NEW YORK - Favorite Essential Quality passed early leader Hot Rod Charlie to cross the finish line first Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.
Essential Quality passed Hot Rod Charlie around the final turn and held on to win the 1½-mile race. Hot Rod Charlie was second, Preakness winner Rombauer third and Known Agenda fourth.
The race was run without any horses from two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert. New York suspended Baffert indefinitely after his Kentucky Derby-winning Medina Spirit failed a drug test.
The scene at the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, was a return to normalcy even if it wasn't quite the crowd of 100,000-plus that would attend if a Triple Crown were on the line.
The crowd of mostly maskless fans had no trouble finding room to walk around the vast grandstand hours before the running of the $1.5 million race. New York state had removed the cap on attendance amid easing of pandemic restrictions.
There was no walkup crowd possible because fans were required to pre-purchase tickets.