Ruler On Ice, dismissed at 24-1, sat a perfect trip under a patient Jose Valdivia, Jr., taking the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off another longshot, Stay Thirsty, to win Saturday’s 143rd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, the 5-2 favorite, fell back to last shortly after the start when he clipped heels with Mucho Macho Man, who was bumped by Isn’t He Perfect. Under jockey John Velazquez, who lost his left stirrup and didn’t regain it until the first turn, Animal Kingdom made a gallant run to gain third on the far turn, but couldn’t sustain his bid and finished sixth in the third and final leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
With Preakness winner Shackleford setting moderate fractions of 23.92, 49.08, 1:14.51, 1:39.95 and 2:05.09, Valdivia bided his time and didn’t ask Ruler On Ice for run until the field straightened for home. The gelding, running with blinkers for the first time, eagerly began picking up the pace and struck the lead approaching the eighth pole, going on to a three-quarter length victory over Stay Thirsty and completing the 1 ½ miles in 2:30.88 over the sloppy, sealed main track.
The win, Ruler On Ice’s first in a stakes race, made him only the second gelding ever to win the Belmont, joining 1985 winner Creme Fraiche.