It took until the third and final race, but Essential Quality finally won a Triple Crown event. The 153rd Belmont Stakes came down to the wire, with Essential Quality passing Hot Rod Charlie and narrowly winning by a length and a half.
Hot Rod Charlie, who entered with 9-2 odds to win, raced out to an early lead and set a blistering pace in the first half-mile. Rock Your World, with 5-1 odds, stayed close to the outside before fading.
Essential Quality maneuvered through traffic to pull even with Hot Rod Charlie in the final turn after running as far back as fifth in the eight-horse field. Essential Quality, a 6-5 favorite at post time, nosed ahead of Hot Rod Charlie down the straightaway and secured the victory. The win was Essential Quality's sixth in seven career races and trainer Brad Cox's first Triple Crown victory.
Essential Quality finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby despite being favored and did not compete in the Preakness Stakes.
Derby winner Medina Spirit did not compete at the Belmont Stakes after a second drug test sample came back positive for betamethasone, a steroid that is legal but must clear the horse’s system prior to the race. Medina Spirit competed in the Preakness Stakes, finishing third. Trainer Bob Baffert's stable of horses were barred from competing at the Belmont Stakes by the New York Racing Association after the incident.
Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer, who had 5-1 odds at post time, crossed the line in third after a late charge.
2021 Belmont Stakes finish order
1. Essential Quality
2. Hot Rod Charlie
4. Known Agenda
6. Rock Your World
8. France Go De Ina