NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Experienced trainer Todd Pletcher had some simple advice for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. before the Belmont Stakes.
“Be patient,” he told her. “I think no other horse in this race is better in the fourth quarter.”
He was right.
Ridden by Ortiz, Mo Donegal finished first in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, followed by the filly Nest, making Pletcher 1-2.
It was not the only 1-2. José Luis Ortiz, Irad’s brother, was Nest’s rider. And Puerto Rico actually managed 1-2-3, as Skippylongstocking, ridden by Manny Franco, reached the finish line next.
It was Pletcher’s sixth victory in Triple Crown racing.
Mo Donegal lapped the mile-and-a-half track in 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds.
“To be honest with you, we were a bit confident going into today’s race,” said Jerry Crawford, CEO of Donegal Racing and co-owner of the winning horse. “When he got close to the finish line I thought: ‘forget about the rest.’ I knew that Todd was sure that we would be very strong in the last quarter of a mile, and without a doubt that happened.
Pletcher had won Belmont three other times, with Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017.
Rich Strike, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby when the odds were just 80-1, was sixth.
Mo Donegal entered the kickoff as the betting favorite at 5-2.
We the People, a fearsome horse in the mud, opened 2-1 amid forecast rain. However, he slumped to 7-2 at race time, when the precipitation forecast in previous days’ weather forecasts did not arrive.
He led for much of the race, but Mo Donegal and Ortiz took the lead coming out of the final corner.
The three-year-old colt paid 7.20, 3.80 and 3 dollars. Nest — who came close to being the second Pletcher filly to win Belmont after Rags to Riches — gave up 5.30 and 4.10.
Skippylongstocking paid 5.60. We the People finished in fourth place.
The race was attended by 46,103 people, far less than the record of 120,139 set in 2004. It was no surprise, given that rain was forecast and there was no horse that came in with a chance of sweeping the Triple Crown.
Also, the list of participants didn’t look that interesting. No horse contested all three Triple Crown races this year. That highlighted concerns that three races in five weeks is too much of a burden to keep Thoroughbreds healthy.