Challenging Belmont Stakes Weekend & Secretariat Celebration

Enjoy this recap of Belmont Stakes weekend from Dr. Gregory Beroza, aka HorseDoc ‘Talking Horses.’

Amidst a tense weekend of unpredictable weather-related concerns, the Belmont Stakes race day card for Saturday, June 10 went off nearly without a hitch. The historic 50th Anniversary running of the Belmont Stakes that was to honor Secretariat’s Triple Crown victory in 1973 was in danger of being spoiled due to heavy smoke and smog caused by wildfires in Canada.

Smoke filled skies on Thursday morning caused the cancellation of training and racing that day. Photo by Gregory Beroza.

Fortunately, weather conditions improved on the preceding Friday to allow racing, and beautiful skies opened on Saturday. The grandstands and adjoining properties were filled with celebratory patrons.

That day’s main event, the 155th running of the Grade 1 $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, was contested over its classic 1.5 mile distance.


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There were nine highly competitive entries, including winner Arcangelo conditioned by the solo female trainer Jena Antonucci, owned by Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm, and ridden by Javier Castellano. Jena Antonucci became the first female trainer to win the Belmont Stakes in history. She was quoted, “We’re trying to soak all this in – just so proud of this horse right now. It’s amazing.” Jockey Javier Castellano also won his first Kentucky Derby this year aboard Mage.

Arcangelo was purchased as a yearling for $35,000. His sole major stakes race preceding this Belmont Stakes win was on 5/13/23 in the G3 1-1/8 mile Peter Pan at Belmont Park. His connections paid a $50,000 supplemental fee to enter him in the Belmont Stakes. Arcangelo’s sire is the former super-star HOF and G1 1-1/4 mile 2016 Travers Stakes record setting winner Arrogate, trained by Bob Baffert. Arcangelo’s dam is a Tapit mare with familial connections going back to Secretariat and Northern Dancer bloodlines. He certainly has both the pedigree and now the performance credentials.

Arcangelo entering Winner’s Circle after winning Belmont Stakes; Rider Javier Castellano, Trainer Jena Antanucci, Owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm. Photo by Gregory Beroza.

The 7:1 underdog Arcangelo beat the heavily favored Todd Pletcher entries of Forte (2:1) and Tapit Trice (5:1), which came in respectively second and third. Brad Cox entries of Angel of Empire (3:1) and Hit Show (9:1) tied for fourth, with Bob Baffert’s National Treasure (5:1) finishing fifth.

There is an indirect connection for Jena Antanucci being the first female trainer to win the Belmont Stakes because this race marks the 50th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown Win. Penny Chenery-Tweedy may have been the first female owner-breeder to have won the Belmont with her family’s Virginia homebred Secretariat.

Secretariat Triple Crown Trophy as part of the traveling HOF display. Photo by Gregory Beroza.

I published a Youtube Tribute to Secretariat with interviews from many HOF racing insiders recalling that 1973 world record breaking event. This video has been given to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame with portions that may be included in their ongoing 50th year remembrance celebration of Secretariat’s historic racing achievements. They will have a full tribute display at their museum in Saratoga throughout the Saratoga race meet.

Previously Horse Nation published an article relating to personal historic memories of working with Secretariat. To put this year’s performance into historical perspective, Arcangelo’s winning time of 2:29.23 is over five seconds slower than Secretariat’s winning Belmont time of 2:24. This calculates to about a 25 length difference in winning performances. This is a reminder of Secretariat’s historic dominance in all 3 Triple Crown races 50 years ago.

1.5 times life-size Bronze Statue of Secretariat ‘Racing into History’ by Artist Jocelyn Russell. Photo by Gregory Beroza.

By winning the G1 $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Saturday, Cody’s Wish won an emotional sixth straight race for Trainer Billy Mott and jockey Junior Alvarado. This ensures the 5-year-old Curlin colt a spot in the upcoming G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita Park.

Cody’s Wish entering Winner’s Circle after winning Metropolitan Handicap; Rider Junior Alvarado, Trainer Billy Mott, Assistant Trainer Leana, and Owner Connections. Photo by Gregory Beroza.

Cody’s Wish got off to a slow start out of the gate. Late into the final turn, Alvarado made a wide turn to pass his rivals and finish 3-1/4 lengths in front. The bay horse was named for Cody Dorman, a teenager with the rare genetic disorder Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. This was all made possible via Dorman’s visit to Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, KY via the Make a Wish program. Mott was quoted, “It’s as heartwarming for me as it is for the fans watching….but it goes along with (having) a good horse.”

HOF Bob Baffert trained and Zedan Racing Stables owned Arabian Lion and ridden by HOF Jockey John Velazquez won the $400,000 G1 Woody Stevens presented by Mohegan Sun. Jockey Jose’ Gomez piloted Drew’s Gold into the lead but couldn’t hold off the powerful final drive of Arabian Lion.

Dr. Gregory A. Beroza, DVM, DACVS, DABVP has been a practicing veterinarian and consultant for 42 years; and HorseDoc® ‘Talking Horses’® media host, author, and consultant since 2007. Dr. Beroza is a multimedia host and broadcasts his productions, including a new Podcast, via his WuzUpDoc Media website: He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social media sources.

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