Essential Quality 'Looks Amazing' After Belmont; Cox Eyes Travers

Brad Cox with Essential Quality Sunday morning | Sarah Andrew

Essential Quality (Tapit) got great marks from trainer Brad Cox the morning after the colt triumphed in a strong renewal of the GI Belmont S., and Cox said the Godolphin homebred will be pointed next to the GI Runhappy Travers S. Aug. 28 at Saratoga. The Belmont victory marked the first Grade I win as a sophomore for last year's champion 2-year-old male and offered a measure of redemption for the gray, who was the beaten favorite when fourth in last month's GI Kentucky Derby, his first career defeat.

“He looks amazing. It doesn't look like he lost any weight. We jogged him up this morning and he was moving great,” Cox told the NYRA notes team Sunday. “He's a very intelligent horse. It's amazing to watch him. We train him on race day and whenever we put him back in, he'll lay down the rest of the day. He knows what's going on and he deserves a good rest today after such a long race yesterday.”

Rallying past stubborn pacesetter Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $1.5-million Belmont, Essential Quality earned a career-best 109 Beyer and stopped the timer in 2:27.11 for the 1 1/2 miles, the third-fastest Belmont clocking this century, behind only American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile)'s 2:26.65 in 2015 and Point Given (Thunder Gulch)'s 2:26.56 in 2001.

In addition to the Travers, Cox said Essential Quality could start in the GII Jim Dandy S. July 31 at the Spa.

“It's one of the more prestigious races out there for 3-year-old colts. So that would be the logical spot,” Cox said of the Travers. “It's a mile and a quarter and we know he can handle that. In regard to a race before, it would be nice. Saratoga is obviously a demanding track. I wouldn't say we have to have a race before that, but it would be nice. I think the logical spot would be the Jim Dandy, but we'll get him back to Churchill and let him tell us over the next couple of weeks how he's feeling.”

Hot Rod Charlie, who ran valiantly to be a clear second in the Belmont after setting a scorching early pace of:22.78 and :46.49, also came out of his effort well, according to trainer Doug O'Neill.

“He looks awesome, just awesome,” said O'Neill before jetting back to his Southern California base. “He ate up everything and licked his feed tub. We scoped him after the race, and he scoped clean. He was definitely a little rubber-legged after the race, but by the time he got back to the barn area he had already recovered. He recovered quickly. He's amazing. He's so dappled, it's unbelievable. His coat is still beautiful. He's full of energy and is just great this morning.”

O'Neill added that a run in the Travers would likely be on the agenda for his charge as well.

“I think that's very logical,” he said. “The great thing about this group of guys [owners Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, William Strauss and Gainesway Stable] is that they're so patient. I'm sure we'll talk about that in the next week or two, but just knowing the way this journey has played out, and hopefully, there are plenty more chapters in the Charlie tale, we probably won't decide for another three weeks or so. But it is the most logical next spot. If he takes us there.”

O'Neill also told the Santa Anita notes team that a start against elders in the GI TVG Pacific Classic Aug. 21 at Del Mar is under consideration.

“As a 3-year-old, we'd get a big break in the weights and a few of our owners live down there,” he said.

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