She is the first filly to win the triple crown race in over a century.
NEW YORK – Rags to Riches can beat the boys, too. The fabulous filly outdueled Curlin in a breathtaking stretch run and won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, becoming the first of her sex in more than a century to take the final leg of the Triple Crown.
No one was happier with the victory than trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, who both ended long droughts in Triple Crown races: Pletcher was 0-for-28, Velazquez 0-for-20.
The normally reserved Pletcher was screaming throughout the stretch run, one that had the fans at Belmont Park on their feet roaring as the two stars battled saddlecloth to saddlecloth to the wire.
Rags to Riches, despite a slight stumble at the start, became the third filly to capture the Belmont â€” Ruthless took the first running in 1867 and Tanya won in 1905. Only 22 fillies have tried the Belmont, with Rags to Riches the first since Silverbulletday finished seventh in 1999.
When the field of seven 3-year-olds made the turn for home, four horses fought for the lead, with Rags to Riches, the Kentucky Oaks winner, on the outside, and Preakness winner Curlin moving between rivals.
And then it became a two-horse race â€” a true battle of the sexes. In a furious stretch run, with Velazquez urging his filly on, Rags to Riches won by a head â€” the same margin Curlin edged Street Sense by in the Preakness three weeks ago.
Rags to Riches covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.74, well off Secretariat’s track record of 2:24. But time didn’t matter in this one.
Rags to Riches was sent off as the 4-1 second choice and returned $10.60, $4.40 and $3.20. Curlin, with Robby Albarado aboard, paid $3 and $2.30. Tiago was third and returned $3.70.
Hard Spun finished fourth, followed by C P West, Imawildandcrazyguy and Slew’s Tizzy.
It was Pletcher who made the surprise call to run Rags to Riches, who dominated her own division with four straight victories, including the Oaks five weeks ago at Churchill Downs. The nation’s top trainer said the absence of Street Sense, plus his filly’s pedigree added up to taking a shot.
The Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races, is a race that Kentucky Derby winning fillies Winning Colors and Genuine Risk could not win.
Drawing on the bloodlines that carried her father, A.P. Indy, and grandfather, Seattle Slew, to victory in the race, Rags to Riches proved she is as worthy a winner as her half brother, last year’s Belmont winner Jazil.
Rags to Riches almost lost her chance at the start, stumbling out of the No. 7 post as the gates opened. But Velazquez and the filly quickly regained their cool and caught up to the pack. Meanwhile, long-shots C P West and Slew’s Tizzy were setting a slow pace. By the time the field hit the far turn, Rags to Riches took to the outside to make her move. Curlin, though, had to wait to come off the rail.
By the top of the stretch, the filly had the jump and she never gave in despite Curlin’s best effort.
Pletcher wasn’t even going to run Rags to Riches if the top three finishers from the Derby and Preakness met again in New York. But when Street Sense dropped out, Rags to Riches was in, and came through with a history-making victory.
After finishing 2nd in the Preakness, Street Sense’s owners had little to gain by racing in the Belmont and much to lose if a Barbaro like injury occured. Congratulations to the owners of Rags to Riches.
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