18-Year-Old Jara Guides Jazil to Belmont Victory

18-Year-Old Jara Guides Jazil to Belmont Victory
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
Jazil wins the Belmont with a classic stretch run.
Jockey Fernando Jara, an 18-year-old native of Panama, patiently guided Shadwell Stable's Jazil from the rail to the outside and outdueled Bluegrass Cat to win Saturday's 138th running of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) by 1 1/4 lengths.

Without Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Barbaro and Preakness (gr. I) victor Bernardini, the Belmont may have been missing some of its usual appeal. But Jara and Jazil had the crowd of 61,168 on its feet and cheering at Belmont Park as they held off Bluegrass Cat at the finish.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the 3-year-old son of Seeking the Gold completed the 1 ½ miles in 2:27 4/5, which is 3 4/5 seconds off the track record.

Jazil gave McLaughlin his first win in a Triple Crown race, and gave Dubai's sheikhs a second straight win in a classic.

"You don't know how I feel right now. This is amazing," a nearly speechless Jara said immediately following the Belmont.

Especially considering that the winner overcame problems at the start when he brushed the gate, knocking Jara's right foot out of the stirrup. The jockey recovered, however, and held his mount in a stalking position until the field turned for home rounding the sweeping second turn at Belmont Park.

As Jara moved Jazil, who trailed the 12-horse field down the backstretch, through to pack to the outside, Eclipse Award-winning rider John Velazquez was also making a move with Bluegrass Cat, who had been closer to the leaders early. Jazil took the lead entering the stretch and Bluegrass Cat was unable to keep pace.

Bob and John, sent off favored at 9-2 odds, took the early lead while being stalked by High Finance, Deputy Glitters, and Bluegrass Cat. The leaders were unchanged through the first half-mile in :47 1/5 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:12 before the eventual 1-2 finishers made their moves.

"I was very confident when he was weaving through at the five-eighths pole to the quarter pole," McLaughlin said. "He moved along side Bluegrass Cat going the right way. Then I was very confident."

Jara not only won his first Triple Crown race, but also helped McLaughlin and Dubai Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, who operates Shadwell Stable, win theirs.

"It is very hard to describe my feeling," said McLaughlin, who trained for Sheik Hamdan in Dubai for nearly 10 years before returning home three years ago. "The people at Shadwell have been my biggest supporters for the last 12 years. It's great to win this race for your favorite people."

In posting only his second career victory in his eighth start, Jazil paid $14.40, $6.70, and $4.70. Bluegrass, who was also second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), paid $6.40 and $4.70, and Sunriver came on to be third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Jazil, paying $6.10.

Jazil earned $600,000 to boost his bankroll to $872,217.

"When he made the lead, I started looking for the wire," McLaughlin said. "But when you make the lead and no one's gaining on you, it's a good feeling."

Jazil finished in a dead heat for fourth with Brother Derek in the Kentucky Derby. He came into the Belmont with only a maiden victory last year, and was 0-for-4 this year.

But the colt picked a good time to win one of racing's biggest events, even without Barbaro and Bernardini in the field.

Barbaro, the brilliant 3-year-old hailed as a Triple Crown threat after his dominating 6 1/2 -length victory in the Derby, shattered three bones in his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness, and is convalescing at a hospital in Pennsylvania.

Bernardini, who took the Preakness by 5 lengths, was back at his Belmont barn after Sheikh Mohammed decided to rest the colt for a summer campaign that will include the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga in August.

Jazil was held out of the Preakness to prepare for the Belmont and became the fourth horse in the last seven years to take that route to Belmont victory. The others were Birdstone in 2004, Empire Maker in 2003 and Commendable in 2000.

Bred in Kentucky by Skara Glen Stables, Jazil was purchased at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale for $725,000, had previously broken his maiden at Aqueduct in December, was second in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had the second and third-place finishers. Pletcher, the nation's top trainer the past two years, is now 0-for-21 in Triple Crown races.

"If it were anyone besides me, I was rooting for Kiaran," said Pletcher, who like McLaughlin was a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "He is one of my best friends, a great person, and I am very, very happy for him. I am disappointed. There is no consolation in second for me."

Steppenwolfer, Oh So Awesome, Hemingway's Key, Platinum Couple, Bob and John, Sacred Light, High Finance and Deputy Glitters rounded out the order. Double Galore was eased in the stretch.

(Chart, Equibase)

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