perfect ending to a strange triple crown season

By Dick Jerardi

“The” story after Arcangelo won Saturday’s Belmont Stakes was that Jena Antonucci became the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race. The story inside that story is how few women had an actual contender in the previous 451 Triple Crown races.

Antonucci had a 7-1 shot in the Belmont with Peter Pan winner Arcangelo. And she had the son of Arrogate ready to run the race of his life against a powerful field that included the winners of seven Grade I races. Antonucci herself had one graded stakes win prior to Arcangelo. That just happened to be at Parx with 23-1 Doctor J Dub in the 2016 Grade III Turf Monster.

Interestingly, Parx is what Aracangelo’s owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm, describes as his hometown track. He lives about 30 minutes from Parx.

It was Ebbert who put up $35,000 to buy Arcangelo. And it was the owner who entrusted the colt to a trainer who was 3-for-72 in 2022. And it was the owner who was in the Belmont winner’s circle with that trainer after Aracangelo had decisively beaten horses that had cost so much more, including Tapit Trice ($1.3 million) and National Treasure ($500,000) as well as 2-year-old champion Forte.

So 30 years after Julie Krone became the first and still only female jockey to win a Triple Crown race with Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont Stakes, Antonucci has broken yet another barrier.

It really is not complicated. Give someone who has paid her dues a good horse to work with, and anything is possible. It is all about opportunity.

Sadly, Arrogate, who capped off the greatest four race series of modern times with an absolutely insane win in the 2017 Dubai World Cup after setting all the records in the 2016 Travers, running down an at-his-best California Chrome in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic and winning the 2017 Pegasus World Cup, won’t get that opportunity.

The stallion died because of neurological issues at age 7 after just three crops. Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath was in the first crop, Arcangelo in the second.

There really is no telling how good Aracangelo is now or might become. The Belmont was just the horse’s fifth lifetime start. Each race has been better than the prior one. The Beyer speed figures went from 53 to 70, 84, 97 and now 102.

When Ebbert was told about the Pennsylvania Derby bonus of $50,000 for an owner and trainer of a Triple Crown race winner, he certainly seemed intrigued about possibly running Arcangelo on Sept. 23 at the track where he ran his first horse 14 years ago.

It was some day at old Belmont Park Saturday with all the Grade I races and incredible performances.

One Parx horse,  Calibrate from the Jamie Ness barn, ran a really strong second in the Brooklyn while Forewarned, with his sixth place finish, got enough money to get to $1,000,758 in career earnings, giving owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis his second millionaire to go along with Discreet Lover.

Cody’s Wish was brilliant again in the Met Mile with a devastating turn move that blew away some quality competition. He earned a 112 Beyer with his sixth straight win. Trainer Bill Mott suggested the Whitney at Saratoga could be next.

The 2021 Cotillion winner Clairiere was up just in time to win the Ogden Phipps for the second straight year and go over $3 million career earnings. There is no more valuable broodmare prospect, so it is wonderful to see her still running as a 5-year-old.

The amazing Pennsylvania bred mare Caravel beat the boys again while winning the Jaipur. It was her 15th lifetime win and fifth straight. The now 6-year-old is in the form of her life.

It was definitely an unusual Triple Crown season, but the series remains incredibly popular. A record $502 million was bet on the three races this year, up 7 percent from 2022.

Now, the second half of the 3-year-old season looms with absolutely nothing decided with races like the Haskell, Travers, and Pennsylvania Derby on the horizon. Can hardly wait to see how it all plays out.

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