Mo Donegal Wins the Belmont, Ending Rich Strike’s Magical Story

 

So, fairy tales shouldn’t have legs in horse racing.

If they did, Sonny Leon aboard Rich Strike would have been ding-donging down the stretch of the 154th operating of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

Instead, a colt named Mo Donegal, educated by Todd Pletcher, who is predicated in New York, and ridden by the nation’s prime rider — one other New Yorker, Irad Ortiz Jr. — made positive the trophy for what is named the Test of the Champion stayed dwelling.

The outcomes attest to the mundane nature of the last leg of the Triple Crown: Mo Donegal lived as much as his standing as an almost 3-to-1 favourite, ending the mile-and-a-half marathon in a last time of two:28.29. The colt paid its backers $7.20 for a $2 guess and rewarded its house owners, Donegal Racing and Repole Stable, with an $800,000 first-place examine.

Mo Donegal left little doubt that he was the finest horse on Saturday. He blew handed the early pacesetter We the People in the stretch and held off his stablemate Nest, a filly, for a simple three-length victory. Skippylongstocking was a distant third.

“I believed each horses had been touring actually nice the complete manner,” Pletcher stated. “The one factor I informed Irad was to be affected person, and I believe he obtained the finest journey in the race.”

Rich Strike ran in the again of the pack and by no means discovered the gut-busting gear that had powered him down the stretch of Churchill Downs and to victory at inconceivable 80-1 odds. He was ridden as soon as once more by Sonny Leon, the little identified jock from the Midwest grits-and-hard-toast circuit who had thrown down a masterpiece of big-time race-riding at Churchill Downs — a swerving, rail-skimming journey worthy of a tear of appreciation from the Mona Lisa.

His unlikely victory had captivated sports activities followers who had been taken by the colt’s humble beginnings. He was purchased for $30,000 out of a claiming race by an proprietor who had just one horse in coaching: Rich Strike. Eric Reed, the horse’s coach, and Leon had been completed horsemen who had received loads of races however who weren’t extensively identified as a result of their successes got here principally at the on line casino racetracks in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Reed took the blame for Rich Strike’s lackluster end at Belmont Park. He had requested Leon to maintain the colt off the rail and to take him huge for a stretch run down the center of the racetrack.

Why, particularly after Leon and Rich Strike hugged the rail in Kentucky and flashed by Epicenter and Zandon in the race’s last yards?

Reed didn’t actually have a proof.

“We had been hoping we may have been somewhat nearer, and our tempo was gradual,” Reed stated. “Our largest change was deciding to remain somewhat off the rail and attempt to give him , open run the place he may take off.”

But in the backstretch Reed noticed that call had been a mistake, when his colt was preventing Leon and attempting to bull his method to the rail.

“The complete manner, his head turned, and he was attempting to get to the inside. I assume we made a mistake not placing him on the fence,” Reed stated.

Ortiz, aboard Mo Donegal, knew he had loads of horse. He had been working the colt in the morning and had already received twice on the late runner.

“I favored him each time I obtained on him,” he stated.

Uplifting tales have been exhausting to come back by in America’s oldest sport lately. Bob Baffert, who educated Medina Spirit — final 12 months’s Derby winner till he was disqualified for failing a post-race drug check — had saved horse racing in the information by contesting the penalty. In April, Baffert was sidelined for the Triple Crown by a 90-day suspension from Kentucky regulators.

This Triple Crown season wanted a break from Baffert and the controversies that accompanied him. He has received six Derbies and swept the Triple Crown twice in the final seven years. But he has had persistent troubles in the check barn — his horses have failed 30 drug checks over 4 many years, together with 4 in a 13-month interval main as much as Medina Spirit’s failed Derby check.

The victory of Rich Strike on the first Saturday in May was an antidote to Baffert and horse racing’s ongoing rap as an unfair and unsafe sport.

Two weeks later, when Early Voting received at the Preakness, newer personalities took a flip in the highlight. The colt’s proprietor, the hedge fund investor Seth Klarman, a Baltimore native, celebrated his sixty fifth birthday at Pimlico Race Course, a number of blocks from the place he grew up. He selected to maintain Early Voting in his barn for the Belmont.

It may not have been the finest ending for horse racing’s annual 5 weeks of fame, nevertheless it was an trustworthy one. For that, anybody who believes in horse racing is grateful.


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