All eyes on Rags to Riches after surprising win at Belmont Stakes


What's next for Rags to Riches?

The first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years was in fine form Sunday, a day after her extraordinary victory over Preakness winner Curlin in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

"You can tell she ran a race, but she wasn't exhausted and laying down in her stall," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She was ornery as ever in the morning."

Pletcher already is looking at a summer and fall season for his star 3-year-old filly, one which could include taking on the boys again in the Travers on Aug. 25, or even the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27. A 4-year-old campaign is in the cards, too.

"These guys are sportsmen," Pletcher said of owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who bought Rags to Riches for $1.9 million. "Obviously, we wouldn't have been in the Belmont if they weren't. They have a lot of horses and breed a lot of horses, and they say as long as the filly's OK, she'll race next year."

Pletcher said Rags to Riches likely will start next in the Coaching Club American Oaks for fillies on July 21 at Belmont Park. Then, he said, it's either the Alabama for fillies on Aug. 18 or the Travers, racing's "Midsummer Derby" already on Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense's schedule. Curlin could be there, too.

"That could be awesome, a race for the ages," said Pletcher. "She added a lot to the race yesterday, and by winning it she'll add more to any race she goes into from here on out."

Beating the boys elevated Rags to Riches to celebrity status, and her every move will be followed over the next few months &

all because she beat Curlin by a head after a thrilling stretchlong duel and became the third filly to take the Belmont. Ruthless took the inaugural in 1867 and Tanya won in 1905.

When Street Sense was pulled out of consideration for the Belmont, Rags to Riches entered the picture. Pletcher said he wouldn't go against the top three horses from the Derby and Preakness &

Street Sense, Curlin and Hard Spun &

but would consider it if one dropped out.

Street Sense complied, and Rags to Riches was in.

"We thought it was something the public would like to see," said Tabor, who owned 1995 Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch. "It was a fantastic feat."

There may be more to come, too.

"My hat is off to the owners, they deserve a lot of credit for running the filly," said Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, whose C P West led for a mile before finishing fifth in the seven-horse field. "They have to get the accolades, along with Pletcher and (jockey) Johnny Velazquez. We all saw history because of it."

The win ended Pletcher's 0-for-28 drought in Triple Crown races, a streak that was mentioned constantly. Even though it's over, Pletcher has already heard a revised version: "What about winning with a colt?"

At least Pletcher can laugh about it. He said Rags to Riches, the 4-1 third choice behind Curlin and Hard Spun, was his best chance for a breakthrough. But he had to sweat it out from start to finish before his filly won her fifth in a row after a career-opening defeat.

Rags to Riches stumbled &

and nearly fell &

out of the starting gate. But she regained her balance and moved into position along the outside for what turned into a sensational stretchlong duel with Curlin.

With the usually restrained Pletcher cheering along with the 46,870 fans at Belmont Park, the two horses went eyeball-to-eyeball until Rags to Riches put her head in front. Curlin, despite the urging of jockey Robby Albarado, was unable to cut into the margin although the gallant colt never quit trying.

"When she turned for home I thought we're going to win," Pletcher said. "But when he dug in at the eighth pole I thought, 'Man, this would be an absolutely brutal loss to get nosed out here.' He really stuck his nose down on the wire. He was getting all of the (head) bob. ... I knew we'd won, but it was close."

After the race, Velazquez led Rags to Riches on a victory walk past the grandstand, pointing to the filly with the crowd standing and applauding racing's newest star.

It was a fitting way to close a Triple Crown season that produced three exhilarating races, one which began with jockey Calvin Borel's daring rail-hugging Derby win aboard Street Sense followed by Curlin's final-stride, head decision over the Derby winner in the Preakness.

"We wound up probably getting the three best horses in the nation running and winning each of these races," said trainer Bill Kaplan, whose Imawildandcrazyguy was fourth in the Derby and sixth in the Belmont. "That's pretty good."

If all three show up for the same race, a little more history could be made.

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