Real Solution takes his walk down Victory Lane after winning the Manhattan Handicap with owner Ken Ramsey leading.
Of the three Triple Crown races, the undercard of the Belmont Stakes has the most prestigious races on its undercard. This year, the 102,199 fans who crammed Belmont Park on Saturday hoping to witness history (only to leave disappointed) were also treated to 9 stakes (8 graded) which preceded the main event including five Grade 1 events. Under the bright sun and low humidity the main track was fast and the two turf courses were listed as firm at the historic Long Island oval.
Real Solution takes the lead in the stretch on the outside.
16-1 Five Iron was allowed an uncontested lead of as many as 9 1/2 lengths through opening fractions of 24.22, 48.00, 1:11.73, and 1:35.74 with Seek Again and 16-1 Kaigun contesting second place. Entering the lane, Five Iron tired allowing Kaigun to inherit a short lead, but 11-2 fourth choice Real Solution, who stalked the pace 4th, came out wide for room and outfinished Kaigun by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:59.27 over the firm course. It was another length back to Seek Again third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 8 Real Solution Castellano 13.00 6.80 4.30 9 Kaigun Garcia 14.20 8.20 6 Seek Again Rosario 3.40 Winning Time: 1:59.27 $2 Exacta 8-9 186.00 $2 Trifecta 8-9-6 1,127.00 $2 Superfecta 8-9-6-4 5,162.00
Left: Real Solution in the winner's circle. Trainer Chad Brown said, "It's fair because he had to go by a horse in the lane. He might have a little bit of hang in him, but ... circumstances might have made him tired in certain races. I might have been running him too far. He might have got a wide trip. All those things may contribute to a horse hanging. They're tired. He left out of the gate and got a spot. 1 1/4 miles probably is his distance. If I run him farther, he might want to hang." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "I let him find a place in the race and get in a good position early and sit still. He gave me a good kick today and I'm very satisfied with the way he did it. I give all the credit to the horse, and Mr. Brown gave me the confidence to let me ride the horse the way I did today."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Seek Again in the post parade. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "That one horse on the lead was going really fast, so on the first turn I took my position. When that horse came to me on the outside, he just stayed there. He ran steady, that's all I can say."
The $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (G1), traditionally run on Memorial Day, is the newest addition to Belmont Day, contested over the 1 turn mile on the main track for older horses. Last year's Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 12 over 7-2 Normandy Invasion, second in the New Orleans Handicap (G2), and 6-1 Goldencents, seventh in the Cigar Mile (G1) after winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).
57-1 Broadway Empire was quickest away and set fractions of 23.01, 45.70. and 1:09.41 while pressed by Goldencents and 19-1 Romansh, with favorite Palace Malice on the inside 4th behind them. Goldensents took over the lead at the 3/16 pole but Palace Malice came through between horses to win by 1 length in 1:33.56 over the fast track. It was another 1/2 length back to Romansh third.
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Left: Palace Malice in the winner's circle. Trainer Todd Pletcher said, "It's pretty extraordinary to have a horse win the Belmont a year ago and come back and win the Met Mile from the No. 1 post carrying 124 pounds and beating last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner (Goldencents). In the process, it's an unbelievable accomplishment. I thought he got to a really good spot, and then I got a little concerned that he started losing that spot a little bit. Johnny kept a little bit busy on him, and he found that seam later on that he needed."
Right: Palace Malice, the only favorite to win a stakes race all day, gets hosed off after the Met Mile. Jockey John Velazquez added, ""When I finally got him through, he started running. He was (hesitant to go through). The room was there, but I kind of have to keep him busy, keep him busy. The spot was there, but he went to jump from one side to the other one and I almost lost my spot. I got after him again, and he finally got through. Once he got through, he started running."
A field of 9 older fillies and mares went 1 mile on the Widener turf course in the $750,000 Longines Just a Game Stakes (G1). Jenny Wiley (G1) and Matriarch (G1) runner-up Discreet Marq was sent off as the 5-2 favorite over last year's winner 7-2 Stephanie's Kitten and 4-1 Better Lucky, second in the Madison (G1).
7-1 Somali Lemonade went to the lead exiting the chute and set fractions of 23.44, 46.89, and 1:10.29 while stalked by 19-1 Unlimited Budget and Discreet Marq. Somali Lemonade continued to lead to the 1/8 pole but 9-2 fourth choice Coffee Clique, fourth early, and 17-1 Strathnaver, 8th early, rallied together on the outside, with Coffee Clique winning by a nose in 1:32.52. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back from Strathnaver to pacesetter Somali Lemonade third, while favorite Discreet Marq was fourth.
