Mo Donegal rebounds in Belmont
Mo Donegal couldn’t overcome a less-than-favorable trip in the Kentucky Derby, breaking slowly and traveling extremely wide to finish fifth, but he bounced back with a convincing win in the final leg of the Triple Crown, rallying to win going away by three lengths in the $1.5 Belmont S. (G1).
Providing trainer Todd Pletcher with a fourth Belmont victory, Mo Donegal confirmed himself as a major contender in a contentious three-year-old division for owners Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing and Mike Repole’s Repole Stable.
Off as the 5-2 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion,” Mo Donegal rated a few lengths behind in midpack with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., as 7-2 second choice We the People showed the way on a short lead. He launched his bid on the far turn, advancing four-wide into upper stretch to overhaul We the People and Skippylongstocking, who raced an up-close second from the start.
Mo Donegal powered clear after striking the front, rolling home much the best in the long Belmont Park stretch, and stopped the teletimer in a respectable 2:28.28.
It marked the third stakes triumph for Mo Donegal, who improved his overall record to 7-4-0-2 and earnings to more than $1.5 million. The Kentucky-bred sophomore is by Uncle Mo.
The bay colt defeated eventual Blue Grass (G1) hero and Kentucky Derby third-placer Zandon when capturing the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct last fall, and Mo Donegal edged next-out Preakness (G1) winner Early Voting by a neck in April’s Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Along with Early Voting and Zandon, Mo Donegal also will be competing with Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Epicenter and unbeaten Woody Stephens (G1) winner Jack Christopher for top three-year-old male honors during the second half of the season.
Kentucky Derby upsetter Rich Strike’s fortunes took a negative turn in the Belmont, as the 4-1 third choice never made an impact from off the pace, finishing a well-beaten sixth.
Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up Nest, from Repole/Pletcher connections, gave a fine account of herself while switching to take on males, getting up from fourth at the top of the stretch to finish a clear second.
“We were really pleased with the way both horses were training,” Pletcher said. “I thought both horses were traveling really great the whole way. The one thing I told Irad was to be patient and I think he got the best trip in the race.”
Skippylongstocking edged We the People by about a length for third, and Creative Minister came next in fifth. Barber Road and Golden Glider rounded out the last two spots.
The $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 27 will be Mo Donegal’s next major target.