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Big Brown's Triple Crown dreams wilt
ELMONT, New York |
ELMONT, New York (Reuters) - Big Brown's Triple Crown dreams wilted in the searing heat when 38-1 longshot Da' Tara, ridden by Alan Garcia, easily won the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths in a wire-to-wire shocker Saturday.
Bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, Big Brown sat in third for most of the race but had nothing left at the top of the stretch and finished last in the nine-horse field.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who pulled up the previously undefeated Big Brown in mid-stretch, offered no excuses.
"He was keen to go on early," said Desormeaux. "He broke so hard. I got him out early and he just cantered down the backside.
"A couple of times he thought it was time to go and jumped into the bridle. But I had no horse. He's the best horse I've ever been on so I took care of him.
"It was hot as hell out there. There were no popped tires. He was just out of gas."
The winning time of 2:29.65 for the mile-and-a-half was well off the Belmont Stakes' record of 2:24 set by Triple Crown winner Secretariat in 1973.
Denis of Cork finished second with Anak Nakal and Ready's Echo in a dead heat for third.
Temperatures were in the low 90sF most of the day at Belmont Park and although it had cooled somewhat by post time, it was still hazy, hot and humid.
Kentucky-bred Big Brown had won all five of his previous races by a combined 39 lengths and had beaten Da' Tara by 23 lengths at the Florida Derby.
Da' Tara, a Nick Zito-trained colt winning for just the second time in eight starts, paid $79 for a $2 win ticket as the horse with the highest odds on the board.
The Kentucky-bred entered the race with earnings of just $64,000 but earned a $600,000 paycheck for the Belmont victory.
"I was watching Big Brown," said Zito, also the trainer of Anak Nakal. "Obviously, he wasn't Big Brown."
The victory was the second in the Belmont Stakes for Zito, who dashed the Triple Crown hopes of Smarty Jones in 2004 when he saddled Birdstone to the upset.
(Editing by Dave Thompson)
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