Haskin's Belmont Stakes Recap: Ice, Rain, and Mud

The Triple Crown is a long, arduous grind, with horses shipping to new tracks well in advance, training hard, and racing hard at distances never before attempted.

But perhaps no horse in memory has ever made such light work of winning a classic as George and Lori Hall’s Ruler On Ice, whose Belmont Stakes (gr. I) odyssey lasted all of 17 hours. Many of the colt’s opponents in the Test of the Champion had been at Belmont Park for weeks, getting a feel for the track, schooling in the gate and paddock, and adapting to Big Sandy’s testing 12-furlong circumference and long, sweeping turns.

For Ruler On Ice and trainer Kelly Breen, Belmont Park held no fears, needed no acclimatization, and was nothing more than a day trip from the Jersey Shore. After all what’s another track to a horse who had run six times at six different tracks in six different states, including a jaunt to Sunland Park in New Mexico.

On Belmont Stakes day, June 11, Ruler On Ice, the problem child of Breen’s quintet of classic hopefuls this year, departed Barn 11 at Monmouth Park at 6 a.m. for his 60-mile van ride to Belmont Park. The son of Roman Ruler – Champagne Glow, by Saratoga Six, whose antics prompted an early castration while being broken by Barry Eisaman, was accompanied on the van by foreman Alberto Torres, who grooms only Ruler On Ice. Torres, who has been with Breen for nearly 10 years, stayed close to the gelding the entire trip, holding him and petting him and keeping him calm.

“He was still kicking the walls occasionally, but he wasn’t that bad,” Torres said.

Ruler On Ice arrived at Belmont at about 8:30, had his legs washed down, and quickly settled in at Barn 16, several stalls down from another Belmont participant, Santiva.

At 2:30 p.m., Breen left his home in Farmingdale, N.J. and headed up the Garden State Parkway to Belmont, along with his wife Melissa and Henry Sullivan, George Hall’s brother-in-law, who handles the public relations for George and his wife Lori’s racing operation. At that point, they had no idea their horse’s odds were around 30-1 in the early betting, nor did they care.

Melissa, slept through part of the drive, but when it began to rain, it inspired one of her rhymes. Because Ruler On Ice was the only horse in the 12-horse field who had won in the slop, she came up with, “It’s raining, it’s pouring, Ruler On Ice is soaring.” That was almost as good as “Wire to wire, Pants On Fire,” her ode to their Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner.

Breen called jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. to go over last-minute strategy, which basically was to put the horse in the race early. But the call wasn’t necessary, as it turned out. Valdivia, one of the sharpest riders in the country and a racing historian from a racing-oriented family, was way ahead of him.

“Kelly was about to go over the plan, but Jose had it carefully studied already,” Melissa said. “He had gone over every horse in the race and broke it down just the way he had it planned. They had everything coordinated. Jose is like a trainer sitting in the jockey’s seat.”

After the Breens arrived at Belmont, everything happened quickly. Valdivia gave Ruler On Ice a flawless ride, keeping him right off Preakness (gr. I) winner Shackleford’s flank. Despite his 24-1 odds, he just would not go away. The Hall’s striking neon pink and orange silks shone like a beacon through the murk getting seemingly brighter the closer they got to the packed grandstand. When the field turned for home, the silks still were right there and showing no signs of fading.

In the stretch, Ruler On Ice splashed for home, with a stubborn Stay Thirsty on his inside and the distance-loving Brilliant Speed on his outside. Both colts pulled on near-even terms and looked ready to dispose of this little-known New Jersey horse who had never won a stakes or a race farther than 1 1/16 miles. But the gutsy Ruler On Ice refused to yield and held off both his attackers, and actually was edging clear at the wire to win by three-quarters of a length, paying $51.50.

After returning to the winner’s circle, the capricious youngster wanted no part of the blanket of carnations or the Belmont Stakes cooler on his back.

Back at the barn, as the van driver waited for the traffic to clear, Ruler On Ice amazingly had his head buried in his feed tub and never took it out until he had polished off every oat. Once he had licked his tub clean he proceeded to rip into his hay rack. It would have been difficult for anyone to believe this was a horse who had just run one of one of the most grueling and demanding Belmont Stakes in memory over swamp-like conditions.

When the Breens and Sullivan arrived, Sullivan went over to the horse and said to him, “You are the Man! You are the Man! God bless you.”

At 11 p.m., Ruler On Ice was back in his familiar Barn 11, Stall 53 at Monmouth. He was given more feed by Torres and once again cleaned out the tub.

Kelly and Melissa didn’t get home until midnight after having dinner in Manhattan, and by 6 a.m. Sunday, Breen was back on his pony, the 8-year-old Fagan’s Legacy, winner of the 2005 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont, sending out his early sets. The only visible change from the previous morning was the blanket of carnations draped over two lawn chairs outside the barn and Ruler On Ice’s Belmont Stakes webbing curled up in a bucket outside Breen’s office.

Other than that, everything was back to normal. “Just another morning,” Breen quipped.

Over in Breen’s “B” barn, which Ruler On Ice preferred over his trainer’s main barn right next door, the Belmont winner was walking the shed and showed no signs at all of the previous day’s battle. He was then led back into his stall and peered over his webbing, appearing bright and alert and more than amenable to petting.

So ended one of the most extraordinary and whirlwind 24 hours in Triple Crown history.

It has been an unforgettable journey on the classic trail this year for Breen and the Halls.

Kelly’s Heroes numbered five strong early in the year, headed by Sweet Ducky, winner of the Garden State Stakes and Seton Hall University Stakes at Monnmouth last year and second in this year’s Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream. But when Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, made the Halls an offer for the colt they couldn’t refuse, their big classic hopeful was gone.

But Breen had other weapons loaded and aimed at Churchill Downs. His most promising colt was Nacho Business, an impressive maiden winner at Gulfstream. Pants On Fire was already established having placed in the LeComte and Count Fleet Stakes, but he faltered in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) when an attempt to rate him off the pace failed. When another colt, Nacho Saint, finished a troubled fourth in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) that added another name to the mix.

Meanwhile, toiling in the frigid Northeast was Ruler On Ice, who had been beaten in an optional claimer on the Aqueduct inner track before winning an allowance race at Parx Racing at Philadelphia Park, hardly an auspicious opening act to the classics.

Then came the weekend of March 26-27. Breen decided to run Pants On Fire in the Louisiana Derby, partly as a rabbit for Nacho Business. But as it turned out, Pants On Fire scored a gutsy neck victory in the $1-million race, catapulting up the list of Derby contenders, while Nacho Business came up lame in the race.

The next day was the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III). Breen was sending Nacho Saint and convinced the Halls to also send Ruler On Ice, explaining that it didn’t cost any more to send two horses than it did one. Nacho Saint tired to finish sixth, but Ruler On Ice came flying late to finish third, beaten only 1 ½ lengths and nearly catching Astrology for second.

So, just like that the Derby landscape had changed for Breen and the Halls.

What was remarkable about their success was that Breen had picked out Ruler On Ice, Sweet Ducky, Nacho Business, and Nacho Saint at the Keeneland September yearling sale for prices ranging from $52,000 to $150,000. He purchased Ruler on Ice, who was consigned by the colt’s co-breeders, Liberation Farm and Brandwine Farm, for $100,000.

But the high from that March weekend’s success didn’t last. Pants On Fire bled a “four” on a scale of one to five in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and Ruler On Ice was plagued by a lingering low red blood count that compromised his chances in the Federico Tesio Stakes, in which he still managed to finish second.

“We thought we had him normal going into the Tesio, but he came out of the race somewhat lethargic, so we pulled some more blood on him,” Breen said. “Since he began having this problem he was given 12 blood tests and failed every one of them.”

It wasn’t until two weeks before the Belmont that his blood count began returning to normal. A week before the race, Breen reported to the Halls that the Ruler On Ice’s blood report was the best it had been in six months. The Belmont was a go. And to help the gelding focus better on the task at hand, Breen decided to add blinkers.

Of all their horses, no one could have imagined it would be Ruler On Ice that would give Breen and the Halls their first classic and grade I victory. Certainly not Eisaman, who broke such top horses last year as The Factor, Flashpoint, his homebred J J’s Lucky Train, and Plum Pretty in addition to the Halls horses.

