Jun 17, 2011
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD- BELMONT STAKES
By: JOE GIRARDI
The 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes has come and gone and even though there wasn’t a shot at a Triple Crown this race definitely had some excitement and controversy and again produced another head scratcher. Twelve horses went postward with the Kentucky Derby hero ANIMAL KINGDOM going off as the slight favorite at 5-2.
Run over a sloppy/sealed track that seemed to be playing towards frontrunners SHACKLEFORD, the Preakness winner was sent right to the lead from his far outside post 12 and was clear into the clubhouse turn without really having to work that hard. RULER ON ICE a 24-1 longshot who was adding blinkers was laying second with STAY THIRSTY sent off at 16-1 was laying third while racing inside. The early fractions of 23:4 and a moderate half mile in 49 flat SHACKLEFORD still had the advantage as they moved towards the far turn. ANIMAL KINGDOM breaking from post 9 lost almost all chance at the start of the race when ISN’T HE PERFECT with Rajiv Maragh drifted in some at the start interfering with MUCHO MACHO MAN who in turn dropped over on ANIMAL KINGDOM who clipped heels and stumbled, his jockey John Velazquez lost his left iron and when he finally got it back in was well behind the leaders and put at a distinct disadvantage.
As the race progressed into the turn, RULER ON ICE moved closer to SHACKLEFORD while STAY THIRSTY was moving up on the rail and BRILLIANT SPEED another who tried and failed in the Kentucky Derby made a strong wide move to get into contention and was right with the leaders at the head of the lane. In the meantime ANIMAL KINGDOM started his move into the far turn, made up plenty of ground to get within a few lengths of the lead but flattened out in the drive when it counted and checked in a solid sixth when you take into consideration all the trouble at the start.
As they turned into the stretch, RULER ON ICE took over from SHACKLEFORD, who began to tire, STAY THIRSTY gained some ground on the inside while BRILLIANT SPEED who looked like he was going to go right by the leaders began to flatten out and had to settle for third late. RULER ON ICE, under veteran jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. edged away late from STAY THIRSTY to score at 24-1. NEHRO who finished second in the Kentucky Derby closed some ground late to finish fourth over SHACKLEFORD who checked in a disappointing fifth. NEHRO, who never really seemed comfortable throughout exited the race with a small chip in his right front ankle that will require surgery.
Back to the start of the race when ANIMAL KINGDOM clipped heels causing jockey John Velazquez to lose his irons and costing him valuable lengths. John Velazquez said he believes that jockey Rajiv Maragh was careless in his handling of Isn’t He Perfect shortly after the start of the Belmont Stakes. He also said he thinks Maragh may have deliberately taken a left-hand turn aboard Isn’t He Perfect to impede Mucho Macho Man, a horse Maragh had been taken off after riding him in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Mucho Macho Man, under Ramon Dominguez, broke from post 10, in between Animal Kingdom and Isn’t He Perfect. “That’s what I think,’’ Velazquez said in a conference call with reporters Sunday morning (the day after the race). “That’s why I was so frustrated. Things happen in a race. If it would have happened right out of the gate I wouldn’t have been so frustrated because things happen right from the start. But this happened three or four jumps after the start so that’s why I was frustrated. It shouldn’t happen. He should not be playing something like that in a race like this. It’s stupidity and it shouldn’t happen.’’
Obviously Velazquez was upset with what went on, lives are at stake and to do something like that just because you are bitter is a travesty, however, if you watch the race and the head-on view ISN’T HE PERFECT does come over but I don’t think it was done deliberately, you can watch the replay of the race on WWW.NYRA.COM and make your own decision. The jockeys involved in this incident met the Wednesday after the race and it seemed to go well. Prior to the start of Wednesday’s live racing at Belmont, New York’s three stewards met with the riders for about 10 minutes to go over films of the start of the Belmont. Afterward, Maragh and Velazquez spoke briefly one-on-one and ended the conversation by shaking hands. “We all make mistakes, we got to move on,” Velazquez said after the meeting. “I got to leave it behind; I got to do a job today and the next day.” Maragh did say that Velazquez “knows that I didn’t do it on purpose. There was nothing intentional. This is just a part of racing and this is just one of the worst parts of racing. I just want to move on.” On Sunday, Velazquez claimed that Maragh was not only careless, but that he may have intentionally allowed his horse to come over on Mucho Macho Man, a horse he had been taken off of after riding him in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. “Was he careless? I think he was,” Velazquez said Wednesday. “I think he definitely came in a little too quickly.”
According to the article in the DRF Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, sustained an injury to his left hind leg that will keep him out of training for a couple of weeks, but should not prevent him from running again this year, his connections announced Thursday. Animal Kingdom has what veterinarians describe as a fissure, or small crack, on the tip of the cannon bone where it joins the lower part of the hock. It is believed that the injury occurred when Animal Kingdom stumbled in the early stages of the Belmont Stakes when a horse came over on him and then Animal Kingdom clipped heels with another horse in front of him. The recommendation is to take him out of training for two weeks and take a look at it again. The hope is that he could return to training in a matter of weeks and should be heard from again before the year is out.
Right now the three year old crop is so wide open which should make for some very exciting races this summer, especially the Haskell and Travers.
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