A year ago jockey Kent Desormeaux lost a bid for a Triple Crown when he had to pull up heavy favorite Big Brown . On June 6 in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO), he got his elusive Belmont victory when he guided Summer Bird to an upset in the third leg of the Triple Crown before a crowd of 52,861.
All eyes in the $1 million event were on the other bird in the field, Mine That Bird, but the 6-5 favorite came up short, finishing third as Dunkirk got second. Both Summer Bird and Mine That Bird are sons of Birdstone , who won the Belmont in 2004.
Some might criticize jockey Calvin Borel, on Mine That Bird, for moving too soon in the 12-furlong race, but Borel said following the race that though he might have done so, "we just got outrun today."
Borel would have become the first jockey to win the three Triple Crown races on different horses. He won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on Mine That Bird and the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) on Rachel Alexandra.
On a day when speed was holding on the Belmont main track, Dunkirk surprisingly went to the lead out of the gate, followed by Charitable Man, Miner's Escape and Mr. Hot Stuff. Both Summer Bird and Mine That Bird were in the back of the 10-horse field as they went a quarter in :23.41.
John Velazquez still had Dunkirk on the lead while Miner’s Escape took second as they went the first half-mile in :47.13 and six furlongs in 1:12.43. Mine That Bird was in last, but only about seven lengths from the lead.
|Belmont Stakes Slideshow|
|Relive Summer Bird's Upset Win.|
Meanwhile, Desormeaux had the spot that Borel normally has, sitting on the rail as the field approached the turn for home and the lengthy stretch run at Belmont Park.
Dunkirk was still in front after they went a mile in 1:37.86 when Borel moved Mine That Bird to challenge. Desormeaux came off the rail then with Summer Bird and rallied wide in about the five path.
Dunkirk, Mine That Bird and Charitable Man, between them, all dug in, but Summer Bird wore them down and eased past to win by 2 3/4 lengths. In a battle for second, Dunkirk edged Mine That Bird by a neck. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to fourth-place finisher Charitable Man, whose rider, Alan Garcia, claimed foul against Dunkirk. It was disallowed.
"The colt broke like a rocket," Desormeaux said of Summer Bird. "He absolutely dragged me around the race track. I had an armchair ride until I found some room. I found room."
You have to go back to 1933 and Hurry Off to find the last Belmont winner to win the race who was not first, second, or third when the field turned for home. Hurry Off was fourth, as was Summer Bird.
Borel said Mine That Bird, who had the lead on the outside in the final furlong, was tougher to handle than he was in the Kentucky Derby.
"He was fighting me a little bit. I had to let him go a little," Borel said. "I thought he was home free."
Chip Woolley, who trains Mine That Bird, said the gelding would ship back to Churchill Downs on June 8 and stay there at least a week. He said the Derby winner would not run for at least two months. His next start will probably be a race on the East Coast, Woolley said.
Summer Bird is a homebred for Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, both retired physicians. They first had a farm in Arkansas but now are based in Ocala, Fla., though the colt was foaled in Kentucky. The natives of India own Tiffany Farms and about 20 broodmares.
Summer Bird, out of the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall, was making just his fifth start, all at 3. He broke his maiden in his second outing March 19 at Oaklawn Park and then was jumped into stakes company, running third, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II).
In the Kentucky Derby, Summer Bird made a good run late while wide and closed ground to finish sixth, beaten 13 lengths.
He earned $600,000 for the win, pushing his career total to $723,040.
Summer Bird is trained by Tim Ice, who was an assistant for 15 years before going out on his own a year ago. He celebrated his 35th birthday on Belmont day. Ice had worked as an assistant to Morris Nicks, Cole Norman, and Kent Desormeaux’ brother, Keith.
As he walked into the postrace news conference, Ice was serenaded with a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
"Right now it's just unexplainable," he said. "If my career goes nowhere from here, I've got a Belmont win."
Ice is an Ohio native who now calls Bossier City, La., home.
Desormeaux, 39, had said he felt the omission of a Belmont win was glaring on his resume. He has won more than 5,000 race and taken the Derby three times and Preakness twice. But he had been denied in the Belmont in five tries including a second aboard Triple Crown hopeful Real Quiet in 1998 and Medaglia d'Oro in 2002.
“I hope from now on we’ll talk about winning one,” Desormeaux said.
Summer Bird paid $25.80, $9.30, and $4.70 while Dunkirk returned $5.40 and $3.60 . Mine That Bird was worth $2.60.