December 6, 2022

Mo Donegal stylishly gives Pletcher a fourth Belmont win

Mo Donegal with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up wins the Belmont Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Mo Donegal outclassed and outstayed seven rivals to claim Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1), the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Mo Donegal with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up wins the Belmont Stakes (Photo by Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photos)

The 2.6-1 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile classic, Mo Donegal forged to the front after a making at three-wide bid at the top of the stretch and drove home a convincing three-length winner for owners Repole Stable and Donegal Racing, trainer Todd Pletcher, and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

Nest, owned in partnership by Repole and the only filly in the filly, finished a clear second. It was the best finish by a filly in the Belmont since the Pletcher-trained Rags to Riches captured the 2007 edition of the race.

Mo Donegal was Pletcher’s fourth winner in the “Test of the Champion,” the others being Palace Malice (2013) and Tapwrit (2017). This was the second Belmont victory for Ortiz, who previously won aboard Creator in 2016.

Like Pletcher’s previous Belmont winners, Mo Donegal was last seen competing on Kentucky Derby weekend. Hampered by a slow break from post 1 in the Derby, Mo Donegal ultimately finished fifth after attempting a very wide rally. His trip in the Belmont, needless to say, was much better.

Rating no more than three lengths off the pace as We the People carved out fractions of :23.99, :48.49, 1:13.23, 1:37.74, and 2:03.06, Mo Donegal was always within prime striking range. We the People, hounded by longshot Skippylongstocking from the far turn to the quarter pole, began to capitulate turning for home, and both he and Skippylongstocking had little left to contain Mo Donegal once the eventual winner passed by.

Opening up a three-length lead in midstretch, Mo Donegal maintained that advantage to the wire in a dominating performance. Mo Donegal returned $7.20 after completing one lap of Belmont in 2:28.28 over a fast track.

Nest, who captured the Ashland (G1) and ran second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in her prior two starts, turned in a strong effort after stumbling at bumping with Derby winner Rich Strike leaving the gate. She finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Skippylongstocking, the second highest price on the board at 11-1 who was nonetheless overbet.

Mo Donegal and connections after winning the Belmont Stakes (Photo by Janet Garaguso/Coglianese Photos)

“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.”

We the People finished another three-quarters of a length behind Skippylongstocking in fourth. Creative Minister finished fifth and was followed by Rich Strike, Barber Road, and Golden Glider.

“We were hoping we could have been a little closer and our pace was slow,” said Eric Reed, the trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike. “Our biggest change was deciding to stay a little off the rail and try to give him a good, open run where he could take off. The whole way, his head turned and he was trying to get to the inside. I guess we made a mistake not putting him on the fence.”

This was the third career stakes win for Mo Donegal, who captured the nine-furlong Remsen (G2) last December and the April 9 Wood Memorial over the same distance, both across town at Aqueduct. Prior to the Derby and Wood, Mo Donegal had finished third in the Holy Bull (G3) in his season debut. Mo Donegal’s record now stands at 7-4-0-2, $1,511,800.

Mo Donegal is the second classic winner sired by Uncle Mo, the Repole-owned juvenile champion of 2010. Uncle Mo’s first was 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.

Out of Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit, Mo Donegal counts Grade 1 winner Island Sand as his second dam. Bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stable, Mo Donegal sold for $250,000 at Keeneland September.