What a day of racing we were treated to Saturday afternoon from historic Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. Tip of the cap to NYRA and CEO Chris Kay for putting up the money to host six Grade 1 races on the same card! A few nice priced winners (Pure Sensation, Tom’s Ready, Celestine) for pick 3 and 4 players, a couple record-breaking performances (Celestine and Frosted), no horses injured (after unlucky Preakness Day) and one of the closest and most debated Belmont Stakes outcomes with Creator nipping Destin on the last jump to cap a quality day of racing at Big Sandy! Add to that mix seeing one of my personal favorite Arkansas Derby winners of all time claim Belmont fame and my second best day of wagering from three decades playing the ponies and it’s a day I won’t soon forgot for another three decades (or as long as my memory lasts!).
I’m not sure who deserves the most credit for Creator’s victory. Trainer Steve Asmussen will soon be inducted into the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame and this late maturing horse has admittedly been one of his greatest training jobs with the cantankerous son of Tapit. Winstar Farm CEO Elliott Walden, no stranger to winning the 12 furlong Belmont Stakes as he led Victory Gallop to snatch defeat from sshhh Real Quiet in the 1998 Triple Crown finale, made a shrewd but common racing move by entering their speedy Gettysburg as a pace factor to not only help Creator’s chance at winning but also Winstar’s stallion prospect Exaggerator. One more comment for the numerous Twitter detractors on the entry of Gettysburg as an “assist” to Creator’s slam dunk. If it was so obvious what the outcome would be with his entry as a pace presence, why didn’t you all make a large win bet on Creator? Perhaps because whether it be Gettysburg or another horse who would have shown more speed, that didn’t singularly help Creator but also the deepest lineup of “true closers” ever assembled for the Belmont Stakes. Yet it wasn’t Exaggerator, Suddenbreakingnews, Cherry Wine, Brody’s Cause or Lani who transferred this pace into a victory. Nope -- the best horse on this day at 1 ½ miles was Creator! Not to mention Gettysburg’s finish ahead of the top two betting choices and well ahead of more hapless long-shots.
Finally, we saw one of the best tactical rides of all-time by the New York based rider Irad Ortiz as he kept Creator within touch early and patiently waited on the rail saving ground on the far turn. Irad held his position in the 2 path, hemming in Governor Malibu (exchanged bumps) as Joel Rosario tried to move outside a tiring Gettysburg. Then you can see Irad pulling his right rein just once to attempt to steer Creator wide before thinking twice and pausing two strides as an ever so slight hole emerged when Rosario again steered to the rail on Governor Malibu -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKxmvnqkXE4. Watch the following replay and you will see that was the same set-up Gary Stevens used for even a slimmer nose win aboard Victory Gallop (who also had an outside 11 post yet worked to rail to save ground). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLV7xZPwvM0.
Last year's epic Triple Crown series with American Pharoah was one for the ages that will never be forgotten in most of our hearts and minds. But the great thing about the sport of horse racing is that EVERY year produces a favorite Derby, Preakness or Belmont for thousands of fans, owners, trainers or jockeys for various reasons. On behalf of my fellow Texans Winstar Farm owner Kenny Troutt and trainer Steve Asmussen, this was one of OUR favorites thanks to a special gray colt named CREATOR!