USA: Creator touches off Destin in Belmont Stakes


Frosted: in Breeders’ Cup Classic picture after dazzling Met Mile victory

  PICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Jessie Holmes  

Report: USA, Saturday

Belmont Park: Belmont Stakes (Grade 1) 1m4f, dirt, 3yo

IN a finish dominated by greys, 16-1 chance Creator (Steve Asmussen/Irad Ortiz) came with a rush in the dying strides to run down Destin at the wire and win the 148th Belmont Stakes by a nose.

Third place, a length and three-quarters further away, was the Japanese runner Lani, completing a 1-2-3 for grey horses in the $1.5 million contest, highlight of a spactacular card at Belmont Park featuring six Grade 1 events.

Disappointment of the race was Exaggerator, sent off hot favourite after his Preakness victory. He endured a horrible trip, fighting his rider throughout and racing four wide, closer to the pace than usual, after breaking from gate 11 in the 13-runner field. Eased in the stretch by Kent Desormeaux once it was clear he would not feature, he could finish only 11th.

As Desormeaux attempted vainly to drag something worthwhile from a rank trip, Creator was given a ground-saving ride by Irad Ortiz. The grey son of Tapit recorded a time of 2m28.51s.

“Irad gave him a great trip,” said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “He won it by inches and he saved feet.”

It was also a tactical masterpiece, as longsot Gettysburg made the running at a decent pace to set things up for his Asmussen-trained stable companion.

Gettysburg was a late entry to the Belmont for Creator’s majority owners WinStar Farms, who took the colt from Todd Pletcher’s barn only in the week before the race; ironically, Pletcher saddled Destin, who would surely have won without Gettysburg getting in front of him.

But though the Creator team insisted Gettysburg was not there to act as a rabbit, he was the only obvious front-runner in the race, and so it proved as he led Destin around the wide Belmont oval.

Destin took the lead entering the stretch and only just failed to hold on as Creator needed every inch of the 1m4f trip to get his nose in front. Questions may well be asked if rumours that Gettysburg will be moved straight back to Pletcher prove to be correct; he will have been under Asmussen’s care for precisely a week.

Both the first two had run in the Kentucky Derby – where Destin was sixth and Creator a troubled 13th – before skipping the Preakness, whereas UAE Derby winner Lani can take great credit after running in all three Triple Crown races.

Creator was named by god-fearing WinStar president Elliott Walden; celebrity chef Bobby Flay bought a share earlier this week. The colt was a first Belmont winner for his prolific trainer Asmussen, whose only previous Triple Crown successes had come in the Preakness via Rachel Alexandra (2007) and Curlin (2009), who suffered an agonising defeat after a pitched battle down the stretch with the filly Rags To Riches in that year’s Belmont.

This time, however, Asmussen turned the tables: runner-up Destin represented Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Rags To Riches. “I was just glad to see them out that number up – they came to the wire together,” said Asmussen, who is due to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

Ortiz, among the leading riders on the New York circuit, was winning his first Classic. Despite the tight naturs of the photo finish, he celebrated as soon as they crossed the wire.

“It’s an amazing feeling and it’s very, very important for me,” said the jockey. “When he got clear, he started rolling and I knew he’d get to the other horse. I’m very happy.”

Kent Desormeaux reported that Exaggerator had come up empty, as was clear to anybody with eyes in their head. “When I picked him up at the quarter pole to try and win the race, there was nothing there,” he said.

Frosted fantastic in Met Mile

Belmont Park: Metropolitan Hcap (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 4yo+

AFTER his Dubai World Cup flop, last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up Frosted (Kiaran McLaughlin/Joel Rosario) had plenty of questions to answer – and the Godolphin four-year-old answered them in no uncertain terms when he annihilated a good field in the $1.25million event better known as the Met Mile.

After making an impressive Dubai debut at Meydan in February, Frosted – another grey son of supersire Tapit – could finish only fifth behind California Chrome when well fancied in the World Cup itself.

Cutting back in trip for his first run since then, 2.35-1 favourite Frosted took control in upper stretch before charging away to score by the small matter of 14¼ lengths. He stopped the clock in a speedy 1m32.73s – a stakes record time, just a couple of ticks off the track record – under top-weight of 8st8lb.

Frosted was completing a memorable Grade 1 double on the Belmont undercard for his trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who also won the Ogden Phipps with Cavorting.

“The margin of victory today was unbelievable – it was a wild, wild race,” said McLaughlin, who is likely to target the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Looking back 12 months, McLaughlin added: “I thought we could win last year’s Belmont, but it didn’t work out. We ran into American Pharoah, so this is a huge performance here today. Probably the biggest win I ever had for Godolphin for sure — the way he did it and what it does for him going forward.”

Jockey Joel Rosario added: “This is a nice horse – he did it all on his own. I was just a passenger. He really ran a big race today, probably the best race of his life.”

Anchor Down took second, just holding the late challenge of Upstart.



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