TDN Top Triple Crown Contenders

Essential Quality

2) ESSENTIAL QUALITY (c, Tapit–Delightful Quality, by Elusive Quality) 
'TDN Rising Star' O/B-Godolphin ( KY); T-Brad Cox; J-Luis Saez. Equineline PPs

Maybe you can win a bar bet this weekend knowing that the last time the beaten Derby favorite even ran in the Belmont was all the way back in 2003, when Empire Maker (who had skipped the Preakness) denied Funny Cide the Triple Crown. TDN Rising Star Essential Quality, fourth in Louisville at 2.9-1 odds, will likewise come in off a five-week freshening for this year's renewal, and this juvenile champ and 'TDN Rising Star' stands to benefit off that break after two demanding performances in April and May. Essential Quality had largely coasted through four straight wins at the start of his career without facing true in-race adversity or a heated stretch battle. But this athletic Tapit colt's GII Blue Grass S. score far and away rated as the most impressive–and arduous–prep race this spring (a round-the-track duel with a final furlong in :12.53), and it might have sapped him a touch for what ended up being a no-spark final two furlongs at Churchill. While it's true that Essential Quality endured mild roughhousing at the Derby break, Luis Saez opted to give up ground on both turns in order to work out the type of trip Essential Quality usually covets, stalking in fifth, outside and in the clear behind fast fractions. And yes, this colt delivered some fight when roused for run turning for home. But the effort lacked the emphatic punch of his previous races, setting up the $1.5 million Belmont question of whether Essential Quality can revert to divisional dominance when tasked with 12 furlongs. Over the last five years, trainer Brad Cox has zero wins and two in-the-money finishes from 12 dirt-race starters at 1 ¼ miles or longer.


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