More than seven years after he competed in his first Kentucky Derby with Trippi, More Than Ready and Impeachment in May of 2000, perennial champion trainer Todd Pletcher finally got his first Triple Crown victory, ending a much publicized and often-talked-about 0-for-28 record in the classics.
And he did it with a filly
Michael Tabor’s and Derrick Smith’s Rags to Riches became the queen of racing after she outfought the imposing Preakness (gr. I) champion Curlin to the wire in Saturday’s 139th Belmont Stakes. At 6:32 p.m. yesterday, Rags to Riches had become just the third filly in history to win the Belmont Stakes, and the first to accomplish the feat since Tanya in 1905.
Sunday morning, Rags to Riches walked the shed row, no worse for the wear in spite of a bad stumble at the start of her taxing 1 1/2-mile adventure.
“This feels good,” said Pletcher, who has won three straight Eclipse Awards as the nation’s top trainer. “I don’t know if it’s all sunk in yet, the historical significance of it and all. It’s a pretty special win.
“She came back well. It was a great day and I think a popular victory. It was great for the sport and great for the Belmont and it made for good TV.”
With the Belmont in the books, the most interesting story is the route Pletcher and Rags to Riches’ owners take: will she return to the fillies, or stay with the colts?
“I would say the most likely scenario at this point is the Coaching Club, but there’s no urgency to make a decision,” Pletcher said.
Belmont Park’s 91st running of the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at 10 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies will be run on the final Saturday of the meet July 21.
The Belmont Stakes wasn’t the only grade I victory for Pletcher yesterday. Earlier on the card, he won the Acorn with Cotton Blossom. Pletcher also finished second in the Manhattan (gr. IT) with English Channel and second in the Just a Game (gr. II) with Wait a While.
“This morning it looks like everybody came back good,” Pletcher said. “No wounds or anything like that. We’ll have to sit down and figure out where everybody is going next.”
Preakness champion Curlin, beaten just a head by Rags to Riches, left Belmont Park at approximately 6 a.m. Sunday. He was due to arrive in Kentucky later.
Fox Hill Farms’ Hard Spun returned safely to his home track of Delaware Park Sunday morning after running fourth in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Larry Jones.
“He ate well last night and his legs are good and cold,” Jones said. “We’re not going to plan on anything right away. We’ll let him recharge his batteries. He won’t run again until August.”
Hard Spun, along with Curlin, were the only two horses to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after setting the pace and held third in the Preakness after an early move.
Robert LaPenta’s C P West, fifth in the Belmont Stakes, returned to trainer Nick Zito’s barn in good shape and will ship to Saratoga sometime during the next couple days.
“It was interesting how the race was run,” Zito said. “We thought Hard Spun was just going to open up and we would be sitting second. That’s why when the gates open up, you never know.”
Zito said that C P West would get a little down time at Saratoga before his next start, which is likely to be the $500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II) on July 29.
“This race is more unique than any race ever because that mile and a half gets them all,” Zito said of the Belmont Stakes. “Yesterday, there were two of them that proved how good they are. It goes to show you what kind of race the Belmont is. Like when we got `Smarty’ [Zito-trained Birdstone won the 2004 Belmont Stakes by a length to cost Smarty Jones the Triple Crown], it was that extra (distance). I’m a traditionalist and I hope they never change anything about the Triple Crown.”
Slew’s Tizzy, the last-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, came out of the race in good order and will van back to Lexington, Ky., on Monday, according to trainer Greg Fox.
“The pace scenario in the race really hurt us,” Fox said. “I’m glad I was here for one of the greatest Belmont’s ever, though. After it became clear Slew’s Tizzy was not having a good race, I shifted my focus to the drama up front. I’m so happy for the winning connections.”
Fox said Slew’s Tizzy began to unravel hours before the Belmont in the security barn. “He got a little nervous in there,” Fox said. “There was no quiet place for him to walk around; it was very congested.”
Trainer Bill Kaplan reported that Imawildandcrazyguy, sixth in the Belmont Stakes, came out of the race in good condition and will ship back to Calder over the next few days.
“He didn’t do anything,” Kaplan said of the gelding’s Belmont effort. “He just galloped around there. They were sprinting in the stretch and there was no way he was going to catch them. I knew they were going to slow the pace down, but I didn’t expect a half in :50. We’re very vulnerable to that. It didn’t play to our hand and there was nothing we could do about it. He went out there and had a nice two-minute lick into a three-eighths breeze.”
Kaplan said Imawildandcrazyguy would probably get a little rest when he returns to Calder and then may be pointed to an allowance race.
“He’s eligible for a two-other-than, so we’ll get an easy race for him down there and then pick something out,” Kaplan said.