Essential Quality Wins 2021 Belmont Stakes, to Conclude Chaotic Triple Crown Season

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Essential Quality won the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown for thoroughbred racing. 

Brad Cox’s gray colt remained a 2-1 favorite leading into the race with Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Hot Rod Charlie being the second choice in the wagering at 7-2 over an hour before the race began. 

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This Triple Crown season has been dramatic and tumultuous thanks to another Bob Baffert drug scandal. His horse, Medina Spirit, won the Kentucky Derby, but then tested positive for the steroid betamethasone afterward, throwing the world of horse racing into turmoil. 

In a statement released by Baffert, he alleged that Medina Spirit's positive drug test could be explained by an ointment used to treat dermatitis on the racehorse.

Baffert's horses were given three rounds of blood sample testing as a condition for competing in this year's Preakness Stakes, and all three were cleared to compete.

Then came the Preakness Stakes where Rombauer trotted away victorious after finishing just ahead of Midnight Bourbon at Pimlico Race Course. The win ended Medina Spirit's Triple Crown bid. 

However, two days later, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) has suspended Baffert, barring his horses from the Belmont Stakes as well as any event at Belmont Park or Saratoga Race Course this summer.

And earlier this week, Churchill Downs followed suit, suspending Baffert for two years after a second post-race sample confirmed the presence of betamethasone in the blood of Medina Spirit. 

Baffert's horses have failed four drug tests in the last 14 months.

A limited crowd of 11,000 spectators were allowed to attend the “Test of the Champion” in Elmont, New York with either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The race is the longest of the three Triple Crown races at one and one-half miles. 

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