Rags To Riches Wins The Belmont

Rags to Riches can beat the boys, too.

The fabulous filly outdueled Curlin in a breathtaking stretch run and won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, becoming the first of her sex to take the final leg of the Triple Crown in more than a century.

No one was happier with the victory than trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, who both ended long droughts in Triple Crown races: Pletcher was 0-for-28, Velazquez 0-for-20.

The normally reserved Pletcher was screaming throughout the stretch run, one that had the fans at Belmont Park on their feet roaring as the two stars battled saddlecloth to saddlecloth to the wire.

Rags to Riches, despite a slight stumble at the start, became the third filly to capture the Belmont — Ruthless took the first running in 1867 and Tanya won in 1905. Only 22 fillies have tried the Belmont, with Rags to Riches the first since Silverbulletday finished seventh in 1999.

And what a sensational Belmont it was, even without Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

When the field of seven 3-year-olds made the turn for home in the 1½-mile race, fours horses fought for the lead, with Rags to Riches, the Kentucky Oaks winner, on the outside and Preakness winner Curlin moving between rivals.

And then it became a two-horse race — a true battle of the sexes. In a furious stretch battle, with Velazquez urging his filly on, Rags to Riches won by a head — the same margin Curlin edged Street Sense by in the Preakness three weeks ago.

"The filly ran a great race on the right day," said Curlin's trainer, Steve Asmussen. "And now they're taking her picture."

Rags to Riches covered the 1½ miles in 2:28.74, well off Secretariat's track record of 2:24. But time didn't matter in this one.

Rags to Riches was sent off as the 4-1 second choice and returned $10.60, $4.40 and $3.20. Curlin, with Robby Albarado aboard, paid $3 and $2.30. Tiago was third and returned $3.70.

Hard Spun finished fourth, followed by C P West, Imawildandcrazyguy and Slew's Tizzy.

It was Pletcher who made the surprise call to run Rags to Riches, who dominated her own division with four straight victories, including the Kentucky Oaks. The nation's top trainer said the absence of Street Sense, plus his filly's pedigree added up to taking a shot.

The Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races, is a race that Kentucky Derby winning fillies Winning Colors and Genuine Risk could not win.

Drawing on the bloodlines that carried her father, A.P. Indy, and grandfather, Seattle Slew, to victory in the race, Rags to Riches proved she is as worthy as her half-brother, last year's Belmont winner Jazil.

"It's a special feeling to do it with a filly," Pletcher said. "When she stumbled, I had a bad feeling. When we turned for home and I saw Curlin sneak through on the inside, I knew it was going to be a horse race from there."

Pletcher wasn't even going to run Rags to Riches if the top three finishers from the Derby and Preakness met again in New York. But when Street Sense dropped out, Rags to Riches was in, and came through with a history-making victory.

Not only is she the undisputed queen of racing, she's also a head above the boys.

While there was no Triple Crown on the line for third year in a row, the races produced some sensational performances. Street Sense made a daring run up the rail to win the Derby, then was edged at the wire by Curlin in the Preakness. Rags to Riches finished off the series with a championship performance in the "Test of the Champion."

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