Creator pulls upset in 148th Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — The finish was dramatic, even without a Triple Crown on the line.
Creator found an opening in the stretch and ran down Destin in the final stride to win the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes by a nose — the closest possible margin of victory. Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., pointed to the sky in an appropriate winning salute given the horse’s name.”Today was perfect for us by inches,” said Steve Asmussen, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. “Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque.”

The 50-year-old trainer has won more than 7,300 races, including the Preakness with champions Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. He was taken off the Hall of Fame ballot last year, though, because of allegations made by PETA about the way he treated his horses. He was later cleared by racing authorities in Kentucky and New York.

The 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion” wraps up the Triple Crown a year after American Pharoah’s run to glory in becoming the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. A different horse won each leg — Nyquist took the Derby and Exaggerator won the Preakness.

This was Creator’s day, a hot, sticky one at Belmont Park with temperatures in the mid-80s. Exaggerator, the 7-5 favorite in the field of 13, raced well back in the pack, appeared to make into contention but just didn’t have his usual finishing kick. He finished 11th.

A 3-year-old gray colt, Creator came flying down the stretch as Destin tried to hang on to the lead. He almost made it, but settled for second with Japan-based Lani a closing third.

“I’m glad to see him put that number up; they came to the wire together,” Asmussen said of the Creator-Destin showdown. “Irad gave him a dream trip. The horse ran super.”

Creator, sent off 16-1, returned $34.80, $14.60 and $9.40. Destin, trained by Todd Pletcher, returned $9.40 and $6.20 and Lani paid $6.60. The winning time for the 1 1/2 miles was 2:28.51. The first three finishers were gray colts.

Governor Malibu was fourth, followed by Stradivari, Brody’s Cause, Cherry Wine, Gettysburg, Suddenbreakingnews, Trojan Nation, Exaggerator, Seeking the Soul and Forever d’Oro.

Creator was one of several closers in the field, and the race set up perfectly for him. Gettysburg was a late addition to the field. Both horses are owned by WinStar Farm, with Gettysburg a front-runner who could set the stage for a thrilling finish.

That’s exactly what happened. After setting a slowish pace, Gettysburg dropped back after a mile, and Destin took charge well into the stretch. With Ortiz urging him on, Creator stormed into contention after running near the back of the pack for his sixth win in 12 career starts. Ortiz, one of the nation’s leading riders, won his first Triple Crown race.

“He was calm and I just waited for somewhere to go,” Ortiz said. “When he got clear, he started running.”

Unlike Exaggerator.

Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame rider aboard the colt, second-guessed his decision to ask Exaggerator to wait behind the pace. When he tried to make a move, the horse trained by his brother, Keith, just didn’t have it.

“I don’t know it there would have been any difference in the outcome,” Kent Desormeaux said. “When I picked him up at the quarter-pole to try and win the race, there was nothing there.”

Exaggerator and Lani were the only horses who ran in all three Triple Crown races. Lani improved each time, running ninth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness.

“He was in very good condition, and the distance was good,” Lani’s jockey Yutaka Take said. “The track was a fast one all day, and the rain held off until after the finish when a downpour soaked the track and a crowd much smaller than the 90,000 that showed up for American Pharoah’s Triple Crown.

Earlier in the week, celebrity chef Bobby Flay became a co-owner of Creator along with WinStar.

Maximum Security beaten in first start since Derby DQ

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) The Triple Crown series was marked by the unexpected and the whacky 3-year-old season continued when Maximum Security returned to racing for the first time since being disqualified in the Kentucky Derby.

Sent off as the overwhelming 1-20 favorite, Maximum Security simply got beat. There was no DQ, no runaway horse like in the Preakness or improbable winner like in the Belmont.

It was just an upset marked by a stumble at the start that might have cost Maximum Security the race and left the division wide open.

Second-choice King for a Day stalked Maximum Security from the start, took the lead in the stretch and posted a one-length victory in the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday.

“I think the next race will be better,” said Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security “We needed to get that of the way. I was glad to get it out of the way even though he got beat.”

It marked the first time Maximum Security has not crossed the finish line first in six career starts, and the stumble might have been the difference.

“It was a tough week,” said Servis, who had debated whether to run Maximum Security because he was not sure he was ready. “He was feeling pretty good this morning. He was jumping and kicking. But the stumble hurt us a lot.”

Maximum Security and regular rider Luis Saez broke from the No. 2 post and quickly recovered from the stumble to take the lead in the field of six 3-year-olds.

Jockey Joe Bravo moved King for a Day from the No. 3 post to his flank and the two made this a two-horse race until the Todd Pletcher-trained winner wore down Maximum Security in the stretch.

“I really felt comfortable getting into the turn,” Bravo said. “I could see Luis was already riding. I could see that he was in trouble. Turning for home, Maximum Security did pull away a bit. My horse was still going comfortable.”

King for a Day, who won the Sir Barton at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard, covered the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:42.59. The son of Uncle Mo paid $13.80, $2.40 and $2.20 for his third victory in five career starts.

Maximum Security returned $2.10 and $2.10. Direct Order finished third and returned $3.80.

“In the end he was a little tired,” Saez said. “I’m not disappointed. Definitely not. He will be OK. I think he needed the race. This is horse racing. Anything can happen. He’s a real good horse. That hasn’t changed. I think the next time he will be OK.”

Owned by Gary and Mary West, Maximum Security finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of Country House in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 but was disqualified by Churchill Downs stewards for interference with eventual Preakness winner War of Will.

It marked the first time in the 145-year history of the Derby that the first-place finisher was disqualified for interference.

The Wests are challenging the Kentucky Derby disqualification in federal court.

Last Judgment was fourth in the Pegasus, followed by Identifier and Caladan in the feature on the Father’s Day card that drew 24,062.

Country House is probably finished racing for the year, trainer Bill Mott told the Daily Racing Form on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

Country House has been galloping at the track in recent weeks, but Mott has not been satisfied with how the colt trained and looked. He was shipped to Saratoga last week and will be sidelined for two months or longer.

Maximum Security is next expected to run in the Haskell Invitational here on July 20. Pletcher said King for a Day will join his stable at Saratoga and be evaluated before deciding his next start.

Rafael Bejarano rides 4,000th winner at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode his 4,000th career winner at Santa Anita.

He guided filly Portal Creek to a 3 }-length victory in the third race Saturday for trainer Bob Hess Jr.

The 36-year-old Peruvian jockey says Santa Anita has always been a special place for him. He won six races at the Southern California track in his first day riding there on April 8, 2006.

Bejarano came to the U.S. in 2002 after training at a national riding academy in Peru. He led the U.S. in victories with 455 in 2004.

He has career purse earnings of $200,611,833 and five victories in the Breeders’ Cup.