“Watching on TV, I could empathize with Kelly,” Eisaman said. “The horse froze up and didn’t want to go into the winner’s circle, and before that he displayed his antics leaving the paddock when they were playing ‘New York, New York.’ None of that is odd for him. He was a very very difficult young student. It was hard to get him saddle broken, and it was hard to get him to go to the racetrack. He would go and stop and prop and play. He wasn’t mean, just too studdish and didn’t have his mind one iota on learning anything.

“Where he was bad was going to and from the racetrack, but once on the track he could be the consummate professional, as he was in the Belmont. He was one of the last horses to leave here last year, because we were trying to get him through his issues the best we could. We basically tried to outsmart him instead of out-muscle him. The best thing I did to outsmart him was making the call to Kelly telling him we need to castrate him. I can assure you, if anyone wants to boohoo that the Belmont winner is now a gelding, they never would have heard of Ruler On Ice the stallion. As it is, it still didn’t turn him into a choir boy as you could see before and after the Belmont.  

“But I always thought he was endlessly energetic. It was impossible to tire him, and even though his pedigree didn’t exactly shout a mile and a half, when he put his mind to something you couldn’t wear him out.”

The positive vibes surrounding Breen’s barn continued right up until the Belmont. Breen gave Pants On Fire an all-important work between races on June 10 and the colt blazed a half in :45 1/5 and showed no signs of bleeding. He now runs in the June 18 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III). Then, later that same afternoon, Breen’s top 3-year-old from last year, the graded stakes-placed Nacho Friend, won an allowance/optional claimer in his second start of the year and did it despite losing a hind shoe.

This year’s Belmont featured for the first time in history the first seven finishers of the Kentucky Derby. To add some color to the race, there were several mini-dramas leading up to it.

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International, couldn’t wait to get back to some sense of normalcy after his life had been turned upside down by Animal Kingdom’s Derby victory.

“It’s not me so much, it’s dealing with the expectations of so many people,” he said. “When you’re dealing with people’s dreams and emotions you have no idea how much pressure goes with it. I think I accomplished something very unique -- breeding a horse that won the Kentucky Derby who had never run on dirt and with a totally foreign pedigree. But there hasn’t been a whole lot of chatter about that. There has been about taking Robby Albarado off the horse and trainers that lie. People want to marginalize the best part.”

Irwin, of course, did stir up another little controversy by dismissing the chances of Shackleford at the media luncheon in Manhattan four days before the race and saying it was Mucho Macho Man that he feared, not the Preakness winner.

That prompted Shackleford’s trainer, Dale Romans, to defend his horse: “I’m not saying that was the dumbest thing Barry has ever said, but it was one of the dumbest.”

The day before, Ahmed Zayat, who owns Derby runner-up Nehro and who has horses with Romans, told the trainer flat-out, “There is no way Shackleford will get the mile and a half. I beat you before. Why shouldn’t I beat you again at a mile and a half?”

Romans laughed that one off, saying, “He’s my friend. This is how racing got started – two guys sitting around saying, ‘My horse is faster than your horse.’ We always have fun with each other.”

Then there was the Mucho Macho Man shoe issue. After losing a shoe in both the Louisiana Derby and Preakness, the colt was fitted with a new special polyurethane shoe that acts more as an extension of the foot. This horse also was being maligned, with a number of people claiming he was too light.” All trainer Kathy Ritvo would say was that the colt ate 24 quarts a day, consisting of cooked oats, molasses, and rice bran. That included an occasional 2 a.m. feeding.

Two days before the Belmont, Irish invader Master of Hounds arrived from quarantine at Aqueduct and immediately began raising a ruckus, sharing a barn with fillies for the first time in his career. It reached a point where assistant trainer T.J. Comerford had to call trainer Aidan O’Brien in Ireland and tell him if he didn’t calm down he would have to van him back to Aqueduct and ship over on race day. “Aidan, he just can’t carry on like this,” he told the trainer.

Fortunately, a spin around the Belmont track later that morning helped settle him down and he was never a problem after that.

Finally, there was Mike Repole, who was trying to salvage whatever he could from the Triple Crown after losing 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo to illness. It was up to Stay Thirsty, 12th in the Kentucky Derby, to provide him with a thrill in his first Triple Crown experience, this time in his home town.

“You want my post-race winner’s quotes now?” Repole kidded in the paddock before the race. “This is his leg. If there is one leg of the Triple Crown you’d run him in this is the one. The last three-eighths will separate the men from the boys. We’ll find out who this horse is and how good he is. He’s done with excuses. He will run to the best of his ability. We just don’t know what that is.”

The sealed sloppy conveyor belt surface all but eliminated several of the contenders, who never seemed to handle the going. Master of Hounds broke slowly and quickly found himself last. But the biggest disaster befell 5-2 favorite Animal Kingdom, who broke slightly inward, but when Mucho Macho Man came in on him hard after being crowded and intimidated by Isn’t He Perfect, Animal Kingdom clipped heels and stumbled. Jockey John Velazquez nearly fell off him and wound up losing his left iron. On such a speed-favoring track, the Derby winner’s chances seemed to sink into the quagmire. He would make a big move before finishing sixth.

“It was unbelievable,” Velazquez said. “They came over on me and clipped heels and I almost came off. I had a horrible trip after that. No way he was going to make up that much ground.”

Trainer Graham Motion added, “It’s just disappointing, because you would have liked him to have a fair shot to run his race. Johnny said he was surprised the horse didn’t go down. When you come this far you know how much goes into it and it was all sort of for nothing. These horses only have so many races in them and to waste a race like that was very disappointing.”
Shackleford, as expected, cleared the field from Post 12 and moved in to save ground. Valdivia rode a masterful race, shaking the reins at Ruler On Ice to put him in the hunt and then easing him outside Shackleford. Stay Thirsty also broke alertly and secured a comfortable spot along the inside.

The opening quarter of :23.92 was legitimate enough, but as in the Derby and Preakness, the pace slowed to a crawl, with Shackleford maintaining a length or two lead through fractions of :49.08 and 1:14.51. There was little change in the order as they neared the half-mile pole, the mile completed in 1:39.95.

“I could hear some whips cracking behind me and guys were chirping to their horses,” Valdivia said. “Jesus (Castanon on Shackleford) started to look left and then right and got into his horse, and I’m just sitting on mine.”

Velazquez had spent a good portion of the early running trying to get his foot back in the iron and was unable to put his colt any closer to the leaders. He finally was able to pull the trigger and Animal Kingdom demonstrated his explosive turn of foot by quickly passing six horses to get to within seven lengths of the lead. He actually looked like he had a shot to win nearing the head of the stretch, but he was unable to sustain his run after all his early trouble.

Approaching the quarter pole, Shackleford still led by a length, but Ruler On Ice was coming, as was Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed, who had been hung wide through most of the early running and down the backstretch.

“Turning for home, everything started going in slow motion,” Valdivia said.

At one point, the four were strung out across the track and it was anyone’s race. Brilliant Speed appeared briefly as the likely winner, but Ruler On Ice kept digging in, as did Stay Thirsty.

Said Valdivia, “At the sixteenth pole, I started thinking. ‘Wow, the true Test of the Champion. Oh, my God, I’m going to win the Belmont Stakes.’ I started to see all the camera flashes getting closer and closer to me. I saw Stay Thirsty coming up on the rail, but Ruler wasn’t slowing down. I knew then the wire was going to come up in time. It was just an unbelievable feeling.”

Valdivia’s wife, Renee, said, “He’s so passionate he can tell you anything about racing and break down each race,” she said. “He surprises a lot of people with his knowledge of the history of the sport. He can tell you about every horse he’s ever ridden.”

He’ll certainly remember this one, especially thinking back to those cold New York winter mornings working Ruler On Ice.

“I told Kelly that I liked him so much I was going to freeze my butt off to come and work with him every morning,” Valdivia said.”

Stay Thirsty kept running hard to finish second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Brilliant Speed, who was 5 ¼ lengths in front of Nehro, who just nailed Shackleford for fourth. Animal Kingdom ran evenly late to finish sixth. The final time was 2:30.88.

No one was more proud after the race than Breen’s father Jackie, who once owned a few horses.

