Even without a Triple Crown™ on the line, the finish and result were still full of drama. On his sixth outing, grey Creator wrote himself into the history books by winning the 148th edition of the Belmont Stakes at Elmont Park on Saturday. Preakness winner and race favorite Exaggerator finished a disappointing 11th.
The race pace was set early on by Gettysburg, who was entered into the race by Creator’s trainer to ensure an honest and steady pace, a tactic which worked to perfection. Creator slowly crept up along the backstretch and moved to within about five lengths of the lead with half a mile to go. As they moved into the home stretch, it appeared Creator was caught amongst a cluster of horses with no room to maneuver. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who kept him close to the rail the whole way around, patiently bided his time and found a gap with about a furlong to go. Creator, sent off at 16-1 pre-race, put on the after burners and shot past race leader Destin to claim the third and final leg of the Triple Crown™ races.
"Today was perfect for us, by inches," said Creator’s trainer Steve Asmussen, who will become racing's newest Hall of Fame member this summer at Saratoga. "Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque."
This was to be Creator and Asmussen’s day, the same can’t be said for heavy pre-race favorite and Preakness winner, Exaggerator. The 7-5 race favorite raced well back in the pack, and though he looked threatening as they headed for the home stretch, just did not have much in the tank and failed to produce his trademark kick, finishing a lowly 11th.
"I don't know if there would have been any difference in the outcome," Kent Desormeaux said when asked about his decision to stay behind the pace. "When I picked him up at the quarter-pole to try and win the race, there was nothing there."
Exaggerator and Lani were the only two horses to run in all three Triple Crown™ outings, with the latter improving on each race. Japan-based Lani improved each time, running ninth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness, before closing out with a respectable third in the Belmont.
The Excitement of the Unknown
Though we did not see a Triple Crown™ winner like we did last year in the shape of American Pharaoh, this year’s series reminded us, and myself in particular, why we love racing. There is no such thing as a sure thing; the excitement of the unknown is what makes race days so unique. Three different horses, with three different pedigrees and three racing styles each claimed a jewel in the Triple Crown™. The perspective of that can be defined as such; had you suggested on Kentucky Derby® Day, that the thirteenth place finisher, Creator, would go on to a thrilling performance and victory in the Belmont Stakes just five weeks later, it’s hard to argue if people would have taken you seriously or not. That’s almost as satisfactory as a Triple Crown™ winner in itself.
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