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Left: Coffee Clique in the winner's circle. Trainer Brian Lynch said, "A Grade 1 absolutely is the pinnacle for her. She's a homebred, which makes that family so valuable, and she's just such a courageous filly. Just thrilled to see her dog it out like she did. It's a world title match to be here today, to compete against this competition. But as I've always said, winning form is good form. She had won two in a row, she fit here today, and she ran like she belonged. God bless her." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "I had a beautiful trip; it set up perfectly. I had a perfect spot in the race, exactly what I was looking for. Three horses went out for the lead and I was covered up all the way in the race. When my filly took off, she came with a big run."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Discreet Marq returns after the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "I got an outside post, and I tried to get her out of there. We got out of there, but my filly has speed. Some horses were going, so I saved her so I could drop in, but we went a little wide. I didn't want to be that wide. I wanted to save more ground."
The $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) featured a field of 6 older fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles around 1 turn of the main track. Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Beholder was sent off as the even-money favorite over 9-5 Princess of Sylmar, winner of last year's Beldame (G1), and 3-1 Close Hatches, off wins in the Azeri (G2) and Apple Blossom (G1).
30-1 Classic Point was sent to a clear lead through fractions of 22.55 and 45.02 before Close Hatches took over on the far turn through 3/4 in 1:09.38. She held a 1 length lead over 30-1 Antipathy into the stretch, and then was all out to hold off late-running Princess of Sylmar by a head in 1:40.55. It was just a neck back to Antipathy third, and 3/4 more to favorite Beholder fourth.
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Left: Close Hatches in the winner's circle. Trainer Bill Mott said, "We were aware that Beholder was planning on coming in, that Princess of Sylmar was coming, and that anybody else who had a horse who was in good form and thought they had a chance in the race would show up for it. There has been a lot of anticipation. We've been pointing to the race since early spring, and it's just one of those cases where things worked out, where you make a plan and it comes to fruition." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "I thought maybe we would be on the lead or second, but when I saw those two horses going quick, I just wanted to get good position and take my time. They stopped a little early so I took the lead. Princess of Sylmar was closing; she's a nice filly. I knew she was going to come so I just wanted to have enough left."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Beholder in the post parade. Jockey Gary Stevens said, "My hat's off to the top two. People got what they wanted to see. We all came into the last 1/8 mile on equal terms. It was a fair trip for everybody; a good horse race. I'm disappointed we didn't win, but I'm proud of her."
The first Grade 1 stakes on the card was the $750,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the main track. Gazelle (G2) winner and Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up My Miss Sophia was the 4-5 favorite in the field of 13 over 11-2 Fiftyshadesofgold, winner of the Eight Belles (G3), and 9-1 Sweet Reason, third in the Gazelle.
Fiftyshadesofgold battled for the lead with My Miss Sophia through fractions of 22.86, 45.88, and 1:10.32 while stalked by 10-1 Artemis Agrotera. At the top of the lane, 33-1 Sweet Whiskey, 7th early, rallied to gain a short lead but 9-1 Sweet Reason, 11th early, came through late to win by 1/2 a length in 1:34.98. It was a long 4 lengths back to 10-1 Unbridled Forever third, while favorite My Miss Sophia tired badly and checked in 7th,
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Left: Sweet Reason in the winner's circle. Trainer Leah Gyarmati said, "After the Gazelle, I didn't like how she was looking. I pulled some blood on her. There were little things off, nothing major, probably just wear and tear from the winter. This time we had a fair shot with the pace, I thought. I thought that if that was my excuse last time, which I was hoping was my excuse, I thought maybe this time I'd get a chance to see, maybe, a different race set up for her." Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. added, "I got a perfect trip. Everything turned out perfectly. She broke, I sat, I waited, waited, waited and turned the corner and saved all the ground I could. Then, I got clear and she took off. Very nice."
Right: Seventh place finisher and beaten favorite My Miss Sophia returns after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "It wasn't her day today. She was in a good spot, but she didn't fire."
The $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) featured 13 three-year-olds sprinting 7 furlongs on the main track. Social Inclusion, third in the Wood Memorial (G1) and Preakness (G1), was sent off as the even-money choice over Champagne (G1) winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up at 5-1 Havana, and 9-1 Bayern, 9th in the Preakness after winning the Derby Trial (G3).
