Drosselmeyer grabbed the lead in the middle of the stretch
and went onto a three-quarter-length victory over a fast-closing Fly Down on
Saturday afternoon at Belmont
Park to take the 142nd
running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes in a 13-1 upset.
The win gave Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and Hall of Fame
jockey Mike Smith their first victories in the 1½-mile “Test of the Champion,”
while owner WinStar Farm now owns two Triple Crown wins this year, having taken
the Kentucky Derby in May with Super Saver.
The victory gave Mott, best-known for campaigning two-time
Horse of the Year Cigar, his first win in a Triple Crown race.
“Miracles never cease to happen,” said a jubilant Mott, who
had sent out just four previous Belmont
starters, the last of which was second-place Vision and Verse in 1999. “It
feels great, just great. It was a pretty good feeling watching him come down
the stretch. I thought going wide was going to cost him, but he kind of found
Smith, aboard Drosselmeyer for the first time after
replacing Kent Desormeaux on the son of Distorted Humor, ended an 0-for-12
streak in the Belmont that began with a
second-place finish aboard the Nick Zito-trained Thirty Six Red in the 1990 Belmont.
“Billy told me to give him a nice, comfortable rhythm and …
he stayed in that nice cool rhythm all the way,” said Smith, who earlier on the
card won the Grade 1 Just a Game on Proviso for Mott. “By the three-eighths
pole, I started picking them up. As soon as I asked him, he really kicked in.
All I had to worry about was Ice Box or somebody behind me, and he kept on
going, and going, and going. It was really a great race today.”
Zito, who was bidding for a third career Belmont Stakes
victory, was as disappointed with the ninth-place finish of 9-5 favorite Ice
Box as he was delighted with the second-place performance of Fly Down, who
edged pacesetter First Dude by a neck.
“Fly Down ran great, obviously, I’m disappointed about Ice
Box,” said the Hall of Fame trainer, who has sent out 24 Belmont starters, more than any other
trainer. “He didn’t deal well with the heat today. He was ready to go the last
couple of days, but I guess he just left his race somewhere. We’ll have
to regroup and see what happens.”
“When I asked him to run, he showed no interest,” added Jose
Lezcano, aboard the beaten favorite, who was runner-up in the Kentucky Derby.
“He didn’t have it today; he didn’t fire.”
As expected, when the gate opened, it was Preakness
runner-up First Dude who went straight to the lead, setting moderate fractions
of 24.15, 49.19, 1:14.94 and 1:40.25 with Interactif in close pursuit.
Approaching the quarter-pole, Game On Dude made a run to move into contention,
but it was Drosselmeyer who was moving fastest of all on the outside, collaring
the leaders in midstretch and edging clear in the final yards to hit the wire
Fly Down, under John Velazquez, also came charging hard at
the end to nip First Dude for place, with Game On Dude holding on for fourth.
“We had a perfect trip and everything went like we planned,
we just couldn’t hold it together right there at the end,” said Dale Romans,
trainer of First Dude. “He ran a mile and a half, ran hard, did all the work
again today on the lead, and I’m real happy with him.”
Uptowncharlybrown finished fifth, but was disqualified to
last for a weight violation after losing the eight-pound lead weight pad at the
quarter pole; following him under the wire were Stay Put, Interactif, Stately
Victor, Ice Box, Make Music for Me, Dave in Dixie, and Spangled Star.
Drosselmeyer, who had finished fourth in the Grade 2 Risen
Star, third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and second in the Grade 2 Dwyer, is
now 3-3-2 from eight starts. Kept out of the Kentucky Derby for lack of
earnings, he has now bankrolled $801,170 with the winner’s purse of $600,000.
He returned $28 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the crowd
“We always believed in him so much,” Doug Cauthen, president
and CEO of WinStar Farm, said of Drosselmeyer. “We did think this was the day
he would either put up or we’d have to quick, make an excuse, and he really put
up. He just ran a super race.”