Explanations And Excuses: Belmont Stakes Connections React In The Race’s Aftermath - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Explanations And Excuses: Belmont Stakes Connections React In The Race’s Aftermath

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrates his Belmont victory aboard Mo Donegal with owners Mike Repole, left, and Jerry Crawford, right

Following is a collection of quotes from connections of each of the eight runners in Saturday's Belmont Stakes (G1), won by Mo Donegal.

Todd Pletcher, winning trainer of Mo Donegal and runner-up Nest: “I'm delighted, obviously, with the outcome. When Nest stumbled at the start, my first thought was immediately thinking of Rags to Riches and deciding to run her in the Belmont and seeing her stumble. But Jose [Ortiz] and her did a nice job of recovering and getting in a good position and I loved the trip that Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] was getting throughout.

“He [Mo Donegal] was always traveling strongly and had a lot of horse and you could see as he began around the three-eighths pole, he took a look inside to see what's going on. The one thing I told him was to be a little bit patient because I believe this horse has the best last quarter-mile if you can just get him in position and ride him patiently from there.”

On winning a fourth Belmont Stakes: “First of all, it's our family's favorite race. Our kids grew up here and went to school here and we've always felt like it's our hometown race.

“When we're fortunate enough to win it, it adds some specialness to it. That hometown feel. That part of it is really cool. Also, just the mile and a half challenge is something we've been fortunate enough to do well at. It's the 'Test of the Champion,' so to be fortunate enough to win it four times and with some five, six seconds with some pretty nasty beats, too, is very special. It's been fun.

“I would like to thank [Donegal Racing's manager Jerry Crawford] for the opportunity to train a horse like this. Being a son of Uncle Mo, who played a huge part in my career and is doing phenomenally at stud, just adds more to it”

Mike Repole, co-owner of winner Mo Donegal: “First, I want to thank Jerry [Crawford of Donegal Racing] for letting us partner with this horse. He's a great marketer, because he has a horse with Irad and Todd and named it 'Mo' so he could sell me a piece of it. So it worked out well for him. It's surreal, it really is. I've been coming to races for years, Aqueduct and Belmont and when I could get a car, Saratoga. Winning with Todd, my family and his family are very close. To give him his fourth Belmont is really, really special [and] to win it with a son of Uncle Mo. Todd always said he was one of the most talented horses he's ever had. You can only be three-years-old in May or June once in your life. For my silks, for a horse named 'Mo', by Uncle Mo, it's pretty special.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr., winning jockey aboard Mo Donegal: “Last time in the Derby, he didn't have the best trip and he still got beat by [only] three or five lengths. I knew if I got a better trip, he could get there. When I asked him in the clear, he took off. He's a nice horse.”

On winning a second Belmont Stakes: “It means a lot to me. It's a lot of hard work and dedication. I've been riding here for 11 years – there's no better feeling.”

On finishing 1-2 with brother Jose Ortiz: “I'm happy I won and I'm happy Jose got second.”

Jose Ortiz, jockey aboard runner-up Nest: “She stumbled out of the gate. I think that was the worst break for me today. When she got up, she got a nice position on the rail. By the three-eighths pole, she was traveling very nicely. I was expecting We the People to run a little bit further and not get tired until the three-sixteenths and we could split horses then, but We the People was done by the three-eighths.

“When I took a peek to go out, Mo Donegal was already there full of horse. I didn't want to make a premature move and when I called her to run, I wanted it to be my only move. I had to wait to make my move. I don't know if it would have made a difference. I know Mo Donegal was traveling very nicely at the quarter pole and traveled very nicely to the wire, so I would call myself second-best. It was a huge effort by my filly.

“It is what it is. It's horse racing. She finished very well. I was waiting for my time to go at the five-sixteenths but Irad was outside of me he had a lot of horse, so I had to wait for him to make his move and he beat me to the punch. After that his horse stayed. My filly made a good run. I'm very proud of her.”

On brother Irad Ortiz, Jr. winning the race: “It's great, we ran good. My filly ran a great race and I'm very happy for my brother. Everybody showed up so we're happy.”

Manny Franco, jockey aboard third-place finisher Skippylongstocking: “Man, my horse ran great. I mean, I jumped out of there and I let him go the first stride. I found myself second and I said 'I'm going to take my shot.' He ran great. Just the first two ran a little better but I'm really happy with the way my horse ran.”

Rodolphe Brisset, trainer of fourth-place finisher We the People: “We had everything the way we wanted. I just think the mile and a half was just too long, you know. That would be our first guess to why he ran like that. There's nothing you can do – you have to try and he went in 48 and two-fifths and 1:13 and it was just too long for him.”

Flavien Prat, jockey aboard fourth-place finisher We the People: “I had a good trip. He broke well and I got a nice half on the lead. He was traveling super, it was just too far for him.”

Kenny McPeek, trainer of fifth-place finisher Creative Minister: “Brian [Hernandez, Jr.] just felt like he had a little trouble in the first turn. He was in behind the eventual winner [No. 6, Mo Donegal]. But the best horse won. Horses that have trained here and raced here I think have a little bit of an edge.”

On a potential start in the $135,000 Curlin on July 29 at Saratoga Race Course: “Maybe the Curlin at Saratoga.”

Brian Hernandez, Jr., jockey aboard fifth-place finisher Creative Minister: “We didn't get the position early on like I wanted to and it compromised us a little because we ended up a little further back. He ran on nicely. The first turn kind of hurt us a bit. He's going to get better, so you got to be proud of him.”

Sonny Leon, jockey aboard sixth-place finisher Rich Strike: “The horse broke sharp, but he broke looking the other way. I tried to keep him in stride. He was lugging in the whole way. He wanted to go to the rail. I had the horse inside me and I think he wasn't too comfortable today at this track.”

Joel Rosario, jockey aboard seventh-place finisher Barber Road: “He broke good and I got into position. At that point, I had to get down toward the rail on the backside. He seemed okay, but the last three furlongs, he was there, but they were getting away from me. A little one-paced.”

Dylan Davis, jockey aboard eighth-place finisher Golden Glider: “It feels great [to have ridden in the Belmont]. It's my new goal. I want to win this race for sure. I've always wanted to win this race, but now that I feel the excitement, I definitely want to win it.

“He was just out of class. I think the distance was a little too much for him as well. He put me in a good position that I loved. He was switched off for me, but he just couldn't get the distance.”

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