At the eighth pole, Real Quiet appeared to have the Triple Crown in his grasp, but Victory Gallop, who started his drive at the top of the stretch, came on and nipped Real Quiet at the wire.
Real Quiet bore out in the stretch and there was an inquiry, but the order of finish was allowed to stand.
| Victory Gallop wins by a nose. |
It was the second heartbreaking Belmont loss for trainer Bob Baffert. His Silver Charm missed the Triple Crown last year when he was beaten by Touch Gold by three-quarters of a length.
Silver Charm was ridden by Gary Stevens, who on Saturday was on Victory Gallop.
Instead of becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978, Real Quiet, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, became the 14th Derby and Preakness winner to fall short in the Belmont.
The margin was a nose, the smallest official margin in racing.
Completing the order of finish were Raffie's Majesty, Chilito, Grand Slam, Classic Cat, Limit Out, Yarrow Brae and Basic Trainee.
Scratched were Hanuman Highway and Hot Wells.
"I guess we're going to have to do it again," Baffert said about taking a shot at the Triple Crown.
"It's a letdown. ... I could just see the headlines, `The Fish does it"' Baffert said, using the nickname he gave to Real Quiet.
On this clear, sunny day before a roaring crowd, it certainly looked as if Real Quiet was going to get the job done.
He took the lead from Chilito with three-eighths of a mile remaining and opened a clear lead in the stretch.
But suddenly his certain victory seemed tenuous as Victory Gallop came storming down the middle. It was too close to call and it took several minutes before Victory Gallop's number was put on the board.
"I think my horse didn't see the horse coming," Desormeaux said.
There was n doubt, however, that Real Quiet was struggling in the deep stretch.
"It hurts a lot to come so far and not get there," Desormeaux said. "I felt it (victory) for a moment. I might have moved a little prematurely."
About the stewards' inquiry concerning Real Quiet's bumping of Victory Gallop in the stretch, Desormeaux said, "They thought I might have drifted a little in the stretch."
Victory Gallop, who had only one horse beaten midway down the backstretch, finished 1½ miles in 2:29 and paid $11, $3.60 and $3.20. Real Quiet returned $3 and $2.60 and Thomas Jo was $5.30 to show.
Victory Gallop earned $600,000 from the $1 million purse for his owners, the brothers Art, Jack and J.R. Preston of Houston.
Real Quiet had to settle for second place money of $200,000 and was denied a $5 million bonus offered by Visa for any horse who could sweep the three races.
"You don't get used to losing," Baffert said. "I knew it was snatched away again. Gary rode a brilliant race."
"Well, I don't even know what to say," said winning trainer Elliott Walden.
The 35-year-old Walden attended his colt's biggest victory on crutches, having fractured his right ankle in a 3-on-3 basketball game 10 days ago. The crutches were propped behind the 6-foot-4 trainer in the winner's circle.
Walden had said before the race that he would be proud of his horse even if he finished second in all three races, something only Alydar has done in Triple crown history. Alydar's finishes were behind Affirmed in 1978.
Walden also said he thought Victory Gallop would turn out to be a Bet Twice or an Easy Goer, both of which finished second in the first two races. Then Bet Twice denied Alysheba's bid in 1987, and Easy Goer denied Sunday Silence in the Belmont in 1989.
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