“I used to get up early in the morning to take Kelly to a barn to learn how to ride,” he said. “He was ready to be a jockey when he put on 10 pounds and grew six inches and that was the end of his riding career. I ended up bringing him into construction with me. I’m a union steamfitter and he was an apprentice making all kinds of money. I said to him, ‘Kelly, I’ve got something to tell you; it’s not always like this.’ He said, ‘Pop, I’ve got something to tell you; I’m going back to the racetrack tomorrow.’ I told him, ‘Go ahead, that’s what you love.’

“When a kid gets up at 4 o’clock in the morning and is whistling while he’s brushing his teeth because he’s so happy to be going to the racetrack, that’s his dream and is where he belongs. I’m so proud of him. I’m busting with pride right now.”

Melissa also recalled her husband’s dedication to horses. “When he was a kid he washed 10 cars to get $25 to go out to a farm and get on a horse for a half-hour,” she said. “He went out there and got up on the horse and the horse grazed for the whole half-hour. He never moved. Kelly was mucking stalls at age 13. He would muck out 10 stalls a day just to be able to trail ride that day, he loved it so much.

“He’s always had the potential to be one of the top trainers. He’s had such a great relationship with George and Lori. They knew he had the talent and they gave him the opportunity to work with better horses.”

It was Breen’s love of horses and their distinct personalities that enabled him to embrace the challenge of a horse like Ruler On Ice.

“It’s quirky horses like Ruler on Ice who have attention deficit problems that makes Kelly want to accept the challenge of trying to find out what’s bothering them mentally and then figuring out how to settle them and get them straightened out,” Melissa said. “And Ruler On Ice has been that kind of challenge.”

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge…”

In Kelly Breen’s case, he stands in the winner’s circle of the Belmont Stakes.


Leave a Comment:


Super article Steve, and I personally think Ruler On Ice will be heard from in the future. As a gelding he is just getting to know the game, and it would be folly to dismiss him as a one hit wonder....thanks Steve

13 Jun 2011 6:09 PM

I just love it when people say this race "will separate the men from the boys" and then a gelding wins.......

An interesting season, to be sure, and thanks to all 3 chestnuts who brightened our spring.  I hope they stay healthy (and good luck to Nehro in his surgery) and feisty, and on to the Jersey Shore, Saratoga, the fall classics and the Breeders' Cup.

13 Jun 2011 6:49 PM
Mister Frisky

Only someone of your skills Steve could make that turkey of a Belmont seem to matter.Uncle Mo and Toby's Corner need to get back to the track ASAP to add some quality to this lousy bunch .MMM,MOH,Santiva et al I've seen enough of them.How everyone took the bait on that Coolmore sacrificial lamb is beyond me.The weather had a direct outcome of the Belmont and previous two stakes races.You need at least a ten large bankroll to even have a chance at the pick four.One more reason the Breeders Cup need to be permanately held at Santa Anita fast track,firm turf course 75 degrees and sunny game over

13 Jun 2011 7:04 PM
an ole railbird

good read mr haskins.congrats to kelly breen &all his staff. i am always rootin for a self made trainer with a under dog horse. salute to jose valdivia, for a good cool headed ride. the triple crown is behind us once again,with no clear 3 yr old champion. its going to be interesting to see who wins it . as long as their are people like kelly breen, going to the track ,at 4 in the morn& reporters like haskins & shulman writing about it . there will be horse racing. as long as there is horse racing, there will be arm chair handicapers, like me, for fans. come on people " lets go horse racing".

13 Jun 2011 7:42 PM

After reading your wonderful story, the sting of Animal Kingdom's bad luck has subsided in me.  Thanks Steve and may Ruler on Ice have a great career.

13 Jun 2011 7:52 PM

What a beautifully written piece, Steve.

Thank you for taking the Belmont and giving it a story all its own.  Its always so interesting to read about the connections as real people with true passion for their sport.

I wonder where Ruler On Ice goes from here.  Whatever the case, there are many 3 year olds worth watching for sure.

13 Jun 2011 7:57 PM

Great article Steve.  Although I'm glad for Ruler on Ice and his connections, I was going for Stay Thirsty through the whole classics.  I really wanted Bernardini to get a classic winner is his young career.  And for Johnny V, you're awesome.  How you stayed on Animal Kingdom and finished where you did, you are one of the best jockeys in the country if not the world.

13 Jun 2011 8:12 PM

What a fabulous article Steve! Well guys, this was my 10th Belmont that I have attended and I have just one word, "Ugh!"  It was awful, from a weather perspective I mean.  I am still coughing from being in the damp, cold, and intense wind.  My goodness, the trackside was horrible and COLD.  This was by far, the WORST, the absolute WORST Belmont I have ever attended and I was quite miserable.  But it was great seeing them come through the tunnel, and yes Shack is gorgeous.

AK was poised and head held high, but you could not see that beautiful head as the black blinker mask was covering his whole face.  Stay Thirsty and Santiva are adorable.  Macho is gangly just like his photos.  Master of Hounds looked like he wanted no part of it and Ruler On Ice freaked out at the New York song.  Ruler On Ice, the winner, was bred by my friend Rob, of Liberation Farm.  I just sent him congratulatory wishes!  I wait all year for this and the weather is uaually perfect on Belmont day, but this was terrible.  It poured in buckets as we drove over the Throgs Neck Bridge, so much so I could imagine how much slop would be on the track when we arrived.  Great title for this one Steve, "Ice, Rain, and Mud."  Like Groucho Marx said in that horse movie, "I haven't seen this much mud-slinging since the last election!" Johnny V was dripping in mud at the end.  What a terrible trip for AK, and now Nehro has an injury.  I am starting to question whether they should be forced to run in this kind of slop, since most of them hate it.  It just doesn't seem worth it risking such beautiful creatures in slop.  Oh well, for such a great Belmont field the day was strange.  I am now hoping for a Haskell rematch of all the contenders.  I saw Dale Romans signing autographs next to me and Donna Brothers got up on her horse right in front of me, looking good Donna!  I saw Ken Rudolph of TVG and Mike Repole.  As for my designer dress and hat?  I had a winter jacket over it and carried my hat and donned a wool cap it was that cold.  I wish we could do it all over again in better weather and no slop. I got to pet Pom Pom, one of the brown work horses in the tunnel.  He has a red pom pom on his forehead and red, white, and blue pom poms down his mane.  Very cute indeed.  So here we are again, another year of 3 different winners in all 3 tc races, no closer to a Triple Crown Winner than before.  But it was a great TC run with you, Steve, and I would have not missed it for the world!  

13 Jun 2011 8:26 PM
The Deacon

Great article Steve as always: You are truly a gifted writer. Your ability with the pen rivals Dirk Nowitzki's jump shot.  I am very happy for the connections of Ruler on Ice, they deserve it,  but the past few years of our 3 year old crop leaves something less then desired. This is just my opinion though. Mediocrity has landed like a thud in the horse racing industry.

Lastly, Johnny V needs to be taken off Animal Kingdom. This is the 2nd poor ride in a row. It is inexcusable to not be paying attention and clip heels in such a big race. Johnny V is nothing but an average jockey who happens to be riding for one of the top stables in America.

13 Jun 2011 8:31 PM

Thank you thank you thank you Steve!  As always, I was enthralled by your writing and now have a new appreciation for Ruler on Ice and his wonderful connections. Your words always take me to my "happy place" where I read about these magnificent horses with a big smile and a grateful heart.  It's great to know all these details about the horse as well as Kelly Breen and Jose Valdivia--it's always fun to have a new horse to follow.  Even if Ruler on Ice does nothing else in his career he still won The Test of The Champion and no one can take that away.  

13 Jun 2011 8:43 PM
calico cat

Mr. Haskin,

This article is a perfect example of why you are my favorite turf-writer. Instead of moaning and groaning about how mediocre this 3yr old crop is, you tell us the story behind the surprising result in this year's Belmont.

I don't think that I'm the only one who knew little about Ruler On Ice and his connections. I was more familiar with Jose Valdivia, since he rode here in So. Calif. I liked him very much but had no idea he was such a student of racing history.

I suspect that many of these "average" horses will bring us much excitement through the summer and the fall. We don't know yet who will be the top 3yr old or HOY and I think that's just wonderful!!! Don't you?

