June 11, 2005
Afleet Alex wrote his name into the history books after passing nine horses on the final turn and exploding to the front to win the 137th Running of the Belmont Stakes in front of 62,274 fans on Saturday at Belmont Park. "I don't want to hear any more criticism about my horse," said jockey Jeremy Rose. "He's one of the best we've see in a long time." The Belmont was billed as the rematch between Derby winner Giacomo and Preakness winner Afleet Alex, and nine other horses.
6-5 favorite Afleet Alex, who is owned by Cash is King LLC, won the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion" by seven lengths in 2:28.75 over a fast track to become the 18th Thoroughbred to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. 12-1 shot Andromeda's Hero, under Rafael Bejarano, finished second. Maiden Nolan's Cat, under Norberto Arroyo, Jr., was third at odds of 20-1.
Pinpoint went to the lead and set the early fractions at 24.47, 48.62, and 1:12.92, with A. P. Arrow and Southern Africa coasting off his flank. Afleet Alex was content to settle back in ninth position in the 11-horse field and save ground about 6 lengths back for the first half of the race. The field bunched into three rows of three as it entered the turn for home. Afleet Alex was in the back row, stuck on the rail. Mike Smith asked Giacomo to make his move to the outside of the pack, and, for a moment, it appeared that it would lead to victory. Afleet Alex, however, was about to be freed from traffic. Chekhov and Reverberate drifted out slightly on the turn, allowing Afleet Alex room to advance between Watchmon and Indy Storm, then catch Giacomo and find open track in the middle of the stretch. Then, Afleet Alex took off.
"He just exploded. We expected this kind of performance today," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "All I kept saying was: 'Be patient, be patient, be patient, wait, wait, wait.' That was the plan. With these big, wide turns you have to save all the ground you can. Jeremy Rose has now ridden three Triple Crown races like a Hall of Famer." The colt, who stumbled at the top of the stretch before rallying to win the Preakness Stakes, finished the grueling Belmont Stakes in 24.50, the fastest final quarter mile since Art and Letters in 1969. "I had the best horse," Rose said. "The only thing that could get him beat was me, so I stayed out of his way."
Trainer Nick Zito, who saddled seven different horses for a total of 11 starters in the three Triple Crown races, finished second with Andromeda's Hero, fourth with Indy Storm and last with Pinpoint. "It's an honor to be second to this great horse," said Zito, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8, 2005. "Without him in this race, we win the Belmont Stakes. (Andromeda's Hero) just ran great. All of my jockeys did what they were supposed to do. Pinpoint may not be ready for these horses yet, Indy Storm ran great and Andromeda's Hero ran unbelievable."
Nolan's Cat, whom some believed sullied the Triple Crown by running as a maiden, surprised many with a solid stretch run and his third-place finish. "If this horse didn't have some unfortunate events along the way, I think he would have been a contender throughout the entire Triple Crown," said trainer Dale Romans. "I was real pleased with the way he ran. He just had some nagging injuries as a 2-year-old and got caught up in quarantine early this year. I couldn't give him enough seasoning. I was pleased with his race, and happy the public showed him respect.. He's the best maiden in the country."
Giacomo finished seventh under Mike Smith in his attempt to become the 12th horse to win the Derby and Belmont Stakes. Smith surmised that Giacomo displaced his palate during the race. "Down the backstretch, I could hear him make a loud, roaring noise. I knew he had (displaced his palate). So, I got him to the outside and dropped his head - a lot of times that will help get it back. But he never did. At the quarter-pole, he let out another one. Galloping out was the same. When a horse is doing that, he is not breathing right. I won't take anything away from Afleet Alex. He ran great today." Added trainer John Shirreffs, "Mike said the horse started to make a lot of noise, and started displacing (his upper palate). He looks good now. The Triple Crown has been great to us. (Owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss), my wife and I and for everyone involved, we've all enjoyed it. We've had a wonderful time with Giacomo. Every stop we've made, everyone has been great to us. He's going to get a break now."