Jockey Jose Valdivia celebrates his shock Belmont win aboard Ruler On IcePICTURE: Getty Images
Ruler On Ice a 25-1 Belmont shocker
Report: USA, Saturday
BelmontPark: Belmont Stakes (Grade 1) 1m4f, dirt, 3yo
ON a night of shock results in New York, longshot Ruler On Ice (Kelly Breen/Jose Valdivia) won the 143rd Belmont Stakes, in which Ballydoyle contender Master Of Hounds faded down the field in the closing stages.
In front of a crowd of 55,779 braving the dismal weather, Ruler On Ice became only the second gelding ever to win the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Sent off just short of a 25-1 chance, the son of Roman Ruler scored by a half-length over 16-1 shot Stay Thirsty into second with 11-1 chnace Brilliant Speed taking third in the gruelling $1 million event known as the 'Test of a Champion'.
After trying to make all in filthy conditions, Preakness winner Shackleford predictably ran out of stamina in the stretch on the sloppy ground, while Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom had little chance after stumbling at the break andracing about 15 lengths off the pace until after halfway.
After tracking Shackleford, Ruler On Ice took over in the stretch and then fought hard to repel the second and third, both of whom looked sure to run past in the final furlong before it became clear they were facing a determined foe.
New Jersey-based Breen, 42, is employed as private trainer by Ruler On Ice's owners George and Lori Hall for whom he saddled Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire to finish ninthin the Kentucky Derby.
Although Ruler On Ice was one of the few horses in the field ever to have encountered sloppy dirt conditions before, his chances were far from obvious.
A 50-1 chance with British bookmakers, he had come third in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby in New Mexico in March before getting beaten as favourite for an ungraded stakes race at Pimlico on May 7.
Breen added blinkers for the Belmont. "He wouldn't grow up," said the trainer. "He didn't mature as fast as we wanted to. He's already a gelding so we can't castrate him again, so we put blinkers on.
"The first time out of the gate, Jose was on him - he was still goofing off and didn't breakgreat," added the trainer. "Last week, he broke right and it's like sometimes, the bulb just goes on. It was a perfect storm of things going right, and that's how we got here."
Although Animal Kingdom made an eyecatching move to circle much of the field on the far turn, he expended too much energy and had nothing left in the stretch. He finished sixth.
"It was unbelievable," said John Velazquez. "They came over on me and clipped heels and I almost came off.
"I had a horrible trip," he added. "I was asking him for run way too much to be where I was from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole.
"At that point, I was just hoping to get a piece of it and that's why I rode him that way after the start. No way he was going to make up that much ground. He's still a great horse."
Trainer Graham Motion added: "The horse almost fell down - it looks like he was pinched by horses from either side and Johnny couldn't believe the horse stayed up.
"He lost his iron and it took him until halfway around the turn to get his foot back in the iron. It's really disappointing. It's disappointing not to give the horse a chance to run his race.
"I thought down the backside we didn't have any shot at all, and then he started to make that incredible move. But it was asking too much too late."
Master Of Hounds: no threatPICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos
Master Of Hounds, who took no part in the post-parade, was slowly away from his inside draw but soon made up the ground to race on the inner towards the back of the main body of the field.
Aidan O'Brien's son of Kingmambo made progress on the rail as the field bunched up approaching the far turn but soon began to toil as Animal Kingdom rocketed past him.
A spent force well over two furlongs out, Master Of Hounds was allowed to coast home, finishing tenth of 12.
Jockey Garrett Gomez said: "I saved a lot of ground, but he didn't stay. He didn't stay at all."
O'Brien's travelling head lad TJ Comerford added: "Garrett said he just wasn't getting over the track, that's all."