Mo Donegal Leads Home Mike Repole 1-2 Finish In Belmont Stakes; Derby Winner Rich Strike Sixth - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Mo Donegal Leads Home Mike Repole 1-2 Finish In Belmont Stakes; Derby Winner Rich Strike Sixth

Irad Ortiz, Jr. celebrates winning the Belmont Stakes

Owner Mike Repole collapsed in his box with tears in his eyes after Mo Donegal and Nest finished one-two in Saturday's $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

“This is my Derby,” said Repole. “This has been a dream that I've had for 40 years. This is the biggest goal I had in my racing life, and I just accomplished it, and I ran 1-2.

“I used to cut out of school and it made me an entrepreneur. I used to bet $20 and that's a lot of pressure when you had to pay back your parents. I'm always going to be Mike from Queens. This is New York's biggest race and to win it here, with my family and friends and 70 people here, this will be a big winner's circle. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who is such a great friend, and with Jerry Crawford and Donegal Racing [co-owner of Mo Donegal]; success is best when shared.”

Sent off as the 5-2 favorite after a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Irad Ortiz, Jr. kept Mo Donegal closer to the Belmont pace and was able to capitalize over Big Sandy with a three-length triumph in the “Test of the Champion.” Mo Donegal ran the 1 1/2 miles over a fast track in 2:28.28.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher saddled the colt, co-owned by Donegal Racing, for his fourth career Belmont Stakes win, as well as the runner-up Nest (co-owned by Michael House and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners).

The moment was especially poignant since Repole grew up wagering on New York racing, and his best previous finish in the Belmont Stakes had come in 2011 with Stay Thirsty.

“I won't watch that replay anymore,” Repole said. “Getting a first and second here, it makes up for it.”

The 3-year-old winner is also a son of Repole's ill-fated Uncle Mo, who had to be withdrawn the day before the 2011 Kentucky Derby for what turned out to be a life-threatening liver ailment.

As the handicappers expected, We The People was sharp out of the gates and went straight to the lead. He bore out slightly on the clubhouse turn, forcing Skippylongstocking even wider. Nest had stumbled at the start, and tucked in at the rail in third. Golden Glider, Mo Donegal, and Creative Minister followed the leaders, while Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike was last of the eight early on.

After fractions of :23.99, :48.49, and 1:13.23, notably much slower than those of the Run for the Roses five weeks ago, Ortiz allowed Mo Donegal to get a bit closer on the outside. Skippylongstocking kept the pressure up on We The People, while Nest was along Mo Donegal's inside in third.

Mo Donegal took the three-wide route and went straight to the lead in the lane, while Nest had to angle out to get clear racing room as she followed her stablemate down the stretch. Mo Donegal was long gone, however, and cruised under the wire three lengths the best in the Belmont Stakes. Nest and Jose Ortiz finished second, with Skippylongstocking and Manny Franco checking in third.

The remaining order of finish was: We The People, Creative Minister, Rich Strike, Barber Road, and Golden Glider.

Regarding the sixth-place finisher, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, trainer Eric Reed said: “We were hoping we could have been a little closer and our pace was slow. Our biggest change was deciding to stay a little off the rail and try to give him a good, open run where he could take off. The whole way, his head turned and he was trying to get to the inside. I guess we made a mistake not putting him on the fence.”

Bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, Mo Donegal is out of the winning Pulpit mare Callingmissbrown. His second dam is the Grade 1-winning millionaire racemare Island Sand. Donegal Racing purchased the colt for $250,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale, and he broke his maiden in his second career start at Belmont Park before winning the G2 Remsen to cap his juvenile season.

In 2022, Mo Donegal continued to show his affinity for New York racetracks. After finishing third in the G3 Holy Bull, Mo Donegal went back north to win the G2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby. With a tough, wide trip in Louisville, Mo Donegal finished fifth in the Run for the Roses, but he rebounded off the five-week gap to win the Belmont Stakes with aplomb. Overall, the colt's record stands at four wins from seven starts for earnings of $1,511,800.

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