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Essential Quality, who finished fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby and then bypassed the Preakness Stakes, has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 153rd Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

Trainer Brad Cox is pretty sure he knows why.

“He ran what I thought was a winning race in the Derby; he didn’t have the trip, but he showed up and he’s been improving in every start,” said Cox, who will be saddling his first Belmont Stakes contender. “I’m confident that he can handle the mile and a half. Just based off his works and his races, he’s very steady and doesn’t seem to get tired. He has a tremendous amount of stamina that I think he was just blessed with based on his pedigree.”

Essential Quality, owned by Godolphin Stables and ridden by Luis Saez, heads a field of eight contenders drawn into the $1.5 million Belmont on Tuesday. He drew post position No. 2.

“Luis has a ton of confidence in the colt and he’s confident Essential Quality can get the distance,” Cox said of Saez, who is seeking his first win in a Triple Crown race. “We’re hopefully set up for a big race Saturday.”

Essential Quality, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 3, was undefeated in five career starts before the Kentucky Derby on May 1, which was won by Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit. That result continues to hang in the balance after Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test and Churchill Downs officials await the outcome of a split test sample.

Medina Spirit, who finished third in the Preakness, is not allowed to run in the Belmont. Baffert and all of his horses have been suspended indefinitely from competing at New York tracks.

Several familiar names and one new shooter will take a crack at Saturday’s Belmont.

Preakness winner Rombauer is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1 in post position No. 3. Two-time Belmont Stakes winner John Velazquez has the ride.

“He’s a well put-together horse. He’s well balanced,” trainer Michael McCarthy said of Rombauer, who won the 1 3/16-mile Preakness by 3 1/2 lengths. “He’s not overly big. His mechanics are great and he’s a horse that when you lead him over there, he has his mind on running. I think his best weapon is what’s in between his ears.”

Hot Rod Charlie, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby but has not raced since, is the 7-2 third choice. Jockey Flavien Prat switched off Rombauer to ride Hot Rod Charlie.

“He’s had several different riders and it’s not something that’s bothered me,” McCarthy said of Rombauer. “It would have been nice to have Flavien back, but I feel we have a wonderful substitute. This has been Johnny’s home track for 25-plus years and he’s very familiar with this race and the way it plays out. I’m very happy with where I’m at.”

Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World was among the top choices for the Derby but wound up 17th. He missed the Preakness but is the 9-2 fourth choice in the Belmont.

“We always thought the longer the better for him,” trainer John Sadler said. “When we went from 6 (furlongs) to a mile and a mile and an eighth we thought ‘oh boy.’ Then we ran in the Derby and obviously we got eliminated at the start. He’s come back and done real well since the Derby. We think he can run a long way. He’s got Candy Ride on top and with him being out of an Empire Maker mare, he’s got the stamina to go the distance.”

Todd Pletcher trainee Overtook (20-1) will try his luck for the first time in 2021 in a Triple Crown race. He is one of three Pletcher horses in the field.

Florida Derby winner Known Agenda, who was ninth in the Derby and also skipped the Preakness, comes in at 6-1 for Pletcher.

Pletcher’s Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic, who finished 13th in the Derby and sat out the Preakness, is back for the Belmont at 15-1.

The trainer, who will be inducted into horse racing’s Hall of Fame this summer, previously won the Belmont with Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017).

France Go de Ina, a Japanese import who finished seventh in the Preakness, rounds out the field at 30-1.

When the Triple Crown series is complete, none of this year’s 3-year-olds will have completed all three races.

Belmont Stakes

What: Third leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown

Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

When: 6:49 p.m. Saturday

TV: NBC-18

Purse: $1.5 million

Distance: 1 ½ miles

Favorite: Essential Quality (2-1)

Belmont Stakes field with odds

1. Bourbonic (15-1)

2. Essential Quality (2-1)

3. Rombauer (3-1)

4. Hot Rod Charlie (7-2)

5. France Go de Ina (30-1)

6. Known Agenda (6-1)

7. Rock Your World (9-2)

8. Overtook (20-1)