A crowd of 94,476 came out to Belmont Park on Saturday for the 140th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1), the final leg of the Triple Crown, contested at a distance of 1 1/2 miles on the main track. Undefeated Big Brown was attempting to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and was sent off as the 3-10 choice. In to challenge the Richard Dutrow stable star were 7-1 second choice Denis of Cork, third in the Kentucky Derby last time out, and 14-1 third choice Tale of Ekati, winner of the Wood Memorial before finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Peter Pan Stakes winner Casino Drive was scratched the morning of the race.
Big Brown broke awkwardly from the rail post and moved to the outside, while Da Tara was hustled to the lead right away by jockey Alan Garcia and angled over to the rail to save ground. Da’ Tara set an easy pace of 23.82, 48.30, 1:12.90, and 1:37.96 while as many as 3 lengths ahead of Tale of Ekati who stalked him in second. Big Brown sat third just to the outside of Tale of Ekati. On the far turn, Denis of Cork, who was unhurried back in 6th early, moved to to challenge for the lead, as jockey Kent Desormeaux tapped Big Brown with his left-handed whip asking for the favorite to make his move. However, Big Brown did not respond, dropping back to 8th as Da’ Tara continued to lead, opening up a 5 length lead at the 1/4 pole after 10 furlongs in 2:03.21. Desormeaux eased Big Brown through the stretch as Da’ Tara easily pulled away from Denis of Cork late to win by 5 1/4 lengths in 2:29.65 over the fast main track. Anak Nakal, who had raced in midpack fourth early, and Ready’s Echo, who rallied from eighth, dead-heated for third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Denis of Cork.
Winning jockey Alan Garcia said, “On the back side, he was comfortable and he was playing with his ears and I was so happy by the 5/8 pole, I was looking and thinking I have a shot and when I move my horse to the 1/2 mile pole, he takes off and I said, “Oh, my God, Da’ Tara, you can do it.”