Creator wins the 2016 Belmont Stakes; Exaggerator wilts

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Updated June 12, 2016 at 8:36 AM
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ELMONT, N.Y., June 11 (UPI) -- Creator came flying down the stretch in Saturday's $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, snatching victory from Destin in the final strides as the favorite, Exaggerator, faltered in the long stretch run ending up near the end of the field of 13.

Lani, a Japanese-owned horse who won the UAE Derby in Dubai in March, also came on late to finish third, Governor Malibu was fourth and Exaggerator got home 11th after running keenly down the backstretch. The top three finishers are all greys.

Creator, with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, finished the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:28.51 as a downpour that had held off all day finally drenched Belmont Park. A rainbow appeared over the presentation ceremony after the race.

The result means there were three different winners in the three legs of this year's Triple Crown -- Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator in the Preakness Stakes and Creator in the Belmont -- only one year after American Pharaoh became the first horse in 37 years to sweep the series for 3-year-olds, taking the Triple Crown.

Two key moves in the week before the race had an impact on the finish. WisStar Farms, Creator's owner, moved Gettysburg from Todd Pletcher's barn to trainer Steve Asmussen, who trains Creator. WinStar also allowed celebrity chef Bobby Flay to buy a share of Creator.

Asmussen denied Gettysburg was a "rabbit" intended to ensure a good pace for Creator. After the race, however, he noted Gettysburg took the field through a satisfyingly quick half mile in 48 seconds.

"That gave Creator a chance to show what a horse he is today," Asmussen said.

Creator, a Tapit colt, needed six tries to score his first win. He then finished third in the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas before jumping up to win the Grade I Arkansas Derby. In the Kentucky Derby, he was in traffic trouble early and never got a chance to run. He then skipped the Preakness.

In the Belmont, he saved ground into the sweeping stretch turn, came out for running room and had just enough to catch Destin, who had attended the early pace.

"When he got clear, he just started running," Ortiz said.

Lani also ran well late, providing another feather in the cap of Japanese racing, which is making quite the splash on the international scene this season.

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