Archive for Sunday, June 11, 2006

Jazil rallies from last place

Eighteen-year-old jockey rides colt to Belmont win

June 11, 2006

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— For a few minutes, thoroughbred racing escaped the shadow of Barbaro.

Jazil dazzled in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, winning the final leg of the Triple Crown over a lackluster field missing the injured Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness winner Bernardini.

But in the 2:27.86 it took to cover the 11â2-mile Belmont, Jazil gave the cheering fans a chance to forget about Barbaro's horrifying breakdown three weeks ago in the Preakness.

The 3-year-old colt was given a superb ride by 18-year-old Panamanian jockey Fernando Jara, who steadily rallied Jazil from last to first for a 11â4-length victory over Bluegrass Cat.

"You don't know how I feel right now," Jara said, who started riding in the United States two years ago. "This is amazing."

Jara not only won his first Triple Crown race, but also helped a few prominent names in racing win theirs - trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Dubai Sheik Hamdan, who operates Shadwell Stable.


Jazil, with Fernando Jara aboard, wins the 138th Belmont Stakes. Bluegrass Cat, right, with John Velazquez aboard, finished second Saturday in Elmont, N.Y.

Jazil, with Fernando Jara aboard, wins the 138th Belmont Stakes. Bluegrass Cat, right, with John Velazquez aboard, finished second Saturday in Elmont, N.Y.

"It is very hard to describe my feeling," said McLaughlin, who trained for Sheik Hamdan in Dubai for nearly 10 years before returning home three years ago. "The people at Shadwell have been my biggest supporters for the last 12 years. It's great to win this race for your favorite people."

The win gave the sheiks of Dubai a second straight win in a classic. Bernardini is owned by Sheik Mohammed's Darley Stable.

Jazil wove his way through the tightly packed 12-horse field, and Jara angled his bay colt to the outside for the stretch run.

"When he made the lead, I started looking for the wire," McLaughlin said. "But when you make the lead and no one's gaining on you, it's a good feeling."

This Belmont marked the third time in 36 years that the Derby and Preakness winners missed the race, and relegated it to more of a test of the leftovers than its usual reference as the "Test of the Champion."

But McLaughlin and Jara will take the victory, which came five weeks after Jazil finished in a dead heat for fourth with Brother Derek in the Derby.

Jazil was held out of the Preakness and became the fourth horse in the last seven years to run in the Derby, skip the Preakness and win the Belmont. The others were Birdstone in 2004, Empire Maker in 2003 and Commendable in 2000.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had the second and third-place finishers. Bluegrass Cat paid $6.40 and $4.70, while Sunriver paid $6.10. Pletcher, the nation's top trainer, is now 0-for-21 in Triple Crown races.

"If it were anyone besides me, I was rooting for Kiaran," said Pletcher, who like McLaughlin was a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "He is one of my best friends, a great person, and I am very, very happy for him. I am disappointed. There is no consolation in second for me."

Jazil came into the Belmont with only a maiden victory last year, and was 0-for-4 this year. But the colt picked a good time to win one of racing's biggest events, even without Barbaro in the field.

Barbaro, the brilliant 3-year-old hailed as a Triple Crown threat after his dominating 61â2-length victory in the Derby, shattered three bones in his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness. All day, the crowd of 61,168 had the opportunity to sign a giant get-well card that will be sent to the hospital where Barbaro has been recovering.

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