13 Jun 2011 9:33 PM

Steve, as always, a great read.  I felt as though I was right there with the Breen's reliving their entire day with their ADD horse who sounds like a hoot!  Thank you, again, for taking me to Belmont!

13 Jun 2011 10:28 PM
bill daly

This has certainly been a break out year for Kelly Breen.  What I love about this guy is the fact that he sticks with jockeys like Valdivia in the big races.  He repays loyalty and you don't see that happen every day.  Great to see that happen.  The horse is sort of a metaphor for this year's Triple Crown series.  A real enigma.

13 Jun 2011 10:32 PM
Needler in Virginia

As always, Steve, a masterful column. You covered all the bases, broke the race down perfectly, introduced us to the horse, and put us up there in the irons with Valdivia. Now THAT'S the way to wrap up one of the strangest Belmonts I can remember........thanks!!

Cheers and safe trips.

13 Jun 2011 10:33 PM

It is nice to see that a trainer and jockey that have never won a Triple Crown race earn a victory in the Belmont.  I am a big fan of Monmouth Park so I was very happy to see won one the locals win. Congrats to all involved and to the Champion Ruler On Ice.

13 Jun 2011 11:37 PM


Just before the Belmont an article was written whether there would ever be another Triple Crown winner, I think it will be because the horse is just an absolute freak of nature and will win despite what the trainer does to him. Because if we have to depend on today's trainers and there methods of trainer we won't see one for a long time.  Today's horse are pretty on the outside but hollow on the inside they have no base in their horses.   Trainers today are too soft on their horses and many don't know what a work out is or the purpose of it.   Look at every horse that ran in the Belmont regardless of their running style the preverlant work was either a 4 or 5 furlong workout.   The favorite AK had one mediocre 5 furlong work before the race and Shackleford the same, contrast to Bold Forbe a front running fool trained by the late Laz Barrera had two works (He had won the KD and 3rd in Prk his last work 2 days before the Preakness was not a smart one though 45 and change for 4f totally useless)  was given a 1 1/2 mile work out in 2:43min and 5 day later a 1 mile workout in 1:50mbg.  in order to build endurance.    He won the Belmont.    This Belmont by comparison was not a very good one the race was slow and winning time was slow Shackleford tired though the fractions thru the race were slow.  AK beside his problem start never lost contact with the field, (even Zenyatta was farther back in the race then he was in the BC  and she ran 1/4 mile less) and after making a big move on the turn "hung" in the stretch.  These are signs of under (and mis) trained, not tired horses.   Steve you and other horse writers need to start calling these trainers out   Look at the way Lucien Lauren brought up Secretariat to the Belmont,  Don't tell me today's horses are different the only thing different is the training methods.   Start looking at distance races looking at all the workouts for the most part they are for the most part 4 to 5ful works regardless of he running style. The 1 mile workout has gone the way of the dodo.   Look at the way Buddy Delp used it with the Bid and they weren't no tip toe in the park works either.  Horse racing will continue to go down hill unless training method revert back to the "Golden Oldies" days      

14 Jun 2011 12:26 AM

A super article, Steve. Seriously, I enjoyed this entire triple crown season: Animal Kingdom was off my radar before the Derby, but he's sure on it now - that move he made circling the field at the Belmont impressed the heck out of me; I thought there for a minute that he actually had a chance. And along the way, I've gained all kinds of respect for Shackleford - what a lot of heart he has. And, sorry to all the "glass half empty" people, I thought the Belmont was great. Three worthy finishers in the money - they showed they had the goods when it counted. (I've been in Stay Thirsty's corner since last year, so his Belmont performance was especially vindicating because of all the guff he's taken.) I hope to see all of these horses this summer and into the fall, and also, best of luck to Nehro with his surgery.

14 Jun 2011 1:10 AM

Steve, want to echo Zookeeper's comments.   Who cares if this crop is great or mediocre.  They all competed like they were bred to and gave racing fans our money's worth.   As did you MAGNIFICO reporting skills.  

I had a chance to attend the 2007 Breeders' Cup and one morning on the backside, i accidentally stumbled into Kelly Breen's barn looking for directions.   He couldn't have been more of a gentleman and i congratulate him on his well earned victory.  

On a personal note, i was a Nehro fan througout this spring, but did not bet him to win in the Belmont.   Instead, i played Stay Thirsty on a hunch.   The Repole Stables' charge had registered 3 excellent published moves on the Belmont surface and a familiarity with the the footing is always a big plus.   He ran huge and a big congrats to Mike Repole for handling himself with so much class throughout all his travails this spring.    

Lastly, my numbers are any combo of 2-3-5-6.   I see those digits come in so often.    With AK and Shackleford dominating the leadup, i felt i couldn't leave them out.   I played Stay Thirsty to win and an exactor with Stay Thirsty, Brilliant Speed, my boy Nehro and the two faves.   I left out Breen's ROI.   Ironic when you consider the other ROI for the exactor, tri and super were off the charts.    I felt like Robbie Albarado the day after the Derby.    The super paid $74,000 and all i cash is a place ticket on Stay Thirsty, yet my wallet remains parched.   Again, GREAT JOB STEVE.  

14 Jun 2011 1:27 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for writing this.  I eagerly devoured the story as soon as I brought up the Bloodhorse website.  I enjoyed the background and the details about Ruler On Ice's history and connections.  Your re-cap made sense of what I saw, and rounded out the experience of watching a gelding that I had not considered betting take the test of champions.  My husband bet Ruler on Ice to place.  The Wife Knows Nothing.

As we watched the Belmont from my daughter's living room in Seattle my mom and son, strangers to horse racing, fired off questions right up to the time the horses were loaded into the gate.  At that point I had to advise them that it is important to listen to the call.  

After the Belmont my son and I headed to Emerald Downs to catch the last few races there.  All the way to the small-time track, my son asked very pointed questions about racing.  He was shocked when I explained what a gelding is.  He was even less impressed when I laid out everything from possible second careers, to the worst possible outcomes for the ones that get hurt, and the ones that are not fast.

This young man with very little prior exposure to Thoroughbred racing said he thought races (and other big time sports) were fixed.  I tried to explain how the the track condition, and Animal Kingdom's trip affected this race.  Imagine how shocked I was that a potential new fan had that impression of the sport.  I found myself trying to defend my interest in the sport.

I struggled with my responsibility to tell the truth.  I did my best to defend the sport and tried to explain the dis-incentives for fixing races.  I wasn't entirely confident in answering that charge.  You can imagine how hollow my assurances that a colt is worth so much more in the breeding shed sounded when a gelding had just won the Belmont.  

When we got to Emerald Downs I wanted to show my son how to place a bet.  I threw five dollars down on the three horse, Dre's K, in the 9th race.  The handsome bay gelding won.  I saw my son light up like a boy with a new toy when he realized that he got one.  We went from watching the cream of the 3 year-old crop in the Belmont, to watching an unknown gelding create a new potential fan.    

14 Jun 2011 6:10 AM
Don from PA/DE

Fab fact and emotionally filled write up again Steve...one more tidbit of info..in ROC's second and maiden winning race at DP on Oct 4, IN THE SLOP, I saw him win, hopping at the start, and win going away, with Joe Bravo.. and beat Prents Honor and TOBY'S CORNER who came in 3rd! When the Belmont track came up so WET I threw out my previous weeks of study and seeing and remembering that Oct 4 race gave me a big winner...take a look at this race...also did you all notice that jockey JV Jr. (Valdivia) was sparkling clean after the Bemont? Look as if he stopped off at the Dry Cleaners before entering the Winner's Circle...he deserved to win, and what a payoff! Don

14 Jun 2011 6:32 AM
Rachel NH

Irascible geldings with talent have bright futures and we get to watch them for a looong time...Go, baby, go! ♥

Can't wait for the fall series.

Even after all these years I still don't understand how Beyer figures are assigned...in the last 20 years of Beyer figures of the Belmont, Summerbird ran the 4th fastest Belmont (2:27.5) yet has one of the lowest Beyers...100...the same as ROI, who runs on a sealed slop track and gets a lower figure than slower winners on tracks rated fast...

