The Triple Crown races are always a measuring stick for Thoroughbreds. Because of the notoriety and purse money associated with these races, the best of the three-year old division normally shows up. This makes for big chances for young horses to prove their worth. As the final leg, this year’s Belmont Stakes gives one talented runner a real Quality opportunity.

Essential Quality is one of the most decorated three-year old colts in the game. Unbeaten as a two-year old, his only blemish at three came with a fourth place finish in the Kentucky Derby. To put that race in perspective, this Brad Cox trained son of Tapit didn’t break especially well, was hustled at the beginning to get better position, and was wide on the far turn. That means in his first trip at the mile and a quarter distance he had to hit the gas early and ran farther than any of the three that finished in front of him. And in the end he was still only a length and a head from winning the world’s most famous race.

“I think he ran a winning race in the Kentucky Derby, he just did not get a good trip,” says Cox. “He had to use up a lot of energy early in the race because he bobbled at the break and that made a difference in the stretch. He came out of the race healthy and we were happy with his effort.”

After skipping the Preakness, the 2020 Juvenile Champion is giving it another try in the Belmont Stakes. The biggest question surrounding any of the entrants is the distance. Can these runners cover the mile and a half in this “test of a champion”?

“Distance is always the unknown when you approach a race like this,” says Cox. “I think his pedigree says yes and he has given us all indications he can handle a mile and a half.”

As one of the top conditioners in the game, Brad Cox has made a name for himself on the biggest of stages in the sport. One thing missing from his resume is a Triple Crown Race triumph. In taking Essential Quality to the Belmont, this brilliant training mind is not just showing up, he is bringing in a runner he thinks has a real chance.

“I feel like Essential Quality has gotten better every time he has stepped onto the race track,” says Cox. “Even though he didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, he was still very competitive and ran hard. Since then I think he has filled out some more physically. The more we do with him the better he gets and that is the mark of a really good horse.”

Essential Quality is the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Belmont Stakes and will face seven others. Carded as race 11 on a fabulous day that features 8 other Stakes races, post time for the Belmont is slated for 5:49 pm central time.