pole with Tizamagician and Moretti lining up their wide bids.
While the rivals tried in vain, there was no reeling in a runaway Lone Rock, who continued to find more en route to an 11 1/4-length score, stopping the clock in a final time of 2:28.97. Tizamagician completed the exacta, a length ahead of Moretti.
Re-claimed for $40,000 out of a winning effort in November at Churchill Downs, Lone Rock has won 3 of 4 starts for his new connections, including a last-out score in the 12-furlong Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight on April 27 at Oaklawn Park.
“He was meant to be a good horse. He’s a horse that is just getting better,” said Diodoro. “We just have to keep him healthy and happy as long as we can. He loves his job. When you have a horse trying to run these distances, you need one who loves to train, and he definitely enjoys training.”
Total wagering on Belmont day was $112,725,278, a record when no Triple Crown was on the line.