NEW YORK — Mo Donegal won and filly Nest was second, giving trainer Todd Pletcher a 1-2 finish at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday for his sixth victory in a Triple Crown race.
Donegal rounded the 1½-mile track in 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds, ahead of Nest and Skippylongstocking.
Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes for the fourth time, following Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017.
Mo Donegal beat a wide-open, eight-horse field without a clear favorite. We the People, a monster in the mud, opened at 2 to 1 amid a rainy forecast but reached 7 to 2 by race time as showers held off.
Mo Donegal entered the gate the betting favorite at 5 to 2. We the People led for much of the race, but Mo Donegal and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. took charge coming out of the final turn.
“The one thing I told Irad is be patient,” Pletcher said. “I think you have the best last quarter of any horse in the race.”
Rich Strike, a stunning Kentucky Derby winner at 80-to-1 odds this year, was sixth after owner Rick Dawson and trainer Eric Reed held him out of the Preakness with an eye on Belmont. Rich Strike was the first healthy Derby winner to skip the Preakness since 1985.
Reed said the team encouraged jockey Sonny Leon to try pushing Rich Strike from the outside, but the horse kept trying to get back inside, where he made a late charge past 19 horse to win at Churchill Downs.
“I think we just made a tactical error,” Reed said.
Mo Donegal was at the back of the pack at the Kentucky Derby, but the colt didn’t have enough kick at Churchill Downs. He found it Saturday, winning the 154th running of the $1.5 million race.
“To be honest with you, we were a little confident going into the race today,” Donegal Racing CEO Jerry Crawford said. “When he turned for home, I was like, forget about it. I know Todd thought he could get a strong last quarter mile, and he sure did.”
It’s the fourth straight year the Triple Crown races were won by three different horses, a first for the sport since 1926-29.
The race marked a return to form for Belmont after the 2020 Stakes were closed to the public due to the pandemic and the 2021 event was limited to 11,238 spectators by virus restrictions.
Capacity was capped again, this time at 50,000, because of congestion concerns stemming from the newly built arena next door for the NHL’s New York Islanders. Still, fans crammed into cars on the Long Island Rail Road and breathed life into the 117-year-old track with floral headwear, pastel suits and the unmistakable musk of booze and cigars.
Still, the stands weren’t nearly as packed as when the grounds hosted 120,139 fans in 2004. That wasn’t much of a surprise, given the shaky weather forecast and the lack of a Triple Crown contender.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The field was sparse, too. No horse ran all three Triple Crown legs this year, heightening concern that three races in five weeks may be too tight a schedule to keep the horses healthy.
Preakness winner Early Voting was sidelined, likely to prepare for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 27. Epicenter, the runnerup at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, also skipped the Belmont.
— By JAKE SEINER