47-1 Pure Sensation and Bayern battled for the lead down the backstretch through fractions of 21.96 and 44.20 while stalked by Social Inclusion. Entering the stretch, Bayern opened up a 4 length lead through 3/4 in 1:08.17. 24-1 Top Fortitude, 9th early, put in a 6 wide rally to no avail as Bayern cruised to a 7 1/2 length win in 1:20.75. It was a head back to Social Inclusion third.
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Left: Bayern in the winner's circle. Jockey Gary Stevens said, "That was a powerhouse performance. He had a bad experience in the gate in the Preakness. Jimmy Barnes and Bob's crew did a great job getting him ready by schooling, schooling, schooling him. Then when I saw we drew the one hole, I thought 'Oh no, he's going to be standing in there a long time,' so I was worried. But he made a perfect break and when I asked him he turned in what was an awesome performance today. He really deserved that win."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Social Inclusion returns after the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He got a perfect trip, I guess. That horse that won, won very good. It's tough."
A field of 9 older horses contested the $300,000 Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3) at 6 furlongs on the inner turf. Jim McKay Turf Sprint winner Ben's Cat was sent off as the 5-2 favorite over 3-1 Marchman, winner of the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3), and 9-2 Undrafted, second in the Twin Spires.
60-1 longest shot Global Power went to the front through fractions of 21.84 and 44.47 while stalked by Marchman and 27-1 Spring to the Sky. Entering the stretch Marchman gained a short lead through 5/8 in 55.79, but Undrafted, 6th early, rallied 6 wide to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:07.24. It was another length back to Global Power third.
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Left: Undrafted in the winner's circle. Jockey John Velazquez said, "Perfect trip. We broke in decent position; we wanted to be in the middle of the pack, somewhere where he was comfortable. I got him out at the quarter pole and he came running well after. He did it real easy. Once he got in the clear in the stretch, he had a nice pick up. It was awesome."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Ben's Cat. Jockey Julian Pimentel said, "I had a good trip. Around the turn I had a little pressure from the outside, other than that I had a really good trip. I was sitting where I wanted to and when I asked him to go he didn't take me today."
The $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2) featured a field of 7 older horses going the Belmont Stakes trip of 1 1/2 miles on the main track. Skip Away (G3) winner Micromanage was the 5-2 favorite over 3-1 Cat Burglar, third in the Pimlico Special (G3), and 4-1 Ground Transport, winner of the Drosselmeyer Stakes.
Ground Transpot and Cat Burglar contested the early lead through fractions of 24.16, 48.73, 1:13.41, and 1:37.87 while stalked by 11-2 Ever Rider and Micromanage. Cat Burglar gained a clear lead at the top of the lane through 10 furlongs in 2:02.47, but Micromanage rallied to take the lead at the 1/8 pole. 10-1 Norumbega, 5th early, came out 3 wide for room and outfinished the favorite late to win by a neck in 2:27.13. It was another 1/2 length back to Cat Burglar third.
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Left: Norumbega in the winner's circle. Trainer Shug McGaughey said, "The slow early pace wasn't a big concern. He had been training really well and we expected him to run a big race. We're not sure where he'll go next because it's tough to find another 1 1 /2-mile race." Jockey Joel Rosario added, "I had a really good trip and my horse ran great. I just followed the other horses around and was aware they weren't going too fast in front of me. When I asked him, he had plenty to give me. The other horses tried to get out a little, but he dug in, and it all worked out great."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Micromanage returns after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "I didn't have any excuse at all. I just got beat today. I had a beautiful trip. In the beginning of the race I saved all the ground, and turning for home I just let him go. He gave me the best run of his career but, unfortunately, he just got beat by a better horse today."
Kicking off the stakes action on Belmont day was the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles around one turn of the main track. 7-2 Life in Shambles went to the lead early and set fractions of 22.68, 45.68, and 1:10.18 while stalked by 58-1 Howl. Entering the lane, 9-2 Misconnect gained a short lead, getting the mile in 1:34.99 but soon tired. 3-1 Kid Cruz, last of 9 early, altered course at the 3/16 pole for room and circled the field to win by 3 1/4 lengths over 2-1 favorite Legend in 1:41.12. It was another 1/2 length back to Life in Shambles third.
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Kid Cruz in the winner's circle with trainer Linda Rice on the far left. Rice said, "When they put up the first quarter in :22 3/5, and the half in 45 and change, I thought it was our race to lose. He made an inside-outside move. In the past, he's been making a big, sweeping move and losing ground on the turn, but Irad (Ortiz) saved ground on the inside, made the inside-outside move, and then when I saw the half, it was our race to lose. We'll probably point to the Dwyer and keep trying to let him learn his craft."
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