By Jarrod Horak
Arcangelo took advantage of a ground saving trip to win the 2023 Belmont Stakes. Javier Castellano rode the winner for Jena Antonucci. It was the first Belmont win for rider and trainer, and Antonucci became the first female conditioner to capture the Belmont and first to win any of the Triple Crown races.
National Treasure set sail for the early lead and faced inside pressure from Tapit Shoes. Hit show pushed the pace from the outside. The opening quarter was 23.63 and the Preakness winner was well off the rail and still in front after a half-mile in 47.69. The pace remained solid after six panels in 1:12.56 and the top trio were all still there. Arcangelo joined them along the inside and Angel of Empire was out in the clear and stalking in fifth. Forte was lurking behind them and Il Miracolo was saving ground. Tapit Trice was away last and worked his way to the outside, and Red Route One was in his customary position at the back of the pack.
With five furlongs to go, National Treasure got a bit more breathing room and Arcangelo moved up inside and Hit Show kept pace on the outside. Tapit Shoes weakened along the rail and Angel of Empire and Tapit Trice were making wide moves. They got a mile in 1:37.41 and reached the next split in 2:02.68. This is where the race was won. National Treasure left plenty of room for Arcangelo along the rail and Castellano was more than happy to scrape the paint. They reached the far turn and the top of the stretch and Arcangelo was working out a wonderful inside trip, and he engaged National Treasure, put that one away, and opened up a clear lead.
Arcangelo made his winning move around the turn and into the stretch and dared anyone to catch him. Tapit Trice was grinding away wide and Forte joined the battle even wider. Arcangelo started to get tired in deep stretch and he was under the whip and drifting out. Tapit Trice and Forte were slowly getting to him but both ran out of time. Arcangelo stopped the clock in 2:29.23 and won by a length and a half. He was sired by the late Arrogate and Tapit is the dam sire. Forte nosed out Tapit Trice for the runner-up spot and Hit Show and Angel of Empire finished in a dead-heat for fourth. National Treasure weakened to sixth and was followed by Il Miracolo. Red Route One and Tapit Shoes eased to the wire.
Forte was gallant in defeat. The 2-year-old champ was forced to miss the Kentucky Derby with a foot bruise, and was placed on the 14-day vet list and was unable to compete in the Preakness. He missed some training time and the Belmont was his first start in 10 weeks. Despite all of that, he gamely nipped his stablemate Tapit Trice for second. The latter was my top choice in the Derby and Belmont. He disappointed under the Twin Spires and bounced back with a much better effort at Big Sandy. I am sure Todd Pletcher is wondering what could have been. Blue Rose Farm’s Arcangelo saved all the ground throughout and Pletcher’s two colts endured wide trips.
That wraps up the 2023 Triple Crown Series. We started with a pace meltdown in the Derby and Mage took full advantage. The Preakness featured a dawdling pace and National Treasure stole the race on the front end. Arcangelo stalked the pace and rode the rails to victory in the Belmont. Forte has to still be considered the leader of the sophomore pack but not by much, and lots of unexpected twists and turns are probably right around the corner in this wide open division.