Ruler On Ice reigns in Belmont Stakes

June 11th, 2011

Ruler On Ice, who didn’t make the grade for the Kentucky Derby, showed his class with a huge upset win in the $1 million G1 Belmont Stakes.

Sent off at 24-1 in a 12-horse field that included Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Ruler On Ice rated second off of Preakness winner Shackleford for the first mile, when rider Jose Valdivia saw his chance.

“The last half-mile, I felt like a had a lot of horse left,” said Valdivia, who had never won a Triple Crown race. “The last eighth, I couldn’t believe I was going to win the Belmont Stakes.”

Trainer Kelly Breen, who saddled his first Triple Crown contenders, West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain, in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, also savored his first Triple Crown win. “When you’re running against the top horses, it’s tough to say that he’ll run a phenomenal race,” said Breen, before the race. “But at this distance (1 1/2 miles), he never seems to recede in the stretch.”

Ruler On Ice, a gelded son of Roman Ruler, had two wins from six starts coming into the Belmont, but his only previous graded stakes race was the G3 Sunland Derby, in New Mexico on March 27, where he finished third. On May 7, he finished second by two lengths in the seven-horse field of the $65,000 Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.

Described by Breen as “a little nutty,” Ruler On Ice was a $100,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September Sale and is owned by New Jerseyites George and Lori Hall.

“He didn’t mature as fast as we wanted to,” said Breen. “He’s already a gelding so we can’t castrate him again, so we put blinkers on. Last week, he broke right and it’s like sometimes, the bulb just goes on. It was a perfect storm of things going right, and that’s how we got here.”

Animal Kingdom, the favorite at 2-1, clipped heels with a horse to his inside at the start of the race and nearly unseated his rider, John Velazquez, as he stumbled and struggled to steady himself. “I knew it was done right then,” said Velazquez, who piloted Animal Kingdom to a sixth-place finish despite the mishap.

Stay Thirsty, another longshot at 20-1 on the morning line, finished second, with Brilliant Speed, at 15-1, third. Preakness winner Shackleford was fifth.