Rags to Riches Will Run in Belmont; Velazquez to Ride

Rags to Riches Will Run in Belmont; Velazquez to Ride
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches will contest the Belmont.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher announced Tuesday morning that the filly Rags to Riches will contest the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and be ridden by John Velazquez. Also, trainer Greg Fox said Rafael Bejarano has been named to ride Slew's Tizzy.

Pletcher had been saying he would decide between Rags to Riches and Circular Quay for his Belmont entrant.

"I made up my mind more or less last night but had to firm it up with Michael (co-owner Michael Tabor)," Pletcher said. "They left the decision strictly up to me, but when I told him what I decided he was thrilled with the decision."

Rags to Riches is owned by Tabor in partnership with Derrick Smith.

Her addition to the Belmont, a 1 ½-mile event, brings the field to eight, headed by Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Curlin. The others are Hard Spun, Slew's Tizzy, Imawildandcrazyguy, Tiago, Digger, and Time Squared.

Rags to Riches, by A.P. Indy, has won her last four starts after finishing fourth in her only race last year at 2. In her most recent outing, she was an easy and impressive winner of the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

Though he waited to make the decision, Pletcher said he has been pointing Rags to Riches toward the Belmont since the Oaks.

"We've been preparing her for the last five weeks as if she would run in the Belmont."

However, there was obviously a period of time when it appeared Rags to Riches would not run because Garrettt Gomez, who has ridden her in all four of her victories, took the mount on Hard Spun in the Belmont last week.

Pletcher first tried to get Gomez back on Rags to Riches but Larry Jones, who trains Hard Spun, said Gomez would honor his commitment to ride the son of Danzig owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm.

"We gave them four days to see what the filly was going to do," Jones said. "We had a total commitment before we ever made an announcement that Garrett would be on this horse, so we intend for him to be on this horse."

Gomez worked Hard Spun at Belmont Sunday morning.

Pletcher regularly rides Gomez as well as John Velazquez, who was not available because he has the mount on Slew's Tizzy. However, Greg Fox, who trains Slew's Tizzy, agreed to let Velazquez ride Rags to Riches.

"Everything is OK. I am going to ride the filly," said Angel Cordero Jr., the agent for Velazquez. "I called Greg Fox and he said 'no problem.' He understood what the situation was and was very nice about it."

With Velazquez released from his commitment to ride Slew's Tizzy, Fox named Rafael Bejarano to ride the son of Tiznow.

"Rafael and I have chosen each other," Fox said. "He called me himself asking for the mount. I've known him for a long time. He was at the training center I'm stabled at before he even rode his first race. The important thing is that he wants to ride the horse. He's a great rider, but when you have to make a last-minute change it can get a little traumatic. I absolutely understood Angel's and Johnny's situation. I was just disappointed their decision couldn't have been made earlier. But that's the horse business."


Pletcher said there were several factors that went into the decision regarding Rags to Riches' status for the final leg of the Triple Crown

"The filly is doing well. She worked very well and came out of it in great shape," the trainer said. "She is ready to run and needs to run. Actually this works out better space-wise for the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I). It is better to run her now than to try and hold her on the ground."

Only two fillies have won the Belmont—Ruthless in the first running in 1867 and Tanya in 1905.

"She arguably has the best pedigree for the race a horse could have," Pletcher said. "She has such an efficient action and is so powerful behind she gives the impression she will stay forever."

Rags to Riches, a half-sister to Jazil, last year's Belmont Stakes winner, is out of the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour, a winner of the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II). Her second dam, Blush With Pride, by Blushing Groom, also took the Kentucky Oaks and was a multiple graded stakes winner.

(Steve Haskin contributed to this report.)

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