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Jun 15, 2007

Girl Power: Rags to Riches wins Belmont


Elmont, NY (Sports Network) - The 139th running of the Belmont Stakes proved to be a historical affair as the filly Rags to Riches defeated even-money favorite Curlin by a head to win the final leg of racing's Triple Crown. The win by the filly also gives trainer Todd Pletcher his first win in a Triple Crown race.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Rags to Riches finished in a time of two minutes, 28.74 seconds for the 1 1/2 miles. Tiago finished in third and Hard Spun fourth.

Rags to Riches becomes the first filly since 1905 to capture the Belmont Stakes and the third overall. She joins Ruthless, who won in 1867, and Tanya, who won 102 years ago.

"Couldn't do it the easy way, take a colt," Pletcher said. "This is pretty special when you look at the historical perspective. Boy, if you look at the statistics all week, you know, no fillies won it in 102 years. That's pretty intimidating stuff."

She denied the Preakness Stakes winner from joining, among others, Point Given and Afleet Alex as winners of the last two races of the Triple Crown. Curlin should now move past Kentucky Derby champ Street Sense as the leading three- year-old colt.

In winning the Belmont Stakes, Rags to Riches overcame a poor start to capture the 1 1/2 mile event. She quickly recovered and was never far off the lead as the field of seven entered the clubhouse turn.

The pace was set by C P West followed closely by Slew's Tizzy and Hard Spun. Hard Spun, ridden by Garrett Gomez, found himself in a similar position as in the Preakness. He was racing third on the outside of the top two runners.

Running in fourth position was Curlin with Rags to Riches in fifth. Entering the far turn Hard Spun moved from the outside to join C P West on lead as Rags to Riches and Curlin also moved closer.

Coming off the final turn it was Hard Spun, C P West, Curlin and Rags to Riches across the track. At the top of the stretch Hard Spun and C P West started to tire as Curlin and Rags to Riches began their battle to the wire.

Curlin, ridden by Robby Albarado, had a slight lead with a furlong to run. Velazquez kept Rags to Riches right with Curlin and never gave an inch.

At the wire Rags to Riches made history with a bob of the head. C P West, Imawildandcrazyguy and Slew's Tizzy finished the result field on a fast track under overcast skies.

Rags to Riches, who was sired by 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy, is owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, and is undefeated this year in five starts. She won the Kentucky Oaks in her last start at Churchill Downs. Earlier this year Rags to Riches won the Santa Anita Oaks and the Las Virgenes Stakes.

"I always thought she could do it," Tabor said. "Take nothing away from Curlin who is a very special animal, but I always felt that she was just that much better than anything. I know over here it's a big deal, the girls against the boys. We're not so used to that in Europe. So for me, yeah, the girls can take on the boys."

The Belmont victory was worth $600,000 to bring the filly's career earnings to $1.3 million. Rags to Riches has not lost since her first start last year when she finished fourth.

Rags to Riches had the benefit of carrying five pounds less than the six other three-year-olds. The five colts and one gelding carried 126 pounds and the filly toted 121 pounds.

Along with Pletcher gaining his first Triple Crown race win, Velazquez recorded his first Belmont Stakes victory.

Rags to Riches returned $10.60, $4.40 and $3.20. Curlin paid $3.00 and $2.30, and Tiago paid $3.70 to show.

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