2011 Sunland Derby Horse Ruler on Ice Wins Belmont Stakes
POSTED: Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 9:48pm
UPDATED: Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 10:54pm
Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom nearly fell at the start. Preakness winner Shackleford faded in the stretch. The Belmont Stakes was up for grabs.
And it was Sunland Derby third-place finisher and 24-1 long shot Ruler on Ice who delivered a huge upset Saturday in the final leg of the Triple Crown, splashing his way to a three-quarter length victory over Stay Thirsty.
An elated winning jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., riding in his first Belmont, described the final seconds of the race while on the gallop back to the winner's circle.
"I'm a couple of yards from the wire and I'm thinking, 'Oh my god, oh my god, I'm going to win the Belmont,'" he said.
The win left Lori Hall, who owns Ruler On Ice with her husband George, shaking.
"It was amazing, because we really were the underdog," she said.
Ruler On Ice's victory makes it three years in a row a different horse has won each of the Triple Crown races, and next year it will be a 33-year gap since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.
Ruler On Ice, trained by New Jersey-based Kelly Breen, did not run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. The 3-year-old didn't have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for the Derby, but vindicated his trainer's faith by defeating a field that included the first seven finishers in the Run for the Roses. He became the second gelding, along with Creme Fraiche in 1985, to win the Belmont.
The winning time for the oldest and longest race in the Triple Crown was a slow 2:30.88.