Over a sloppy “Big Sandy” track at Belmont Park, Ruler On Ice came from just off the pace as a 24-to-1 long shot to capture the 143rd running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) over 16-to-1 shot Stay Thirsty in second and 10-to-1 Brilliant Speed in third.
The trifecta returned $4,134 for a buck.
“You just got be part of it to win the race. I heard other guys smooching and starting to ride at the top of the stretch and I was sitting with lots of horse in second,” jockey Jose Validvia Jr. said after the race on NBC's television coverage of the biggest win of his career on his first Belmont mount.
Running with blinkers on for the first time, the son of Roman Ruler came into the race as the only horse in the field with a win over a sloppy track. After previously run second in the Federico Tesio and third in the Sunland Derby (Grade III), he captured the first stakes win of his career.
“He’s done things you never imagine a horse would do. He’s a little nutty,” trainer Kelly Breen said as his first Grade I winner was hesitant to enter the winner’s circle. “He ran an unbelievable race. He was training great. I’m just happy to be here.”
Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Animal Kingdom was sent off as the 3-to-1 favorite, but clipped heels early and nearly unseated John Velazquez while falling 15 lengths behind the rest of the field in last. He made a bold run turning for home to pass half the field, but flattened out through the stretch and had to settle for sixth.
A speed-favoring track should have worked to Shackleford’s advantage after he made the lead with ease breaking from the outside post No. 12, but he tired at the top of the stretch and settled for fifth as the 6-to-1 co-third choice. It was the first time since 1996 that a Preakness winner was not favored in his Belmont run.
After finishing second in the Derby and the two races prior, 9-to-2 second choice Nehro rounded out a superfecta that paid just over $37,000.
It was the first time that the top seven runners from the Kentucky Derby made it to the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
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