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Sports News:
Essential Quality probably tops in Triple Crown gray area

NEW YORK — Three Triple Crown races, three completely different winners and one isn’t even determined but.

More than 5 weeks for the reason that Kentucky Derby and with the Belmont Stakes over, the Triple Crown season remains to be muddled in uncertainty. Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit could possibly be disqualified from the Derby, making Belmont winner Essential Quality probably the perfect horse in what was a gray area of a Triple Crown season.

“The body of work that this colt’s done and the (speed figure) numbers he’s had — it’s so consistent,” coach Brad Cox mentioned. “He’s never run a bad race. Obviously he’s the champion right now until he can be knocked down.”

Three years since Justify — one other Baffert horse who has been on the middle of a failed drug check controversy — gained the Triple Crown, the collection has been out of kinds. In 2019 it was Maximum Security getting disqualified from the Derby for interference, in 2020 the Belmont ran first, Derby second and Preakness third due to the pandemic and now Kentucky officers are nonetheless deciding whether or not to DQ Medina Spirit and elevate Cox-trained Mandaloun to winner of the May 1 Derby.

That would make Cox 2 for 3. Perhaps the subsequent tremendous coach, he mentioned Saturday: “I’ve always dreamed of winning Derbys and winning Belmonts and Classic races. I’ve always wanted to be at the top and have top horses.”

He probably does. Even if the drug Medina Spirit examined constructive for didn’t improve his efficiency — it’s a therapeutic medicine — the opposite 18 horses got here again clear and there’ll endlessly be questions on how that race would’ve been run with out that variable.

Essential Quality completed fourth in the Derby however largely due to floor loss, and even rival trainers mentioned final week that the gray colt’s efficiency was probably the perfect they’d seen of anybody in that race. Winning the Belmont solely strengthened the argument that Essential Quality resides as much as the hype.

“In all fairness, he probably ran as good a race as he has run (in the Derby),” mentioned Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA, which owns Essential Quality. “We all sometimes wish to work out a better trip, but it wasn’t meant to be and that’s horse racing. We were just looking for an opportunity to showcase his talent and his versatility, and I am very happy he got the job done for us.”

When Essential Quality didn’t run in the Preakness, Rombauer blew previous Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon down the stretch to drag off an upset and make the case for being top-of-the-line 3-year-olds round.

“I don’t know if (maybe) he’s getting more in tune with how the game is played,” Rombauer coach Michael McCarthy mentioned. “He might be. With racing, all horses get a little bit more experience. He’s a smart horse. His best weapon is what’s in between his ears.”

Rombauer completed a distant third in the Belmont gained by Essential Quality, however everybody — Cox included — was speaking about Hot Rod Charlie’s unbelievable efficiency to run second. Five weeks after ending third in the Derby, jockey Flavien Prat didn’t precisely have to induce Hot Rod Charlie to blaze a blistering tempo, and Doug O’Neill’s horse nonetheless had power down the stretch.

“Our horse told us today that he’s a gamer,” O’Neill mentioned after the Belmont. “He got pushed. He did all the dirty work. Essential Quality ran a huge race and I think Charlie showed he was trying every step of the way from gate to wire. He just couldn’t hold off a champ.”

But who’s the champ? Maybe the Travers at Saratoga in upstate New York on Aug. 28 or Breeders’ Cup Classic on O’Neill’s residence grime at Del Mar in California on Nov. 6 will resolve it. O’Neill definitely hopes Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality face off many times and once more.

“Those are two top horses, and hopefully they both stay injury-free and we get a good rivalry for a long time,” he mentioned. “That would be really cool.”

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