Mo Donegal takes the crown as Belmont Stakes gets some New York flare

Belmont Stakes Mo Donegal
Mo Donegal (6), with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. up, crosses the finish line to win the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 11, 2022, at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

As the Belmont Stakes trophy sat in the Triple Crown Lounge hours after the post draw occurred, Mo Donegal owner Mike Repole joked that NYRA officials should be careful with his trophy. Four days later Repole’s joke seem prophetic as the Donegal Racing Mo Donegal won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday

On a day where We The People started as the favorite and Mo Donegal later was changed to the favorite to win, the Repole-owned horse moved on the outside to overtake the leader We The People and SkippyLongstocking just after clearing the final turn and hitting the home stretch. Nest, a fellow Repole-owned horse, took second and Skippylongstocking finished in third. 

The one-two finish for Repole’s horses not only helped him finally get a win at Belmont Park, but gave the day real New York flare. Repole, a native New Yorker, had plenty of support on hand for Saturday’s race and even had his horses and jockeys sporting the colors of the New York Mets. 

After the race, he had said when looking back on his words from Tuesday that he had wanted to take a photo with the trophy that day, but was warned not to. 

“Like 10 people said, ‘no no no you’re going to jinx it,'” Repole said. “If nobody was there I would have done it and then posted Tuesday’s picture and Saturday’s picture side by side. I just felt so good. … It felt like this was meant to be and I’ve got 75 people telling me this is the one, this is the one. They’re wrong every time. They were right this time, but it just felt right. 

“When I watched him come down the stretch, Mo Donegal was ahead and Nest was second it was pretty special.” 

The win was trainer Todd Pletcher’s sixth triple crown victory and fourth at Belmont Park, which isn’t too far from his home on Long Island.

“It’s our family’s favorite race,” Pletcher said. “We’ve always felt like it’s our hometown race and when you go to the soccer fields or you go to the schools and everyone in the community knows you’re running in the Belmont. In this case, we were fortunate to win it, it adds some specialness to it that hometown feel. That part of it is a really cool aspect of it.” 

Morning line favorite We The People finished just outside the top three, ending the day in fourth. Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who spent most of the Stakes in the back of the pack, ended up finishing in sixth. 

Trainer Eric Reed took the blame afterward for Rich Strike’s finish on Saturday. 

“I guess I made a mistake because I should have let Sonny put him on the fence,” Reed said. “You watch the replay, his head is cocked to the right. He’s wanting down there and we’re trying to keep him in the middle of track. So he’s just not aggressive.”

The line moved as race time approached with Mo Donegal holding 5 to 2 odds to take the win on Saturday on Long Island. We the People had been moved to 7 to 2. 

This year’s Belmont was the first one held near full capacity since COVID-19. Attendance was still limited due to the New York Islanders’ new arena next door.

Capacity was limited to 50,000 and the official attendance figure was 46,103. 

Earlier in the day, Clairiere won the $480,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes, which secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 5. The victory was Clairiere’s second Grade 1 win. 

Five horses broke from the starting gate in the 54th running of the Ogden Phipps Stakes, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. 

Flightline put on one of the most impressive efforts of the afternoon prior to the running of the Belmont Stakes, winning the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap by six lengths over Happy Saver. The horse had been one that race fans had been looking forward to seeing compete at Belmont. 

For more coverage of the Belmont Stakes, visit amNY.com

“He didn’t jump well but after that, I was happy where I was and he was traveling well,” Flightline’s jockey Flavien Prat said. “He’s just an incredible horse. Congratulations to John (Sadler) and his partners. They’ve done a great job with him. … It feels great (when he hits his best stride). 

“It seems the sky is limitless and it’s been a real pleasure.”