Champion Essential Quality breezed on May 22 at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. Coady Photography.

Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie Breeze in Preparation for Belmont Stakes

Edited Press Release

Godolphin’s champion colt Essential Quality, the likely top betting choice for the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1), breezed a sharp five furlongs in :59.80 the morning of May 22 at Churchill Downs, the fifth fastest of 40 horses at the distance.

Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality was the 5-2 betting favorite in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1) and crossed the wire fourth behind Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, and Hot Rod Charlie. The son of Tapit worked Saturday in company with 5-year-old graded stakes winner Night Ops through early fractions of :24.20 and :47.60, according to Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols. 

There were 169 horses that donned the Saturday work tab at Churchill Downs including Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun who cruised an easy half-mile in :48.20. His next start is still to be determined, according to Cox.

At Santa Anita Park on Saturday, Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Hot Rod Charlie also worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 under Flavien Prat at 7:45 a.m. in preparation for his expected run in the 153rd Belmont Stakes.

“I was very happy with the breeze,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “I got him in 1:01 and out (six furlongs) in 1:13 and change. “He looked great. If all goes well, he’ll breeze again here Friday and get on a plane (to New York) on Saturday.”