NEW YORK (AP) – At long last, a Triple Crown!
American Pharoah ended a record 37-year drought without a Triple Crown winner by soaring to victory in the Belmont Stakes on a historic Saturday in front of 90,000 cheering fans.
The cast from Broadway show “Jersey Boys” sang a medley of Four Seasons’ hits for the crowd at Belmont Park awaiting American Pharoah’s quest for a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
They finished a 15-minute songfest on Belmont’ trophy presentation system to cheers from arm-waving fans.
About 20 minutes later, Slumber won the $1 million Manhattan over stablemate Big Blue Kitten. Irad Ortiz Jr. was aboard the winner for his fifth stakes win in two days at Belmont.
This is the final race on the undercard before the Belmont.
In the most impressive performance on the Belmont Stakes undercard, Honor Code surged to a three-length victory in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap.
The 4-year-old stormed past pacesetter Private Zone for his fifth win in eight starts.
Honor Code was considered a Triple Crown contender last year until an injury knocked him out of the series. He made only two starts in 2014.
With the turn of the calendar, Honor Code has emerged as a leader in the older horse division.
He started the campaign with a victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in March before a running a dull fifth in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Honor Code ($16.20) was back on his game for the Met Mile, dropping far back as usual before roaring home.
The time was a quick 1:33.18 with Javier Castellano riding for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Tonalist, winner of last year’s Belmont Stakes to deny California Chrome the Triple Crown, closed to get second but was no match for the winner. Private Zone held on for third.
Bayern, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner trained by Bob Baffert, finished last.
Also, Tepin ($11.20) extended her winning streak to three with a three-quarters of a length win in the $700,000 Just A Game Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.
All seems calm on the transportation and foot traffic front in the hours leading up to the Belmont Stakes, and American Pharoah’s attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Gary Shapiro, the Deputy Inspector of the Nassau County Police, says “vehicular and pedestrian traffic continues to arrive at Belmont Park. The park moves toward capacity with a smooth running event at this time. No arrests have been made.”
A Long Island Rail Road spokesman says trains are crowded, but fans are entering the park without any issues.
Some Triple Crown connections were signing autographs at Belmont Park early Saturday.
Jockeys Steve Cauthen and Jean Cruguet, along with trainer Billy Turner were signing reproductions of artwork of horses. Cauthen won the 1978 Triple Crown with Affirmed, and Cruguet rode and Turner trained 1997 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
Lines were long, but fans left with their autographs and smiles on their faces.
American Pharoah is the heavy 3-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Frosted, the Wood Memorial winner who ran fourth behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, is the 9-2 second choice.
Materiality is next at 7-1, followed by Madeforlucky at 13-1, Keen Ice and Mubtaahij, each at 15-1, Tale of Verve at 18-1 and Frammento at 19-1.
A quick trip through the Belmont backyard shows a large crowd sitting on folding lawn chairs, at tables and starting the Daily Racing Form. Hundreds were taking selfies, with the famous Secretariat statue in the paddock as a background.
The smell of Macanudo cigars blended with the aroma of burgers, beer and fries from the concessions stands. There were about two dozen food trucks. Vendors were selling beer for $10 and water for $5.
Betting lines were fairly long, about 20 deep is some areas, but seemed to be moving quickly.
The 4-year-old colt Helwan has been euthanized after suffering a broken bone in his left front foot during the running of the Jaipur Invitational at Belmont Park.
The race is one of several stakes on the undercard before American Pharoah attempts to win the Belmont and become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
According the New York Racing Association, Helwan was pulled up with about 3 1/2 furlongs to go in the six-furlong race on the turf with the injury. He was euthanized on the track, behind a screen to keep the tens of thousands of fans from viewing the unpleasant scene.
The injury was to the left cannon bone, NYRA said.
Jockey Jose L. Ortiz was uninjured. He jumped off the horse, and walked off the track.
Helwan, bred in France, was in his first race in the United States. The trainer is Chad Brown; the owner Al Shaqab Racing.
Trainer Todd Pletcher won three of the first seven races on Belmont day, including back-to-back stakes with Curalina and Coach Inge.
Curalina was the 7-1 upset winner of the $750,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
Making only her fourth start, Curalina edged By the Moon by a neck for her third victory.
John Velazquez rode both Curalina ($16.40) and Coach Inge ($7.90).
Shook Up, the runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks, finished last and left the track in the equine ambulance with an inflatable cast on her right front leg.
Bob Baffert, the Hall of Famer who trains American Pharoah, has toned down his one-liners lately, but he came up with a pretty good one the other day.
The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. The 37-year gap is a record; previously it was 25 years, from Citation in 1948 to Secretarait in 1973.
Baffert, meanwhile, has come up short in three of the last 12 attempts since 1978.
“I think I’m responsible for the drought.”
His Silver Charm lost by three-quarters of a length in 1997, Real Quiet lost by a nose in 1998 and War Emblem was eighth in 2002.