I know it's more than spedd and time, but sometimes I think it's too subjective...especially if the pundits think a horse is better than the race he ran...e.g. 2 great runnings of the Belmont by 2 really nice colts...Empire Maker and Summer Bird...EM runs in 2:28.6 and gets a 110 and SB runs a full second faster (2:27.5)and gets a 100 and Birdstone ran a full second faster than EM and gets only a 101 while running down Smarty Jones.

Oh well, that's why I listen to myself...and Steve! ;-)

14 Jun 2011 7:14 AM
Sue MacGray

Great Article Steve! And also interesting comments by Overwatch. It may be true because the TBs in England don't seem to be weakening or slower and they train differently over there, too.

Anyway, as someone who bet on ROI to win, I enjoyed reading about the horse and his connections. The funny thing is I wasted a bit of $ on the favorites Friday night and then while reading the program Saturday, decided at about 2 in the afternoon that I should bet on ROI to win. I think it was a combination of his grandsire (FP), liking the track, and his record (7 races, 2-2-2), as well as the fact he was better in 2011 than 2010. In addition, I had read here (maybe your previous piece) that he liked the mud. And finally as a Red Wings/hockey fan, I liked the name :)

After the race I discovered that he has many excellent runners (mostly female) on his dam's side. I don't know if he'll do anything else, but he does seem to be maturing/improving and the blinkers obviously helped him focus. The rest of the season will probably hold further surprises. I still think AK is a good horse, and that he could have won if not for the bad trip. I'm hoping Uncle Mo, The Factor and Premier Pegasus return soon. Thanks again for a great article.

14 Jun 2011 8:01 AM

Ruler On Ice was a deserving winner of the Belmont.I think his human connections really helped him utilize the talent he has and made ALL the right decisions leading up to the race,and in the race to help him win.He reminds me of Mine That Bird in the sense that he really moves up on an off track.Their Brisnet mud stats are very similar in that both sire and dam are in the high teens,the Birds were both 20s.I think as a frontrunner that loved the surface he was able to get the right TRIP and peak at the right time.I think ALL three TC winners were aided by the TRIP they got in their races.Their are no dominant 3yo 9-10F horses at this time.I will bet accordingly and look forward to more exotic high payout races from this group the rest of the year.

14 Jun 2011 9:11 AM

I'm curious how you think the horses have changed since steroids were made illegal??  I hope they'll be maybe a little slower but a lot safer.

Thanks for a great column.  You always bring us along with you and it's as though we were right there!

14 Jun 2011 9:50 AM

Rachel NH - ditto to what you said.  The only thing I use Beyers for anymore is to help determine if a horse is on the upswing or going downhill.  But even for that purpose they're far from foolproof.

And good article, Mr. Haskin.  When the track came up muddy/sloppy, I seriously considered betting ROI.  But when he almost dropped his rider in the post parade I changed my mind, thinking he was too wound up to win the Belmont.

Looking forward to seeing him in future races.  Win or lose he's entertaining.

14 Jun 2011 10:34 AM
Fran Loszynski

One thing I love about horseracing is we can laugh too! I loved it when when the reporter made a comment after about Ruler On Ice still being figity and anxious and Kelly took it right on the cuff and said "Oh yeah, he's nutty!" and I'm sure after he said "And my nut just won the Belmont!" Congrats to the owners, trainer and jockey for a great race. And Johnnie V. your ride was awesome, you are a pro!

14 Jun 2011 10:35 AM

To me that video tour we got of Belmont Park from Steve and Lenny was worth far more than any winning ticket I might have cashed from the race. Glad you got to visit the burial site of Ruffian Steve...that really gave me a lump in my throat.

14 Jun 2011 11:27 AM

I enjoyed the triple crown races this year although they took a toll on my bankroll.  The darn Sunland Derby curse hit me again.  Without a dominant horse it made the handicapping a real challenge.  Thank you for the insight into Kelly Breen and his operation.  Once again, you interlaced a report on the race with the human elements.  Bravo.

14 Jun 2011 11:43 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for another Haskin-told back story on the Belmont winner! His journey to the carnations seems complicated and unlikely, but he did prevail. I, personally, had not even heard the name Ruler On Ice until the post position draw. Both he and Mr. Breen seem to be unique characters!

Alex'sBigFan----During the broadcast I wondered about the fate of your couture hat as the rain blew and others were wearing trenchcoats! At least you were able to see the horses in person!

Deacon----I'm not sure that Velazquez could have avoided what happened so quickly out of the gate. He was "sandwiched" and struck from the right with no available space for recourse on the left or in front. I so wanted Animal Kingdom to do well, but after seeing replays from various angles, I don't think it was JV's fault really. (Not that I have any true knowledge on the subject.) As I said on Steve's other thread, I just hope AK doesn't have any latent injuries.      

14 Jun 2011 12:06 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

Wowie, what a beautiful article!  Just terrific!

14 Jun 2011 12:16 PM

Thanks, Steve, for taking us behind the scenes of Team Ruler on Ice and Team Breen.  What an impressive record Kelly has at the sales!

14 Jun 2011 12:40 PM
Old Timer

Wonderful article as usual, Steve, you really know how to tell a story!

Looking backwards, Ruler on Ice's past performances show a pretty good race in the Sunland Derby (is this weird... two of the last three Sunland Derby's provide a Classic winner.) However then you can also say that the Tesio winner who beat him finished tenth in the Preakness which wasn't very flattering.

I don't know if it was the blinkers or the slop or what, but it sure was a shocker.

I can't wait to see how the three classic winners shake out as the year goes on.

14 Jun 2011 12:44 PM
Zen's Auntie

Good wrap up Mr Haskin as always. I didnt get to watch the Belmont and the whole thing was anticlimactic for me - my favorites performed soso but I was glad to see Stay Thirsty put in a nice effort. I have always liked him.    

I love the gelding Ruler On Ice. I hope that someday he gets a great retirement but FIRST perhaps we can root for him in the open hdc division. I know I will.

Ok moving on to other 3 year olds does anyone want to claim 3 year old Maiden Uncle Joe from the 9th at Belmont June 16th with me?  

He has dropped to the 16K maiden claiming level at Belmont - This is a Reeves owned, Kathy Ritvo trained Tapit colt, check him out.

This colt once finished ahead of Brilliant Speed and is now 16K??? this was a 220K yearling.  16 of us could take him for a grand each...

OH the possibilities for this colt... Somebody please take advantage of this and let me on board...

14 Jun 2011 12:56 PM

I was one happy lady on Saturday and still am. I don't remember the last time a horse like Ruler On Ice

crossed my path and seeing the odds, wonderful, just wonderful. My reverse Exacta was with Animal Kingdom.  The only thing that ruined my day was the reaction of Graham Motion at the start of the race - seemed he cared little about Animal Kingdom after the bump, he just looked down in disgust. I was more worried about what was happening with the horse and jockey than he was.  And, I take issue with his remark "to waste a race like that was very disappointing". "Waste a race"???.  Sorry, I truly love the sport of horseracing but care more for the horses than I do the owners and trainers.  Can't wait for both Ruler On Ice and Animal Kingdom's next race(s).

14 Jun 2011 12:57 PM

Great story on the Ruler On Ice crew, Steve.  At least we get to know them a little better.  When ROI won, folks just said, "wha???  Who was that?" Me, I'm just waiting for Pants On Fire to return to the track; I'll be watching out for him.

As I settled myself in on Belmont day to watch all the stakes on TV, we finally got to the Belmont post parade.  Suddenly, all of the horses became a bit shorter and a lot stockier as a red banner forced its way across the top of the screen...with a tornado warning.  As far as I was concerned, no way do I leave the race now when I've waited so long.  The storm would have to wait.  I was glad I stayed in place, and was able to watch a great race as the storms subsided.  Unfamiliar with ROI, I was simply thrilled Stay Thirsty did so well.  He doesn't have the speed of To Honor And Serve, but he is a grinder and should do justice to his Daddy when he hits Saratoga.  I thought Brilliant Speed looked magnificent in the post parade and on the track, doing a great job.  Felt terrible for AK, and didn't really expect Shack to get the distance.  I did, however, expect a better run from Nehro, and he tried hard but couldn't catch the top 3.

