WinStar Farm’s Drosselmeyer gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first win in a Triple Crown race, wearing down pacesetter First Dude and holding off a late charge from Fly Down for a 13-1 upset in the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) under Mike Smith June 5 at Belmont Park.
It was the first Belmont win in his 13th attempt for fellow Hall of Famer Smith, who guided the son of Distorted Humor to a three-quarters of a length score for his first stakes victory. The final time for the 1 1/2-mile third leg of the Triple Crown was 2:31.57 over a fast track. A crowd of 45,243 came out on a hot, steamy day in Elmont, N.Y., to watch the 142nd running of the race.
Drosselmeyer, who began his career racing on turf, was still eligible for a non-winners of two allowance race entering the Belmont. Fourth in the Risen Star (gr. II) and third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, the chestnut colt fell short of the necessary graded earnings to make the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Instead of racing in the May 15 Preakness (gr. I), Mott decided to ship his charge to Belmont, where he finished a distant runner-up to Fly Down in the May 8 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II).
But the 12-furlong Belmont suited Drosselmeyer better. He raced mid-pack in the field of 12 for much of the first mile, racing alongside Fly Down while First Dude set the pace as expected. First Dude outhustled Interactif to the first turn under Ramon Dominguez and led for nearly all of the grueling race. First Dude, the Preakness runner-up, took the field through splits of :24.15, :49.19, 1:14.94, and 1:40.25.
Interactif and Javier Castellano pressed the leader much of the way until tiring at the top of the lane, while Game On Dude was also close on the outside with Martin Garcia aboard and in contention until very late. Uptowncharlybrown was near the early pace as well.
Drosselmeyer slipped past Fly Down coming off the final turn and made his winning five-wide move into the lane while still chasing First Dude and Game On Dude. Dominguez was able to get all he could from the stubborn First Dude, who still led inside the sixteenth-pole. But Drosselmeyer continued to wear down the longtime leader and edged in front in deep stretch. Fly Down, challenging between horses under John Velazquez, was closing ground in the final strides but could not get to the winner.
Fly Down was a neck in front of third-place First Dude. Game On Dude was another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth.
Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box, the 9-5 favorite, was never a factor while finishing ninth. Like Fly Down, he is trained by Nick Zito, who was seeking his third Belmont victory.
Smith was riding Drosselmeyer for the first time after taking over for jockey Kent Desormeaux, who had ridden the colt in seven of his previous eight races.
“It was a great trip," said Smith, who had already won the Derby and the Preakness previously. "It was all about getting into the rhythm and we did it. It worked out.
"At the three-eighths pole, I started picking them up. As soon as I asked him, he really kicked in. All I had to worry about was Ice Box or somebody behind me, and he kept on going, and going, and going. It was really a great race today."
Drosselmeyer won for the third time in nine starts. He broke his maiden at third asking last November at Churchill Downs going one mile in his dirt debut, then won his first start as a 3-year-old in a January allowance race at Gulfstream Park at nine furlongs. At that point, he was considered WinStar's top Derby prospect, but he disappointed in his two starts leading up to the first Saturday in May.
Earlier this week, Drosselmeyer had bar shoes placed on his front feet to help protect his tender hooves. The bar shoes were removed on the morning of the race, but the foot issues scared some bettors away, even though Mott pronounced the horse healthy.
The winner, bred in Kentucky by Aaron U. Jones and Marie D. Jones, is out of the Moscow Ballet mare Golden Ballet. A $600,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland 2008 September yearling sale, he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. He has now earned $801,170 for WinStar, who won the Derby in May with homebred Super Saver.
Drosselmeyer paid $28, $11.60, and $7.70. Fly Down returned $6.80 and $5.10 and filled out an exacta (7-5) worth $144.50. First Dude paid $4.90 to show and capped a $766 trifecta (7-5-11).
Mott was the youngest trainer inducted into racing's Hall of Fame at the age of 45 in 1998. He is best known for training the great Cigar in the mid-1990s. Mott's best previous finish in a Triple Crown race had been a second with the longshot Vision and Verse in the 1999 Belmont.
"It all came together,'' Mott said. "I think it was just a matter of time with some of the good horses I get to train that it was going to happen. People don’t know it, but this is the second Belmont winner I’ve saddled. I saddled Victory Gallop (in the 1998 Belmont) for (former trainer) Elliot (Walden, now vice president and racing manager of WinStar Farm) when he had a broken leg.
“It was actually Elliot’s idea to go to the Dwyer. We thought about wheeling back into either the Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass (after the Louisiana Derby), but we just said we should stick with our original plan. I got a little nervous when he ran in the Dwyer and looked like he needed some racing, but it turned out to be a good plan.”
Uptowncharlybrown crossed the wire fifth, but after the race New York racing officials disqualified the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee due to a weight violation. The horse lost his lead weight pad during the race and failed to carry the required 126 pounds, resulting in an unplaced finish.
Ths was the third time in the 2010 Triple Crown that a Zito-trained horse hit the board. In addition to Ice Box's runner-up effort in the Derby, Jackson Bend was third in the Preakness.
"Fly Down ran great," said Zito, who has finished runner-up in the Belmont seven times now. "Obviously I’m disappointed about Ice Box. He didn’t deal with the heat well today. The Pulpit came out in him a little bit today. We’ll have to regroup and see what happens.”
Trainer Dale Romans also hit the board in all three Triple Crown races this year. His charge Paddy O'Prado was third in the Derby prior to First Dude finishing second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.
"We had a perfect trip and everything went like we planned, we just couldn’t hold it together right there at the end," the Kentucky-based Romans said. "He ran a mile and half, he ran hard, he did all the work again on the lead. I’m real happy with him. He put in a great effort. No excuses. He wants to run all day. He’s still learning, he’s still getting it together and he’s still improving.
"I think we have a lot of fun races in front of us. He’ll fly back to Kentucky on Monday, take a little break, and we'll figure out what to do with him.”