“I probably should have won the Triple Crown a couple more times,” he added. “This fourth time will be different because I’m much older and mellower and I know what I have to deal with so I’m not so overwhelmed.
“This horse has a different vibe than the others. He’s shown that he’s a superior horse. He just needs to bring it one more time.”
Race 5: Wedding Toast was the five-length winner in the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes for older fillies and mares.
It was the biggest – and richest – career win for the 5-year-old trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Jose Lezcano.
The victory guaranteed Wedding Toast an expenses-paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in October at Keeneland.
Wedding Toast paid $6.30 to win.
Untapable, the 3-5 favorite and last season’s champion 3-year-old filly, barely held off House Rules for second.
A horse broke down in the fourth race at Belmont Park, apparently with a serious injury to a front leg, and was put into an ambulance after the running of the Jaipur Invitational.
As the 13-horse field rounded the turn for home in the six-furlong sprint on the turf, jockey Jose L. Ortiz pulled up the 4-year-old colt Helwan. The jockey jumped off, and did not appear to be injured. He walked off the track, ducking under the outside rail.
A medical team was on the scene quickly, and a dark screen was raised to keep fans from watching the unpleasant development.
There was no immediate word on the condition of the Helwan, who was bred in France and making his first start in the United States. The trainer is Chad Brown.
There will not be a record crowd at the Belmont Stakes to watch American Pharoah’s bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1987.
Because Christopher Kay, the president of the New York Racing Association, put in an attendance cap of 90,000.
Last year’s crowd of 102,199 was apparently too much for the track to handle. Long lines at rest rooms, betting windows and crowds packing an aging Long Island Rail Road platform made for an unpleasant experience after California Chrome’s Triple try came up short.
Also, NYRA said it will not be selling tickets on Saturday, no matter what. They are advising anyone without a ticket not to show up at the racetrack.
A sidewalk sign at the front entrance to Belmont Park in the morning read “Tickets Sold Out.”
The record attendance for Belmont is 120,139 in 2004, when Birdstone spoiled Smarty Jones’ bid for a Triple Crown.
Race 3: March fought back along the rail to edge Cinco Charlie by a nose in the $500,000 Woody Stephens for 3-year-old sprinters. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. again had the hot hand. He won three stakes races Friday and this victory got his Belmont Day off to a winning start.
March, trained by Chad Brown, paid $22.80 for the upset.
Todd Pletcher’s stakes woes continued as his duo of Two Weeks Off and the previously unbeaten Competitive Edge, the 2-5 favorite, finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
The weather is taking a turn for the better, with the clouds clearing and the sun beginning to shine through on Belmont Park.
It’s about six hours before American Pharoah attempts to beat seven rivals in the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Temperatures are in the mid-70s, with a 20 percent chance of rain and winds at 15 mph. The track is listed as fast.
The second race was won by Tommy Macho ($19.20). He is trained by Todd Pletcher, whose horses finished second and third in the three-horse opening race on the program.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has canceled an appearance at the Belmont Stakes because he now has a scheduled news conference later in the day at an upstate prison. Authorities said two convicted murderers escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
Cuomo was scheduled to be in the winner’s circle at Belmont Park to present the Belmont trophy. The trophy will be presented by Michael Del Giudice, the acting chairman of the New York Racing Association board of directors.
A look at some updated odds shows Triple Crown hopeful as the 1-2 favorite in an eight horse field for the Belmont Stakes.
Here’s the rest of the early odds: Frosted 5-1; Materiality 7-1; Madeforlucky 15-1; Mubtaahij 16-1; Keen Ice 17-1; Tale of Verve 20-1; Frammento 20-1.
The first race is in the books at Belmont Park, and a three-horse field turned in to a three-horse race to the finish, with Japan rallying on the outside for the 1 1/4-length win over Stanford in the $150,000 Easy Goer. Nonna’s Boy was third, a quarter-length behind the runner-up.
The race is named for 1989 Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer, who spoiled Sunday Silence’s Triple Crown try.
Japan is trained by Bill Mott and was ridden by Junior Alvarado. Todd Pletcher trains Stanford and Nonna’s Boy.
The quest for a Triple Crown is upon us – again.
It’s Belmont Stakes Day, Saturday, June 6 at Belmont Park, and already thousands of fans have made their way into the spacious racetrack to see a slice of racing history when American Pharoah attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
An early-morning rain shower at 6 a.m. may prove to be a good omen for American Pharoah. The colt won the Preakness three weeks ago in the slop and seems to thrive in the rain. The showers have ended, and weather reports for later in the day are calling for clear skies and temperatures in the 70s.
Post time for the first race is 11:35 a.m. Post time for the Belmont is 6:50 p.m.
The Belmont is a sellout at 90,000. For the first time, a cap was put on attendance by New York Racing Association officials.
Last year, Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome finished fourth in his Triple try before a crowd of 102,199.
This will be the 13th attempt at a Triple Crown since Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.
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