Watched Ascot today.  First race, Goldikova tried her hardest, but she's a small mare especially next to the winner, a fully muscled and grown Canford Cliffs whose speed was unbelievable.  Now Frankel, winning his 7th straight, came awfully close to an upset by Zoffany.  My picks for the rest of the races just couldn't do better than 5th, and I really liked Gatepost.  Kieran Fallon was off his mounts today, with Eddie O'Hearn taking over.  And I'm looking forward to the BC races, especially the turf mile.  We know Goldie will be there, Frankel could be a maybe...and what if Canford Cliffs comes too?  WOW!

14 Jun 2011 1:34 PM
Mister Frisky

I think part of Graham Motion's reaction after AK almost went down was he went against his better judgement the only reason AK ran in the Preakness is because he won the derby.This guy won't run a 5000 dollar claimer 3 times in 5 weeks,much less  the top horse in his barn.Without a seven figure bonus attached to winning the triple crown he should have given the horse a break and he knew it.

14 Jun 2011 1:44 PM

Thank you for a very interesting, informative article on the Belmont winner and his connections. I hadn't heard of Ruler On Ice before the big race either, but he certainly impressed me. There was no quit in him. I was also glad to see Stay Thirsty finish so well as I have always liked him and his owner Mike Repole. I think Johnny V. did a masterful job in staying on Animal Kingdom after the horse was nearly driven to his knees. So much for people who say that jockeys aren't really athletes! There was no way I could see, in watching the replays, that JV could have avoided getting hit. There are always those who can't do anything but criticize, no matter what the circumstances. I congratulate all the winners and their connections in this year's Triple Crown series and I look forward to seeing these horses race later this year.

14 Jun 2011 2:02 PM

Thanks for the good read again Steve. The Belmont was still pretty disappointing from my perspective. With AK out of the money (it would have been great to have a legitimate 3 year old in the lead with a win, second, win in the classics) but the field really looks a mess now. I know the other race times were slow but 2:30 was pathetic...lost a lot of enthusiasm for this bunch. Agree with Sue, sure hope some of the big names that were sidelined come back strong or AK and Shack come out strong in the summer classics. I also found Motion's comments that AK was out of it after the bad break so disheartening knowing that even the trainer felt this horse was no Zenyatta. She was never out of any race no matter how far back...and for Pete's sake, the Belmont is a mile and a half! I know that's a tall measuring stick but what can I say...ho hum, yawn.

14 Jun 2011 2:23 PM

I still believe that putting too much stock into the results of the Belmont and judging these 3 yr olds is not being realistic.  The muddy track, bad trips and injuries are all part of racing but to come down on Graham Motion for his reactions is unfair if you dont really know the man.  Also, he was probably following the wishes of the over zealous owner to run the horse and of course had no idea the bad incident would happen. And if the horse is healthy, why not run him.  JV's and Motion's reactions are simply human IMO.  I hope Ruler on Ice can do well again but with a fast track and everyone getting a fair trip next time, let's see what happens. Should be interesting.

14 Jun 2011 3:00 PM
Barbara W

Great article, Steve! I have to admit I was for gutsy Shackleford (reminds me of MTB), but what a great background story you have given us on ROI. Some were perturbed by Breen's comments about his being "crazy"  and thought he was denigrating his horse, but this explains it perfectly. Thank you so much.

14 Jun 2011 3:02 PM

I try never to miss one of your articles and this one is yet another example why.  I love the personal tidbits you give on both the horse and the human connections. I don't bet, just love the sport for the animals. So little details like Ruler on Ice licking out his feed tub and Master of Hounds acting up bc he was stabled w/ fillies are the very thing I want to read about.  

14 Jun 2011 4:59 PM

Steve, thanks for another great wrap-up.  Much appreciated.  Thanks also for the video tour.  Belmont is such a beautiful place to enjoy racing.  A group of us have done the Derby and Preakness in past years and next year's Belmont is on our bucket list.  Maybe a Triple Crown Winner?  It's about time.

Fran L.:  Agree with your input about Mike Battaglia trying to interview Kelly Breen while ROI was doing his antics.  It seemed that Kelly was trying to protect Mike and his crew from his Belmont winner's antics.  A great TV visual.

14 Jun 2011 5:40 PM

There is nothing wrong with what Motion said. When a horse runs his eyeballs out but is comprimised by bad luck it is a waste of an effort.A racehorse only has so many races in them and in this game you have to take full advantage of a winning effort because it may not come around again. I feel his pain.

14 Jun 2011 6:52 PM
Paula Higgins

Great article Steve. You never fail to rise to the challenge of making a race, and all that led up to it, live again. GoldenBroom you are so right. I said the same thing to my husband after the Belmont. That was what made Zenyatta so great, she was never out of it. I don't think Animal Kingdom was either. He just couldn't get there. I think Ruler On Ice minded the mud less than the others but he certainly is quite a character. Will be interesting to see how he does down the road.

14 Jun 2011 9:53 PM

Poor Master of Hounds stuck with the fillies!  Imagine his ruckus, "Help, someone, anyone!  Get me out of here, if the Ballydoyle Press finds this out I'm doomed!  I'll be called a sissy, help, anyone, Woof, Woof, Help!!!!"  I give him  a lot of credit just for making the post parade.

I agree with some above that Motion did or said nothing wrong.  He is a class act and AK had a bad trip clipping heels or getting bumped.  I don't think Johnny V had much control over it, he had to get his left foot back in the irons, I don't know how he managed all he did.  Great job, Johnny V.  It should have been their race but I like what Irwin said, they have to find the right venue for AK to shine as the best 3 yr. old and prove himself once and for all.  From the dejected look on Johnny V's face it was just bad luck.  We may have seen a different outcome had there been a dry track and no clipping.  The whole day was really strange, much like Big Brown's Belmont day.  Hopefully Monmouth entices with incentives too to bring Shack et al back in the Haskell.  It is such a great track and great race to attend. And Monmouth is home base for Ruler On Ice, and his papa, Roman Ruler won the Haskell there.  Should be interesting to see how these 3 yr. olds evolve during the summer.  Good luck wishes to Nehro in his surgery and for a speedy recovery.  Looks like Mr. Zayat really loves him.

15 Jun 2011 12:23 AM

I wasn't surprised that Shackleford finished 5th.  The logic was that he was a front runner whose top distance is the Preakness distance, and anything farther is pushing it.  Aside from that, I was shocked at Master of Hounds and Animal Kingdom, each with his own issues that day.  The sloppy track helped keep the field honest, and Ruler on Ice did what he has done well in his starts...finished in the money. I was happy for Stay Thirsty's crew, who needed some consolation with Uncle Mo's absence. Meanwhile...the track looked like an ice skating rink and I just hoped for the best.

15 Jun 2011 12:29 AM
The Deacon

I believe that it is a jockeys responsibility to keep his horse from trouble. AK post was favorable to avoid the clipping of another horse's heels. Johnny V should have in my opinion not been in that position. We were upset with Stewwart Elliot's burn out ride aboard Smarty Jones that cost him the Triple Crown, and although it may not be the same Johnny V certainly cost AK the Preakness and compromised his Belmont chances. It's just my opinion, we can all agree to disagree.......again great blog Steve and congrats to the connections of ROI..........

15 Jun 2011 3:06 AM

I'm always needing a box of tissues with your articles, Steve!  Happy for Breen and the rest.

I am disappointed that the superior horse doesn't get to really show it.  I just think ANIMAL KINGDOM is / was the best horse in the Triple Crown.  He'll be heard from again and the Breeder's Cup Classic is already shaping up to be a doozy!

Hopefully, Frankel and Canford Cliffs will come now that there's no Zenyatta to be afraid of.

15 Jun 2011 7:01 AM

Although, Frankel may not be looking like a 1 1/4 horse...

15 Jun 2011 7:02 AM

Kudos, Mr Haskins for another excellent article.

The remark about the reason for the need to geld him reminds me of when so many around the track used to grouse about John Henry being a gelding, thus, not being able to become a sire.  The response was the same.  "Hey, you wouldn't even know who John Henry was if he had not been gelded".

