February 23, 2024

Arcangelo steps up in Belmont Stakes, delivers record-setting win for Antonucci

Archangelo wins the 155th Belmont Stakes (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Arcangelo proved best in Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont (G1), making his first Triple Crown appearance a winning one with a 1 1/2-length victory under Javier Castellano. Owned by Jon Ebbert’s Blue Rose Farm, the up-and-coming colt stretched his win streak to three and delivered a historic win for Jean Antonucci, who became the first woman to train the winner of a Triple Crown race.

“It’s the horse and I am so grateful,” Antonucci said. “I will forever be indebted to his honesty to us, his heart, and he is why you get up seven days a week. I didn’t get a lot of sleep the last few nights, I’m not going to lie. I’m so grateful.”

After registering his first Kentucky Derby (G1) win aboard Mage five weeks earlier, Castellano completed a personal Triple Crown sweep. He’s been up for Arcangelo’s last three starts.

“This is a dream come true,” said Castellano, a two-time Preakness winner. “To win two Triple Crown races in the same year, it’s amazing. Everything worked out good. There’s always something to shoot for, but I’m just going to keep working hard. But this is so special.”

The gray son of Arrogate launched his bid up the inside on the far turn, overhauling pacesetter National Treasure and drawing clear in upper stretch, and Arcangelo held rivals safe despite drifting late. Off as the 7.90-1 fifth choice among nine three-year-olds, he completed the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:29.23.

“He was so impressive,” Castellano said. “He was always there for me.”

It marked only the fifth career start, and initial attempt around two turns, for Arcangelo, who needed three starts to graduate after making his career debut in mid-December, winning a mile maiden special weight by open lengths in mid-March. Antonucci gave him plenty of time for further development, bringing back her pupil for the Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont Park on May 13, and Arcangelo kept progressing with a hard-fought victory over previously unbeaten favorite Bishop’s Bay.

He carried his improving form forward in the Belmont.

“He’s just figuring it all out,” Antonucci said. “He’s just a big kid. Javier did such a great job. There were a lot of horses taking up in the first turn and he sorted that out and got it together and on the backside made his way up the rail. We knew we wanted to get a little jump on them. We weren’t even worried about the distance. His cruising speed is just stupid, stupid fast.”

National Treasure showed speed from the starting gate and after an opening quarter-mile in :23.63, the Preakness (G1) winner set the tempo in :47.69 and 1:12.56 on a one-length lead. Arcangelo saved ground while under a snug hold early, split rivals while advancing closer on the backstretch, and angled back toward the rail while drawing nearly even on the final turn.

He surged clear by 3 1/2 lengths in upper stretch, as Hit Show, Angel of Empire, Tapit Trice, and Forte tried vainly to make up ground behind him while straightening for home, and the quartet continued to slug it out through the long stretch at Belmont Park. Forte, who was favored at 2-1 in his first start since winning the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1, outfinished Tapit Trice by a nose for the place in the final strides, and it was less than a length back to Angel of Empire and Hit Show, who dead-heated for fourth.

National Treasure, Il Miracolo, Red Route One, and Tapit Shoes completed the order.

Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Arcangelo sold for only $35,000 as a yearling at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. He’s the first stakes winner from the unraced Tapit mare Modeling, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Streaming. This is the immediate female family of Belmont winners Jazil and Rags to Riches, the champion three-year-old filly in 2007.

Sire Arrogate was a late-blooming sophomore, establishing a new track when winning the 2016 Travers (G1) in his stakes debut, and Arcangelo will look to keep asserting himself over the second half of the season in a contentious three-year-old division.

“It’s amazing,” Ebbert said. “What an amazing ride. I’m so proud of the horse. He’s an amazing horse. He’s all heart. We knew he had it in him. Javier rode him perfectly and Jena is an amazing trainer. I’m so lucky to find her. The rest is history.”