ELMONT, N.Y. – It had been three years since the full-throated roar of the Belmont Park crowd greeted the field as it rounded the far turn in the Belmont Stakes due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The closer, sent postward as the 5/2 favorite, rallied as the field rounded the turn and took charge down the stretch, rolling to an impressive victory over the filly Nest, as trainer Todd Pletcher swept the top two spots.
Five weeks after rallying 17th to grab fifth in the Kentucky Derby after racing wide the entire way around at Churchill Downs, Mo Donegal was in much better position Saturday. Sitting closer to the pace, the Uncle Mo colt, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., was able to get to the front quickly and win by three lengths, covering the 1 1/2 mile distance in 2:28.28.
Mo Donegal earned the $800,000 winner’s share from the $1.5 million purse, bringing his career earnings to more than $1.5 million, including a victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
We the People went postward as the second choice at 7/2, but the front-runner was unable to win for the second time at Belmont Park in three weeks. After capturing the Peter Pan Stakes by more than 10 lengths, We the People, trained by Rodolphe Brisset, led the field through the first mile, but was unable to hang on, finishing fourth.
For Rich Strike, it was a disappointing finish for the former claimer, who carried jockey Sonny Leon, trainer Eric Reed and owner Rick Dawson’s Red TR-Racing into the national spotlight for the first time with a stirring rally from the back of the field to chase down Epicenter deep in the stretch in the Kentucky Derby.
“We were hoping we could be a little closer and the pace was slow,” said Reed. “Our biggest change today was we decided to stay a little out of the rail and try to give him a good open run when he would take off – this is the first time he’s not been on the inside rail.
“(Leon) said he wanted down on the rail the whole way and he was not aggressive running in the middle of the track and when he started to make his run he had to make it out there because we put him out there, so I think we just made a tactical error and we’ll have to teach him to run around horses.”
► The most impressive performance of the afternoon goes to the Chad Brown-trained 3-year-old Jack Christopher, who annihilated the field in the Woody Stephens, winning the seven-furlong test by 10 lengths, with Jose Ortiz in the saddle. The Munnings colt is now unbeaten in four career starts.
► The most anticipated effort of the day surrounded California invader Flightline, who had won his first three career starts by a combined 37.5 l►engths. And the 4-year-old, coming off a layoff of more than five months, didn’t disappoint.
After sitting just off the pace, the 4-year-old Tapit colt, trained by John Sadler, put away Speaker’s Corner rounding the turn before drawing off for a six-length victory in the $1 million Metropolitan Mile. After going 1:08.54 for six furlongs, Flightline covered the distance in a quick 1:33.59.
The tensest moment of the undercard came when Echo Zulu, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, was scratched on the advice of the trackside veterinarian just moments before the start of the $500,000 Acorn Stakes.
That left Matareya as the heavy 1-5 choice, and the 3-year-old filly came through with a dominating 6 1/4 length victory, winning for the fourth time in as many starts this year. Trained by Brad Cox, Matareya, ridden by Flavien Prat, led every step of the way to secure her first Grade 1 win.
► It was a big afternoon for Brown, who won the $500,000 What a Game for the fifth time when 6-year-old Regal Glory got to the wire first in the one mile turf event for older fillies and mares. Ridden by Jose Ortiz, it was the third win in three starts this year for Regal Glory, including the second straight Grade 1 victory.
Brown then won his third Grade 1 race of the day when Tribhuvan opened up a big lead in the $750,000 Manhattan, with jockey Manny Franco guiding the 6-year-old gelding to victory in the 1 1/4-mile turf race.
► After races in Riyadh and Dubai in his first two starts of the year, Casa Creed returned to the United States and defended his title by winning the $400,000 Jaipur Stakes. Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Luis Saez, Casa Creed got to the wire ahead of Arrest Me Red, coming off a win in the Grade 2 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.
source: Asbury Park Press