Tens of thousands of well-dressed revelers flocked to the Belmont Stakes Saturday as organizers welcomed crowds for the first time since the pandemic, with favorite Mo Donegal snagging a win in the storied hose-race, as well as $800,000.
The horse, a 5-2 post time favorite, came from behind to beat out Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and heavier frontrunner We the People to win the 154th running of the Stakes, which serves the third jewel of thoroughbred horseracing’s Triple Crown.
The race marked a return to form for the 155-year-old Long Island event, after the 2020 Stakes were closed due to the pandemic and the event last year was limited to 11,238 spectators – roughly 10 percent the stadium’s capacity.
The event was proceeded by the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby last month – which also saw marked returns from fans following Covid-related restrictions seen the past two years.
The race also served as the first time since 1926-29 that different horses won the three Triple Crown events in four consecutive years.
Fans posed with floral hats before horses left the gate at the event, which was proceeded by the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby last month
Well dressed spectators were in abundance once again at the race, held in Elmont, Long Island, after Covid-related restrictions culled attendance for the past two years
Mo Donegal, a 5-2 post time favorite, snagged a win in the storied hose-race, coming from behind to beat out Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and heavier frontrunner We the People in the mile-and-a half event
The race marked a return to form for the 155-year-old Long Island event, after the 2020 Stakes were closed due to the pandemic and the event last year was limited to 11,238 spectators – roughly 10 percent the stadium’s capacity
Fans crammed into cars on the Long Island Rail Road and to once again grace the 117-year-old track with characteristic floral headwear, pastel suits, and the unmistakable musk of booze and cigars.
Spectators cheer ahead of the 154th running of storied race – the third jewel of thoroughbred horseracing’s Triple Crown
Fans were allowed back to event for the first time Saturday, but traffic concerns over a $1B new NHL stadium next door and uncertain weather saw less fans attend than expected
Capacity was capped again this year, this time at 50,000, not because of the pandemic, but due to congestion concerns stemming from the newly built $1.1 billion arena next door for the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Still, fans crammed into cars on the Long Island Rail Road and to once again grace the 117-year-old track with characteristic floral headwear, pastel suits, and the unmistakable musk of booze and cigars.
Mo Donegal, ridden by Puerto Rican jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., covered the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes in just 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds, beating Nest, a filly with odds of 5-1, to the finish line by an imposing three lengths.
Both the winner and the runner up are trained by Todd Pletcher, who captured his fourth Belmont Stakes and the eighth Triple Crown race of his career.
Tens of thousands of well-dressed revelers flocked to the race as organizers welcomed crowds for the first time since the pandemic
Mo Donegal, ridden by Puerto Rican jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., covered the 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont Stakes in just 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds, beating the next best horse to the finish line by an imposing three lengths
A woman wearing a decorative hat stands in the crowd in the hours before the race Saturday afternoon
Skippylongstocking, an 11-1 longshot, finished third, with front-runner We The People holding on for fourth.
Mo Donegal is owned by Donegal Racing and Repole Stable. He finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack on the other side of New York City.
Mo Donegal stalked the pace throughout as set by We The People, running around the sweeping first turn on the flank of Skippylongstocking and alongside Nest down the long backstretch.
Mo Donegal pulled even with We The People as the eight-horse field turned for home and immediately accelerated to the front when he switched leads, drawing off as both Nest and Skippylongstocking never made a serious run at the winner.
Mo Donegal with jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., crosses the line ahead of Skippylongstocking (at left) with jockey Manuel Franco, Nest (at right) with jockey Jose Ortiz up, and heavier favorite We the People (behind) with jockey Flavien Prat
Fans were dressed to the nines for the Stakes’ triumphant return Saturday
The start of the running of the race at historic Belmont Park Saturday. Eventual winner Mo Donegal can be seen third from left
Rich Strike, the longshot Kentucky Derby winner at odds of more than 80-1, was a disappointing sixth in his first race since winning the Run For The Roses on May 7.
Neither Early Voting, the Preakness winner, nor Epicenter, the favorite and eventual second-place finisher in both of the first two Triple Crown races, were in the field for the Belmont Stakes.
No horses ran in all three of the Triple Crown races. Saturday’s race was the first time since 1954 that the Derby winner missed the Preakness the same year that the Preakness winner opted out of the Belmont.
The grueling race has a purse of $1.5 million, with $800,000 going to the winner.
It’s the first time since 1926-29 that different horses have won the three Triple Crown races in four consecutive years.
Floral headwear synonymous with the storied horse race could be seen in full force during Saturday’s festivities
A spectator holds on to her hat ahead of the race. The reported attendance fell far short of the grounds record of 120,139, set in 2004 – a poor turnout patrially spurred by a shaky weather forecast for the area and the lack of a Triple Crown contender
The reported attendance fell far short of the grounds record of 120,139, set in 2004 – a poor turnout patrially spurred by a shaky weather forecast for the area as well as the lack of a Triple Crown contender.
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 runner-up at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, also skipped.
Mo Donegal pulled away down the home stretch and held off filly Nest to win the Belmont Stakes, giving Pletcher a 1-2 finish and his sixth Triple Crown victory, including four at this track on the outskirts of New York City.
‘To be honest with you, we were a little confident going into the race today,’ Donegal Racing CEO and co-owner 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.’
Mo Donegal rounded the 1 1/2-mile track in 2 minutes, 28.28 seconds, ahead of Nest and Skippylongstocking. Pletcher, who lives on Long Island, adds another Belmont title following wins with Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017.
Mo Donegal, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., crosses the finish line to win the race, Saturday, at Belmont Park in Elmont, Long Island
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sits atop Mo Donegal (6), who is led by part-owners Mike Repole, left, and Jerry Crawford, right, in green cap. The horse made a winner out of co-owner Repole, a local entrepreneur known around the track as ‘Mike from Queens’
Rich Strike, a stunning Kentucky Derby winner at 80-to-1 odds, was sixth.
Mo Donegal beat a wide-open, eight-horse field without a clear favorite – We the People, opened at 2 to 1 amid a rainy forecast but reached 7 to 2 by race time.
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 Ortiz took charge coming out of the final turn.
Rich Striker owner Rick Dawson and trainer Eric Reed held the Kentucky Derby winner out of the Preakness with an eye on Belmont, the first healthy horse to pass Pimlico after winning the Triple Crown’s first 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. Rich Strike spent much of the race in last place and couldn’t recover.
‘I think we just made a tactical error,’ Reed said.
Just like Rich Strike, Mo Donegal was at the back of the pack at the Derby, but the colt didn’t have enough kick at Churchill Downs. He found it Saturday, however, winning the 154th running of the $1.5 million race.
Mo Donegal made a winner out of co-owner Mike Repole, a local entrepreneur known around the track as ‘Mike from Queens.’ Repole also co-owns Nest.
‘This has been a dream I´ve had for 40 years,’ Repole said. ‘This is New York´s race.’
hree-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Ortiz previously won the 2016 Stakes with horse Creator.
It´s the fourth straight year the Triple Crown races were won by three different horses, a first for the sport since 1926-29.
Mo Donegal beat a wide-open, eight-horse field without a clear favorite, entering the gate with odds at 5 to 2
Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Ortiz previously won the 2016 Belmont Stakes with horse Creator