NEW YORK (AP) - Ruler On Ice posted a huge upset in the Belmont
Stakes on Saturday, taking the lead from Preakness winner
Shackleford in the sloppy stretch and winning the final leg of the
Shackleford led from the start, but when the field of 12 turned
for home in the 1½-mile Belmont, he began tiring in the muck as
long shots Stay Thirsty and Ruler On Ice closed in. It was Ruler On
Ice, under Jose Valdivia Jr., who splashed home first,
three-quarters of a length ahead of Stay Thirsty.
The much-hyped rubber match between Shackleford and Kentucky
Derby winner Animal Kingdom never developed. Shackleford finished
fifth, while Animal Kingdom got off to a terrible start, never got
into contention and finished sixth.
Jockey John Velazquez nearly fell off when Animal Kingdom
collided with Monzon just after the start. He somehow managed to
get his left foot back into the stirrup, but by then it was too
late. Animal Kingdom fell more than 12 lengths behind Shackleford,
and did well to finish in the middle of the pack.
An elated Valdivia, riding in his first Belmont, described the
final seconds before crossing the finish line.
"I'm a couple of yards from the wire and I'm thinking, `Oh my
god, oh my god, I'm going to win the Belmont,"' he said.
Ruler On Ice's victory makes it three years in a row a different
horse has won each of the Triple Crown races, and next year it will
be a 33-year gap since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and
Belmont in 1978.
Ruler On Ice, trained by New Jersey-based Kelly Breen, did not
run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. The 3-year-old
gelding didn't have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for
the Derby, but vindicated his trainer's faith by defeating a field
that included the first seven finishers in the Run for the Roses.
The winning time for the oldest and longest race in the Triple
Crown was a slow 2:30.88.
Ruler On Ice returned $51.50, $26 and $13.60. Stay Thirsty,
owner Mike Repole's second-best 3-year-old behind the sidelined
Uncle Mo, paid $19.40 and $10.80. Brilliant Speed was third and
returned $7.90 to show.
Nehro, second in his last three races, including the Derby, was
fourth, followed by Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man,
Santiva, Monzon, Master of Hounds, Prime Cut and Isn't He Perfect.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)