When you go east to race Thoroughbreds, you enter Todd Pletcher-trained territory.
The Hall of Fame trainer proved it again as Mo Donegal and the filly Nest finished 1-2 for Pletcher in the 154th-running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes over a mile-and-a-half of fast, firm dirt.
It was Pletcher’s fourth victory in the “Test of Champions.” He previously won the Belmont with Rags to
Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013) and Tapwrit (2017).
The race began predictably, post-time 7-2 choice We The People falling from favorite status but darting out to an early lead from his pole position. Morning Line initial longshot at 20-1, Skippylongstocking gained a following to close at 11-1 by post time. The son of Exaggerator followed in close pursuit around the clubhouse turn and through the backstretch.
Both We The People and Skippinglongstocking tired coming around the second turn into the stretch and
Wood Memorial (G1) winner Mo Donegal, running a stalking race throughout and owner of the fastest
finishing quarter mile kick, took the lead to win by 2 1/2 lengths and going away over stablemate Nest in
The filly snared the runnerup position. Skippylongstocking would hold on for third.
Kentucky Derby-winning fan favorite Rich Strike got a slow start. The pace was measured, the field tightly packed going into the backstretch and the second turn, leaving little room for Rich Strike to make
up the lost early ground. Asked to move near the start of the final turn by jockey Sonny Leon, he was not as spry as in his fast-closing Derby. He would finish sixth in the eight-horse field.
“This win was very special for me,” said rider Irad Ortiz Jr. who won his second Belmont Stakes (Creator,
2016). “He was getting better and better every time I rode him.”
Owned by Donegal Racing and Mike Repole, Mo Donegal is a son of Uncle Mo (out of Callingmissbrown
by Pulpit). This was his fourth win in seven career starts, all in New York.
A racing partnership, Donegal Racing concentrates on acquiring and training horses for classic races. Mo Donegal was a $250,000 purchase at the Sept. 2020 Keeneland sale. Repole owns a minority interest.
“This shows racing can be accessible,” said Donegal’s Jerry Crawford in the Belmont Winners Circle, “that you don’t have to have millions and millions to participate.”
The 2022 Belmont Stakes winner is named after his sire and Donegal, Ireland, Crawford’s ancestral home.
Belmont Stakes Day features perhaps the best undercard races annually in the U.S. Saturday afternoon
was no different with dominant performances, surprising upsets and a something no one could anticipate.
The something no one could anticipate was the scratch of 1-2 favorite Echo Zulu in the Acorn Stakes (G1) …at the starting gate.
The speedy daughter of Gun Runner (out of Letgomyecho by Menifee) was coming off her first career
loss, finishing fourth in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1). She was scratched on the recommendation of
track stewards after jockey Joel Rosario mentioned she seemed a bit off and took a while to warm up.
NYRA veterinarian Dr. Anthony Verderosa determined “The filly was lame in her left front.”
That allowed Godolphin homebred Matareya an easy 6 1/4-length victory for trainer Brad Cox, her odds
reverting to 1-5 from 9-5 after the favorite’s scratch. Winning only once as a two-year-old, the daughter
of Pioneer Of The Nile (out of Innovative Idea by Bernardini) is now 4-for-4 in 2022 and is aimed next at
the Test (G1) at Saratoga.
The dominant performances came by way of undefeated Jack Christopher and similarly undefeated
Jack Christopher, a son of Munnings, handily won the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) by open lengths over seven furlongs. Now undefeated in four starts, he previously won the Pat Day Mile (G2) at Churchill
Downs on Kentucky Derby (G1) day. No immediate future plans were announced.
A Tapit offspring showed up in the Winners Circle as they often do. Summerwind Equine-bred Flightline,
wearing the Hronis Racing silks, started slow but finished fast to easily win the Metropolitan Handicap
(G1), the so-called eight-furlong Met Mile, over Happy Saver. That win carries an automatic expenses-
paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland on Nov. 5.
The Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) for fillies and mares provided the most stunning outcome of the day. In the small, but perhaps classiest field on the racecard, 3-5 favorite Letruska suffered a repeat similar to that of her Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) loss last year at Del Mar.
The repeat winner of the Apple Blossom (G1) and Royal Delta (G3) Stakes was engaged early By Search
Results, the pair pulling away head-to-head from their three competitors by as many as 12 lengths. But
as happened in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Letruska tired after the early speed duel allowing Clariere to
close fast and post a win over Malathaat. The daughter of Curlin gained an automatic, expenses-paid
gate in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland Nov. 5. Letruska would finish last.