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Let’s go back in time.

Before the Kentucky Derby. Before we knew too much about Medina Spirit. Before legendary trainer Bob Baffert was once again in trouble and making little sense trying to talk his way out of controversy on the media circuit.

Way back then, Essential Quality was the center of attention. The colt was the heavy favorite (2-1) at Churchills Downs, but got bumped early and had a rough ride.

Still, he rallied to finish fourth and showed a lot of the strengths that should carry him Saturday at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York.

It’s an eight-horse field Saturday that features Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer (3-1) but not Medina Spirit, who could be stripped of his Kentucky Derby win after a second post-race drug test reportedly came back positive.

Essential Quality is once again the 2-1 favorite and there are plenty of reasons to think he will come through this time. The tiny field likely means less contact, his No. 2 position is a prime spot and it’s the longest of the Triple Crown races at a mile and a half, which gives a horse with the profile of Essential Quality a distinct advantage. Also, Essential Quality is the son of Tapit, who has already sired three Belmont winners, so it’s almost like betting on a Manning in football. (Almost.)

Trainer Todd Pletcher has three horses in the field in Bourbonic (15-1), Known Agenda (6-1) and Overtook (20-1), but that seems more of a sign of a lack of confidence.

Rombauer has the speed, but it’s tough to imagine the colt having the endurance to finish strong with the added length.

At the end of the day it should be Essential Quality’s time to shine.

The pick: Essential Quality (2-1)

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