Mo Donegal wins Belmont as Rich Strike finishes sixth

·3-min read

Mo Donegal won the 154th Belmont Stakes on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher a one-two finish ahead of stablemate Nest in the 1 1/2-mile event as Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike finished sixth.

Pletcher claimed a fourth Belmont triumph after wins with Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017.

Fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Mo Donegal went off as the 5-2 favorite with Irad Ortiz in the irons.

He swept past early pace-setter We the People and powered down the stretch for the win.

The filly Nest, ridden by Irad's brother Jose Ortiz, stumbled out of the gate but also closed strong to take second ahead of Skippylongstocking.

"We were really pleased with the way both horses were training," Pletcher said. "It was sort of deja vu when Next stumbled, but she recovered and got in good position and I thought both horses travelled great the whole way."

It was an emotional win for Mike Repole, the New York native who is a co-owner of both Mo Donegal and Nest.

"This is my Derby," Repole said. "This has been a dream that I've had for 40 years. This is the biggest goal I had in my racing life, and I just accomplished it, and I ran one-two.

"I used to cut out of school and it made me an entrepreneur. I used to bet $20 and that's a lot of pressure when you had to pay back your parents. I'm always going to be Mike from Queens. This is New York's biggest race and to win it here, with my family and friends and 70 people here, this will be a big winner's circle."

We the People, saddled by US-based French trainer Rodolphe Brisset and ridden by French jockey Flavien Prat, broke smartly from the first gate and led for almost a mile before finishing fourth.

Rich Strike, who stunned the racing world with a Kentucky Derby victory as an 80-1 longshot, couldn't repeat the magic.

Breaking from the fourth post in the eight-horse field with Venezuelan Sonny Leon again aboard, Rich Strike trailed the field early and unlike at Churchill Downs five weeks ago couldn't find a way through and finished sixth.

"I guess we made a mistake not putting him on the fence," trainer Eric Reed said of the decision not to have Leon take Rich Strike to the rail, hoping instead to "give him a good, open run where he could take off."

He said Rich Strike "was not aggressive" running in the middle of the track and never dug in for a late move.

"I think we made a tactical error," Reed said. "We'll have to teach him how to run around horses."

After his Kentucky Derby upset, Rich Strike sat out the Preakness Stakes, won by Early Voting over heavily favored Epicenter -- neither of which ran in the Belmont.

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