Rags to Riches is racing’s queen for a day.
The fabulous filly outdueled Preakness winner Curlin in a breathtaking stretch run and won the Belmont Stakes by a head Saturday, becoming the first of her sex in more than a century to take the final leg of the Triple Crown.
“My hat is off to Rags to Riches,” said Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, who never gave up hope his chestnut colt would prevail in the dramatic final strides.
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.
“It’s a special feeling now matter when you do it, but when you do it with a filly for the first time in 102 years it’s really special,” Pletcher said.
Despite a slight stumble at the start, Rags to Riches turned the Belmont into a sensational showdown — a true battle of the sexes.
When the field of seven 3-year-olds turned for home, four horses were up front, Rags to Riches on the outside and Curlin sneaking in between two other rivals.
In an instant, it became a two-horse race — a quarter-mile to the finish of the 1½-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races.
Even the normally reserved Pletcher stood and cheered, along with the Belmont Park crowd of 46,870, as the horses battled saddlecloth to saddlecloth to the wire.
And when Rags to Riches won, it was a great day for ladies as racing had it’s first filly to win a Triple Crown race since Winning Colors took the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
The defeat was a tough one for Curlin, who staged a remarkable rally to beat Street Sense by the same margin in the Preakness three weeks ago.
“The filly ran a great race on the right day,” Asmussen said. “And now they’re taking her picture.”
Even without a Triple Crown on the line, and with Street Sense not in the field, this Belmont will be one to remember.
Rags to Riches 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.