Arcangelo Puts Trainer Antonucci In History Books With 'Fiercely Determined' Victory In 155th Belmont Stakes - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Arcangelo Puts Trainer Antonucci In History Books With ‘Fiercely Determined’ Victory In 155th Belmont Stakes

Arcangelo and Javier Castellano power to the finish in the 155th Belmont Stakes

Legendary race caller Tom Durkin, who saw so many Triple Crown attempts fall short in his years as track announcer for the New York Racing Association, came out of retirement on Saturday and finally got to call a history-making Belmont Stakes on the FOX television broadcast when Arcangelo made a determined run down the stretch while making trainer Jena Antonucci the first female to saddle a winner of the Test of the Champion.

Under jockey Javier Castellano, the gray ridgling by Arrogate slipped through along the inside rounding the far turn, engaged front-running Preakness winner National Treasure and, in Durkin's words, was “fiercely determined” in the stretch run to win this 155th Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths in 2:29.23 for the mile and a half contested on a fast main track. The time was 5 1/5 seconds slower than the track record of 2:24 set by Triple Crown winner Secretariat 50 years ago in 1973.

It was Castellano's first Belmont win, the only Grade 1 race in New York that had eluded him in a Hall of Fame career. Similarly, five weeks ago, Castellano ended a career drought when guiding Mage to an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby.

“This is a dream come true,” said Castellano. “To win two Triple Crown races in the same year, it's amazing. Everything worked out good. There's always something to shoot for, but I'm just going to keep working hard. But this is so special.

“He [Arcangelo] was so impressive. He was always there for me.”

Forte, the champion 2-year-old of 2022 who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby with a foot bruise on the morning of the race, rallied to get second as the 2-1 favorite, a nose in front of Todd Pletcher stablemate Tapit Trice. Brad Cox runners Hit Show and Angel of Empire finished in a dead-heat for fourth, followed by National Treasure, Il Miracolo, Red Route One and Tapit Shoes.

Arcangelo, who came in to the Belmont off a hard-fought victory in the G3 Peter Pan, paid $17.80 to win. It ended a streak of three winning favorites in the Belmont from 2020-'22.

Owned by Jon Ebbert's Blue Rose Farm, Arcangelo was winning for the third time in five starts in a career that began last December at Gulfstream Park. Arcangelo finished second that day, fourth a month later, then left the maiden ranks with a 3 1/2-length win at the South Florida track March 18, getting a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 84 that horseplayers noticed when they bet him down to 5-2 odds in the Peter Pan.

“He's just figuring it all out,”  Antonucci said of the Belmont winner. “He's just a big kid. Javier [Castellano] did such a great job. There were a lot of horses taking up in the first turn and he sorted that out and got it together and on the backside made his way up the rail. We knew we wanted to get a little jump on them. We weren't even worried about the distance. His cruising speed is just stupid, stupid fast.”

Winning connections of Arcangelo: Owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm, trainer Jena Antonucci, jockey Javier Castellano

The Belmont, with its $1.5 million purse, was the first Grade 1 and by far the richest race victory for Antonucci, who has had 1,914 starters and 160 winners since taking out her trainer's license in 2010. Strongly committed to Thoroughbred aftercare, Antonucci marches to a different drummer than many trainers found at the top of the standings or signing million-dollar tickets at Thoroughbred auctions.

“Goals and success are defined very interestingly, not only in racing but also in life,” Antonucci told the Paulick Report's Chelsea Hackbarth following the Peter Pan. “Without getting overly philosophical, you've gotta be really careful to make sure you're setting goals that represent who you are.

“My goal has always been to do the best we can with the horses that we have, and really, just building good relationships with good people. Then, at the end of the day, whatever that yields is what it yields.

“It's easy to get caught up in the chase for success and lose sight of what really matters. For me, it's about doing what I love, and doing it in a way that I can be proud of. If the winner's circle comes, that's just a bonus.”

In the press conference following her history-making Belmont win (it was also the first training victory by a female in a Triple Crown race), Antonucci was asked about what the feat means to her.

Trainer Jen Antonucci and Arcangelo (photo provided)

“They say there's no crying in baseball, but they never said that about horse racing,” an emotional Antonucci said. “Probably just overcoming adversities.  You go through growing and you go through a career and you take it on the chin and you fight for that spot, and you feel you have to prove your worth. Horses don't care, they don't care who you are.”

“I am immensely grateful,” she continued. “I cannot say that enough. A lot of stars have aligned. This crazy guy gave the girls a chance, and there's a lot of credit to that man right there (Ebbert) because his phone rang and rang: move the horse or to buy the horse. Give it to the guys. No offense to them. I love them all. I can go up and say hi to any one of them. But he gave a girl a chance.”

Antonucci met Ebbert at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale where Ebbert signed the ticket for Arcangelo (“archangel” in Italian) for just $35,000. Bred by Don Alberto Corporation and consigned by Gainesway, the colt was produced from the Tapit mare, Modeling, whose second dam was Better Than Honour, dam of back-to-back Belmont winners Jazil and the filly Rags to Riches.

Arcangelo went for his early training to an Ocala, Fla., farm operated by Antonucci and her business partner, Katie Miranda, both of whom came into racing from the hunter-jumper world. Antonucci took her time with Arcangelo and credits Ebbert for being patient with the horse's progress.

Javier Castellano tips his hat to the crowd after his win aboard Arcangelo in the Belmont Stakes

“What an amazing ride,” Ebbert said after the Belmont. “I'm so proud of the horse. He's an amazing horse. He's all heart. We knew he had it in him. Javier rode him perfectly and Jena is an amazing trainer. I'm so lucky to find her. The rest is history.”

Antonucci is the 11th woman to run a horse in the Belmont. Dianne Carpenter came the closest to a win, finishing second with Kingpost behind Risen Star in 1988. Others that helped pave the way were Sarah Lundy (Minstrel Star, 11th, 1984); Patricia Johnson (Fast Account, fourth, 1985); Shelley Riley (Casual Lies, fifth, 1992); Cynthia Reese (In Contention, ninth, 1996); Nancy Alberts (Magic Wesiner, fourth, 2002); Jennifer Pedersen (Artax Too, 11th, 2002); Linda Rice (Supervisor, fifth, 2003);(Max Player, third, 2020) Alexis Barba (Make Music for Me, ninth, 2010); and Kathy Ritvo (Mucho Macho Man, seventh, 2011).

“It's the horse and I am so grateful,” Antonucci said. “I will forever be indebted to his honesty to us, his heart, and he is why you get up seven days a week.”

Equibase chart

Paulick Report Icon

Receive daily headlines, breaking news alerts, promotions, and much more!

Become An Insider

Support our journalism and access bonus content on our Patreon stream

Learn More