Mo Donegal, Mike Repole are toast of New York after win in 154th Belmont Stakes
Mo Donegal, the 5-2 post time favorite, came from just off the pace and charged to the front in mid-stretch to capture the third jewel of the thoroughbred horseracing's Triple Crown
If the Big Apple is indeed "The City That Never Sleeps" and always takes care of its own, 3-year-old colt Mo Donegal and his owner Mike Repole will be toasted into the wee hours and beyond after their win Saturday in the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York.
Mo Donegal, the 5-2 post time favorite, came from just off the pace and charged to the front in mid-stretch to capture the third jewel of the thoroughbred horseracing's Triple Crown and set off a raucous celebration at Belmont Park, New York City's cathedral of horseracing.
Mo Donegal, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., covered the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes in 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds, beating Nest, a filly with odds of 5-1, to the finish line by three lengths. Both the winner and the runner up are trained by Todd Pletcher, who captured his fourth Belmont Stakes and the eighth Triple Crown race of his career.
Ortiz Jr. earned his second victory in the Belmont Stakes with the win.
Skippylongstocking, an 11-1 longshot, finished third, with front-runner We The People holding on for fourth.
Mo Donegal is owned by Donegal Racing and Repole Stable. He finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack on the other side of New York City.
Donegal Racing and Repole Stable, whose majority owner is Queens native Repole, also owns Nest. The 1-2 finish in the race Repole holds most dear is "unbelievable -- too much of a thrill for words," he said afterward.
"This is a dream I've had for 40 years since coming here to this race track and to Aqueduct as a kid," said Repole, the founder of Vitaminwater. "This is New York's race -- I've won a lot of big races in New York, but this is the biggest thrill I've had in my racing life. I'm always going to be Mike from Queens, but to win this here with my family and friends -- success is best when shared."
Mo Donegal stalked the pace throughout as set by We The People, running around the sweeping first turn on the flank of Skippylongstocking and alongside Nest down the long backstretch. Mo Donegal pulled even with We The People as the eight-horse field turned for home and immediately accelerated to the front when he switched leads, drawing off as both Nest and Skippylongstocking never made a serious run at the winner.
Rich Strike, the longshot Kentucky Derby winner at odds of more than 80-1, was a disappointing sixth in his first race since winning the Run For The Roses on May 7.
Eric Reid, Rich Strike's trainer, blamed his tactical error on his colt's poor showing.
"Our biggest change today was we decided to stay a little out off the rail and try to give him a good open run when he would take off," Reid said of Rich Strike. "We made a mistake not putting him on the fence. He was not aggressive out in the middle of the track. We will need to teach him to run around horses."
Neither Early Voting, the Preakness winner, nor Epicenter, the favorite and eventual second-place finisher in both of the first two Triple Crown races, were in the field for the Belmont Stakes.
No horses ran in all three of the Triple Crown races. Saturday's race was the first time since 1954 that the Derby winner missed the Preakness the same year that the Preakness winner opted out of the Belmont.
The grueling race had a purse of $1.5 million, with $800,000 going to the winner.
It's the first time since 1926-29 that different horses have won the three Triple Crown races in four consecutive years.
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