One point about this young colt.  That bottom side is superb.  The "Champagne" ladies have been bred very well.  There is even L'Enjolour in the breeding of this colt.  But, interesting that a son of Alydar was the grandsire of this colt.  I remember when Lucas was trying to hide the great speed and talent of Saratoga Six.  He wanted to spring the colt on Chief's Crown in the Derby.  So, when Cordero came west to ride him, he kept him under wraps.  In his DM win, Cordero had a comfortable lead in the far turn, but, he was pulling Saratoga's head into his chest. Rumors were Lucas would only work him very fast, but, just before dawn. If he had not bowed before the Norfolk, who knows how great he could have become.  Imagine him dueling with Spend a Buck down the lane.

15 Jun 2011 7:42 AM

One of Steve's best pieces. Now, hopefully, a follow up story from Steve or Jason will be forthcoming on Velazquez's accusation against Maragh for careless riding that was possibly premeditated revenge against the connections of Mucho Macho Man and that ended Animal Kingdom's chances three or four jumps from the start. The head on replay certainly looks damning and calls into question Maragh's claim that his was but a slight move to the left.

15 Jun 2011 10:29 AM
Karen in Texas

Deacon----Agreeing to disagree is always a fair strategy! Animal Kingdom has had 5 jockeys in 7 starts, and I would have been happy if Robby had been allowed to keep the mount...

15 Jun 2011 11:51 AM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the wonderful recap of the Belmont and connections involved - as always a great piece of writing.

I especially enjoyed it, because even though I was there and had a seat that was rained out - I couldn't see much of anything due to the crowding.  So, thanks for everything I could not see.  I'm happy for Ruler On Ice.  I didn't bet on him, but that doesn't matter.  He ran a very good race in the slop and it was slop!  The synopsis on him in the PP book was not very flattering regarding his chances to win.  Even though I liked his record of 6-2-2-1, the write-up changed my mind.  But, it is a horse race and we take our chances - I'm an occasional bettor who places very small ones.  I'm just happy that they all came home sound - that is more important to me than winning.

Thanks again for the great recap.  Now, when I watch the tape, I'll have a better understanding of the race and how it unfolded.

15 Jun 2011 12:22 PM

Not to take anything away from ROI, he is a wonderful horse, but I was so sad watching this race.  Given a chance to run, Animal Kingdom would have won if not for the bumping.  Thankfully, he didn't actually go down - but he was soo close.  I admire Johnny V. for managing to stay on and actually get him running with no major injuries.  After the race, I just walked away from the TV.  Shackelford too ran a great race, didn't think he could go the distance, but the guys all heart.

15 Jun 2011 2:14 PM

Kudos to the New York stewards in suspending Maragh for his reckless riding in the Belmont.  Of course it wont change things but at least AK's fans feel somewhat vindicated not only by this decision but in races he has yet to run in.

15 Jun 2011 2:49 PM

derblin:...agree.  He was suspended for interference, and deserved it.  

I still feel AK was the best horse in the race, considering what he went through, and still managed 6th.

BigTex: Forget the BC Classic.  It appears Canford Cliffs is coming to the BC but will probably do the turf mile against Goldikova.  That may be the biggest race of the BC, especially if Frankel joins the line-up, since Frankel might not take to a greater distance than the mile.

Deacon: Johnny V really didn't do anything wrong.  He was impeded and this was validated by Rajiv Maragh's suspension.

15 Jun 2011 7:00 PM

I agree with derblin.  No, it doesn't change things but I do think AK didn't have a chance because of the near fall. Yes, I feel much, much better.  Looking forward to lots more from AK!

15 Jun 2011 7:39 PM
Your Only Friend

Good article.....

Find interesting the Belmont winner was hardly mentioned before the race by expert horse race writers/commentators....

15 Jun 2011 7:48 PM

Yes, kudos to the New York Stewards for the Maragh suspension.  I find it hard to take that a jockey would take out his frustrations on a horse, namely Mucho Macho Man.  The poor horse does not know and did not change him from being his mount, if he was upset he should have taken the issue up with the owners, not compromise the safety of other horses and riders during the race.  Maragh did not act with a horse first mentality, he acted with a Maragh first mentality and should have rose above being taken off MMM and made the best of it with some dignity and degree of sportsmanship. Interfering with and deliberately endangering others is uncalled for.  Hopefully Maragh will mature and learn from this act of misplaced anger and ride on more intelligently in the future.

15 Jun 2011 8:01 PM
The Deacon

Karen in Texas:  Yes I agree, agreeing to disagree is a very fair stategy. It is probably more of a different opinion then a disagreement though. I always love your posts and respect your insight and knowledge. I just feel AK was the best horse in the race and didn't get to prove it. Kind of reminded me of the Belmont Stakes with Big Brown and Kent Desormeaux............

15 Jun 2011 8:20 PM
Linda in Texas

Overwatch - i have to agree with you. The horses are pampered, kept in their stalls, and not out running or jogging around the track.

I remember the days of workouts everyday. None of this 1 practice session a week before a big race.

Horses are built to run. This idea of a racehorse only having a few races in him would not be true if

they had more training and built up their stamina and endurance.

Loved your article Steve, great notes from the Ruler and Pants Barn and not to forget Sweet Ducky, i wonder how he is?

Mr. Breen looked like a carefree teenager walking from his seat to the winner's circle flipping his hat in the air and skipping along like a kid going to a basketball game in a park!

Ruler was not going to have one thing to do with that blanket of posies they were trying to pitch over his posterior! Nor was he going into the winner's circle til Mr. Breen grabbed the reins and said so the T V camera picked it up, "this horse is nuts." Once Ruler heard that familiar voice he walked right in. That must be one fun barn to work in and around.

The Animal Kingdom issue was very disappointing. I saw it immediately and wondered what was wrong til finally the announcer caught it. The suspension of Maragh will do nothing to change the outcome. And i only hope that

Animal Kingdom comes back strong and all of the original 7 plus the new kid in the rink and race at Saratoga to make those races interesting to pull in lots of spectators. Saratoga Springs is a beautiful place and as i have said before, my original favorite racetrack or my favorite original racetrack of all.  

Have to agree that right now there is no one single 3 year old standout or repeat performer yet. I am still watching and waiting!

So on to more races.

Sorry Alex'sBestFan that your Belmont trip was not a happy one.

Wear that fancy chapeau at the next

race you attend that has a pretty sunny day! And thanks for your

notes about the race.

Thanks again Steve, that was a good one and congrats to New Jersey and New York for the 1  2

finishers in The Belmont. I was so happy for Stay Thirsty and Mike Repole, at least he got a little redemption for all of his worries about Mo and it came in his home state of New York.

15 Jun 2011 9:36 PM
Linda in Texas

Sharon-it was sad to watch Animal Kingdom,no other word would fit the moment. It was indeed a lost moment and one that won't be presented with odds like they were again. Mr. Motion was not disgusted, he is a man, his heart hurt just like mine does when things like that happen and i don't have a poker face either.

Zen's Auntie, on Uncle Joe, it is not easy for me to not respond to your call for 16 of us to claim him on Thursday. What could possibly be the reason a $220,000

yearling is going in a $16,000 claimer? I almost wish Mike Repole would claim him then he would have Uncle Joe and Uncle Moe.

16 Jun 2011 12:04 AM
Your Only Friend

Always wondered ....when coming out of the gate with Horse that size ...full of fire.....ready too go......how much control can a Jock have......always noticed the outside horse coming out of gate breaks too his right big time....

16 Jun 2011 8:37 AM

Do you think RM would have rode the same way if MMM was trained by Pletcher. I don't think so. It's no big deal if Ritvo doesnt ride him again. Anyway,it was probably  directed towards RD for snaking the mount from him.

16 Jun 2011 10:19 AM
Linda in Texas

One sentence statements(i will try) to keep from being too long winded.

1. Thank You Steve for the    backtrack stories. Loved Them.

2. If Maragh truly caused what

  happened because of vengeance

  toward Mucho Macho Man

  then i feel his 10 day to 7

  day suspension was not severe

  enough. It needs to be doled out

  to include the number of horses

  he caused to be checked.

3. Loved Kelly Breen's walk to the

  winner's circle, flipping his

  hat into the air not unlike a

  young kid on his way to a

  basketball hoop in a park.

4. "The Horse is Nuts" comment

  by Breen picked up by the mike

  and once Ruler On Ice heard

  his trainer he          

  walked right in, but no amount

  of words from anyone would give

  ROI the desire to accept the

  blanket of posies they were

  trying to load onto him

  Breen's barn must be a fun place

  to be every day.

