As the runners approached the start gate of the 155th Belmont Stakes on Saturday, everyone who was into the sport and who loved thoroughbreds was hoping for something good to come–no. I was begging-
Just a bit. Over the past five weeks, the yearly shifts in horse racing’s consciousness among American sports fans have been hopscotching one disastrous outcome after another.
The 12 dead horses (two of the Kentucky Derby undercards) put the venerable sport under intense scrutiny and sparked an open debate about whether its social license should be renewed.
Things got even worse in Baltimore.
One of America’s most successful and controversial trainers, Bob Baffert is back in the limelight as his horse National Treasure wins the Preakness Stakes after being suspended.
Baffert had been suspended for two years from the triple crown, the biggest stage in sports, after failing a drug test in the Medina Spirit at the Derby. And hours before the Preakness Stakes, another colt he trained, Havna Meltdown, stumbled on a far corner at Pimlico Racecourse, injured his leg and had to be euthanized on the track.
The Belmont Stakes was a fairy tale in comparison.
A gray stallion named Arcangelo roared down a Long Island track and made a little history. Trainer Jenna Antonucci became the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race in over a century.
From the clubhouse, Antonucci watches rider Javier Castellano dove onto the rail around the far turn and slingshot into the stretch, as if Arcangelo was tethered to magnetic train tracks. rice field. The colt saved a late goal from Forte to give Castellano his first Belmont victory in 14 tries. Hall of Famer Castellano won his first Kentucky Derby five weeks ago in his 16th attempt on Mage.
“He wanted to run today, so I had to be patient with him,” Castellano said after the race before returning his attention to Antonucci and her team.
At the clubhouse, with wet cheeks and happy feet, Antonucci jumped up and urged the stallion to run. Antonucci, a former Florida-born show rider, paid his dues in another Hall of Fame trainer’s barn. D. Wayne Lucas.
Her barn is small with only a few dozen horses. Her staff are mostly women and this was her first win in a Grade I race, the sport’s highest level. Since 1937, 30 women have tried 47 times, narrowly falling short.
Antonucci was asked what breaking through the glass ceiling meant to her.
“I don’t have an elegant answer,” she said, her voice trembling. “They say you shouldn’t cry in baseball, but I think it’s the same in horse racing.”
After taking a few deep breaths, she gave it a try.
“Horses don’t know who you are,” she said. “I hope more people can be like horses, like this one, so that the horse believes in you and your team.”
Arcangelo, a three-year-old ridgeling, gave Blue Rose Farm owner John Ebert a cheap basement for $35,000 as a yearling. Over the past few months, as the gray colt has matured into a classy runner, Ebert has been fielding calls from owners and trainers, far exceeding the stallion’s purchase price to land Arcangelo in the barn. presented the amount.
In addition to the fatal accident at the Derby, Derby favorite Forte was declared unhealthy by a Kentucky veterinarian and suffered a scratch on the morning of the race, but was injured in the Hopeful Stakes last September. The news that he failed a drug test after winning the Derby world shook. . It was one of six failures of horses trained by Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher in the past 11 months.
In Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, Forte, the favorite, finished second.