“Rags to Riches” at the 2007 Belmont Stakes

Saturday’s skies were cloudy and gray as seven magnificent thoroughbreds lined up at the post for the 139th running of the Belmont Stakes. Scant minutes later, however, an unlikely victor would carve out her place in the sun. You read right: “her”… for only the third time in the long and storied history of the Belmont Stakes, a filly won the grueling “Test of a Champion”.

Rags to Riches, the only filly in the race and the first to make the attempt since Silverbulletday in 1999, brought the crowd of 46,870 to their feet by challenging Preakness winner Curlin down the stretch and to the wire, winning by a nose. Although highly rated and from a reputable bloodline, Rags to Riches was by no means the pre-race favorite. Pegged at 4-1, she returned a handsome $10.60 to wagers who ponied up for a $2 ticket. Race historians had to look back all the way to 1905 to find Tanya, the last filly to win the Belmont, and even further back to 1867 for the only other one: Ruthless. In all, 22 fillies have made the Run for the Carnations but the punishing 1½ mile dirt surfaced track has proved too much for most. Even Kentucky Derby winning fillies Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988) fell short of victory.

Rags to Riches’ exciting and unexpected win over hard-charging Curlin brought long-awaited glory to her trainer, Todd Pletcher, and jockey John Velazquez. Both men savored their first Triple Crown race victories after enduring frustratingly long droughts: 0-for-28 for Pletcher and 0-for-20 for Velazquez. For Pletcher, victory was especially sweet. The highly regarded trainer won the coveted Eclipse Award for being horseracing’s outstanding Trainer of the Year three years in a row and has racked up an incredible $27,670,243 in lifetime purse earnings including his triumph in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. Pletcher’s long-sought first Triple Crown race win with Rags to Riches just adds luster to an already stellar career.

For the record, Rags to Riches won the 2007 Belmont Stakes in a time of 2:28.74, a respectable time but well off the Belmont Stakes track record of 2:24 set by legendary Secretariat in 1973. A slight stumble at the start certainly affected her time, though not the ultimate result. As mentioned, Preakness winner Curlin finished second with Tiago third, Hard Spun fourth, C P West fifth, Imawildandcrazyguy sixth and Slew’s Tizzy bringing up the rear.