5. Admired Stay Thirsty and his

  ability to stay the course and

  finish. He looked great in the

  post parade and he did not

  quit til he got to the wire.

6. No 3 year old has won the

  title of best yet. Lots more

  racing before that is deter-

  mined and i think that is a

  great thing for racing. Now we

  all have to continue to follow

  the races til one finally

  stands above the others. Then

  the comments will start all

  over as to who deserves it.

7. Agree with Overwatch,

  Silverfoot and Slew. Especially

  with Overwatch on the training.

Numbering helps me cut down on my

habit of writing too much. Looks

a bit grade schoolish, but works!

TGIT =Thank Goodness It's Thursday.


16 Jun 2011 1:48 PM

So now I learn that Animal Kingdom was injured, and I'm not only sad but feel like really crying.  I can only hope he will be back in time for Breeder's Cup.  Oh, what an awful race that Belmont was!

16 Jun 2011 5:24 PM

This is what I had feared from the heel clipping, now we have Animal Kingdom injured with a tiny fracture or fissure.  Was it there before, who knows, but the incident surely exacerbated it.  Now I am heartbroken that Animal Kingdom is injured.  I had written to Rob of Liberation Farm that I hoped they (Motion) would be proactive and Xray AK anyway after the Belmont, he's in great hands at New Bolton.  As for the 7-20 day suspension for Maragh?  That is just a mere vacation, he needs a 60 - 90 day suspension which would pose more of a hardship where he can reflect upon the severity and repercussions of his action.  Now a horse has to miss his entire summer season because of it. Get well Animal Kingdom, all Steve's bloggers love you!

16 Jun 2011 6:11 PM

Karen In Texas,

Good point, I like it.  I think they should have let Robby A. decide if he was healed and strong enough to ride AK in the Preakness.  As much as I love Johnny V, that seemed the fair thing to do. They won the Derby so why change a winning combination at a critical point?  This 11th hour musical jockeying seems to be backfiring with strange rides and deliberate acts.  No wonder their stress level is so high.

16 Jun 2011 6:23 PM

Sure hate to hear about Animal Kingdom's injury. If I read it right, this could have been in the beginning stages even before the Belmont. After what he endured at the start, the injury worsened.  W hen I heard about the horse being stiff the next day I was concerned.  With Bramlage and Richardson looking after him, he has the best care there is and hopefully will be back in training soon but not too soon.  Get Well soon, AK, and stay positive Mr Irwin.

16 Jun 2011 8:10 PM
Fran Loszynski

Animal Kingdom has the curiosity of a cat you can see it in his eyes and this will enable him to heal quickly.  He will watch his own progress and will want to get better. He'll be back and in full spirits! I have to say one thing though in Rajiv's defense, he became a jockey like all other jockeys because he likes to ride and loves racehorses; I don't think he intentionally meant to hurt anyone especially himself.  We forget but any turn or move could have easily taken his life too and I applaud the trainer of Animal Kingdom because in his heart he knows that. To others it may have been a reckless ride but maybe Isn't he Perfect wasn't giving him a "perfect" ride either. After all were we in the saddle? That's a big NO. Animal Kingdom rocks and will again.  He is just plain Awesome.

17 Jun 2011 8:02 AM
Karen in Texas

I was dismayed, but not surprised to learn that Animal Kingdom did, in fact, have a latent injury. Knowing the reputation of Team AK and of Drs. Dean Richardson and Larry Bramlage, everything needed will be done to return AK to optimum health with no compromising.

Alex'sBigFan----My remark to Deacon about Robby A. was to admit that although I don't think JV was culpable in the bumping incident, I wouldn't mind seeing a different jockey permanently chosen for AK. My reasoning is based on Robby's outstanding record with Curlin. He managed to keep Curlin safe, out of "trouble", and winning for two full years at many tracks (under various conditions--remember the slop at Monmouth in the 2007 BC?) in many states and on another continent. He had to have been under tremendous pressure, but didn't seem to flinch. I realize that a lot of people consider JV a better jockey, but Robby has a resume that includes having piloted the number one horse in the world according to Timeform, etc. So, those are just my thoughts on that subject...

17 Jun 2011 12:38 PM
Linda in Texas

I won't do that again. I will stick

to my long winded paragraphs.

Am not so sure on Maragh's actions. Between post drawing time and the race Saturday, too much idle time to come up with a plan. And that is all i will say.

Sorry Fran, usually i agree with you but not on this one yet. Would have to view a front view video in slow motion first. The stewards saw something, what was it?

And strangely Animal Kingdom comes up lame a day after. So being careless or reckless knocked out 2 competitors.

17 Jun 2011 1:38 PM
Linda in Texas

Alex'sBigFan - Agree totally on the longer suspension.

Fran - you are every lawyer's dream, and i would not be chosen! I am just too cynical or critical and always have been to a fault. I do nothing half way. Sound asleep or full bore ahead on everything.

You are a fair and sensitive person.

Looking forward to Monmouth tomorrow and hopefully some success with Pant's on Fire. I hope Mr. Breen is on a roll.

Speedy Recovery goes out to Animal Kingdom and Nehro and any other horse i may have missed which needs a good wish sent their way.

17 Jun 2011 1:53 PM

Splendid, exciting and colorful coverage of a nice

"folksy" story of about a hardknocking horse that

knocks harder when it is

sorely needed, and of a hard

working trainer who did it

the hard way: His way.  The

"pointy headed intellectuals"

in the clubhouse never gave

this strikingly handsome on-

the-muscle gelding much of a

tumble because of too much

overripe hype on the other

side of other bridles, I fear.

Ruler On Ice  has "almost

perfect" breeding -- Roman


HORSE, and especially so on

off-tracks.  I "didn't mind"

seeing the track monsooned

because, as you pointed out,

Ruler On Ice was the only

horse in the Belmont to show

a win in the slop.  In this win

as a 2yo, only his 2nd start,

he blew the start by hopping

at the start, then closed in

the slop for the win.  Call me

"irresponsible", but I LIKE

horses that close in the slop!

How many do?  It shows will

to win, fierce determination

and class.  

Once again, gelding's get the

shaft (no pun intended) when

push comes to shove in the

"love" that is racing.  Woe to

those who forget the might

and grace under pressure that the mighty Forego dis-

played in the mid-70's! THIS

was a gelding AND heaven in

one package: A gelven! And

positively frightening toting

"routine" imposts of 133, 134

or 139 -- one helluva gelding!

  I am not going to say that

Ruler On Ice is "a" Forego

Of course he isn't...yet!  In

racing, hope springs eternal

until proven otherwise. Ruler

on Ice has a lot to prove -- &

plenty of time to do so since

he won't be whisked off to

stud duty EVER!  This is one

hard-hammering gelding that

should be "around a while". I

think we should EMBRACE

the GELDING and hope for


a break, fellow turfers!  It's

"wrong thinking" to not BET

a charge BECAUSE of the

cut, the altering, just as its


those "spooky gray horses."

In closing, Steve, I laughed

then as I laugh now as I re-

call reading about the much

ballyhooed arrival of Master

of Hounds to his barn at Bel-

mont:  The Master was ALL

WHIPPED UP at the scent &

sight of some mighty pretty

fillies  -- yet another reason

to, especially at this time of

the season, to NOT TOSS


has but racing on his mind,

bless him!


20 Jun 2011 3:49 AM

Hooray..glad to see my Pants are still On Fire!  Nice win from a great team.  

Terrible about AK, that an injury should sideline him during an important part of the season.  I just hope he will be able to return to racing at some point.

I never thought Rajit's interference was intentional...and I cannot consider it now.  It happens.  Controlling a 1/2 ton creature is not as easy as the jockeys make it seem.  110 lbs. of finesse vs. 1200 lbs. of hot blooded brute force....not easy at all.  Suspending a jockey for 3 months penalizes the family he must care for when you remove his only source of income.  Intentional acts would lose his license.  I think everyone who is jumping to the conclusion that the interference was intentional is way off the mark.  Careless...yes; revenge...NO!  It is so totally out of character for RM.

20 Jun 2011 9:34 AM

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