NEW YORK – Jazil came roaring around the final turn and cruised to victory in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, taking the final leg of the Triple Crown against a lackluster field missing the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners.
Without Barbaro and Bernardini, the Belmont was missing its usual appeal, but 18-year-old the Panamanian jockey Fernando Jara and Jazil had the crowd on its feet and cheering at Belmont Park in holding off Bluegrass Cat at the finish.
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Jazil gave trainer Kiaran McLaughlin his first win in a Triple Crown race, and gave Dubai's sheiks a second straight win in a classic.
The 3-year-old Jazil is owned by Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Stable, while Bernardini is owned by Dubai's Sheik Mohammed.
Jazil wove his way through the tightly packed 12-horse field, and Jara angled his bay colt to the outside for the stretch run and 1 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling race of the Triple Crown.
"You don't know how I feel right now," Jara said. "This is amazing."
This Belmont marked just the third time in 36 years the Derby and Preakness winners missed the race, and relegated it to more of a test of the leftovers than its usual reference as the "Test of the Champion."
But McLaughlin and Jara will take the victory, which came five weeks after Jazil finished in a dead heat for fourth with Brother Derek in the Kentucky Derby.
The colt was held out of the Preakness to prepare for the Belmont and became the fourth horse in the last seven years to take that route to Belmont victory. The others were Birdstone in 2004, Empire Maker in 2003 and Commendable in 2000.
"I was very confident when he was weaving through at the five-eighths pole to the quarter pole," McLaughlin said. "He moved along side Bluegrass Cat going the right way. Then I was very confident."
The winning time was 2:27.81, with Jazil returning $14.40, $6.70 and $4.70.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had the second and third-place finishers, Bluegrass Cat paid $6.40 and $4.70, while Sunriver paid $6.10. Pletcher, the nation's top trainer, is now 0-for-21 in Triple Crown races.
Jazil came into the Belmont with only a maiden victory last year, and was 0-for-4 this year. But the colt picked a good time to win one of racing's biggest events, even without Barbaro and Bernardini in the field.
Barbaro, the brilliant 3-year-old hailed as a Triple Crown threat after his dominating 6 1/2-length victory in the Derby, shattered three bones in his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness, and is convalescing at a hospital in Pennsylvania.
Bernardini, who took the Preakness by 5 1/4 lengths, was back at his Belmont barn after Sheik Mohammed decided to rest the colt for a summer campaign that will include the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August.
That left the Belmont with the also-rans — five horses from the Derby, two from the Preakness and five in their first Triple Crown race. It was a far cry from six of the last nine years, when there were Triple ties on the line and record crowds showing up only to be disappointed each time.
Under sunny skies and gusty winds, a crowd of 61,168 was on hand, well off the record of 120,139 set two years ago for Smarty Jones' Triple attempt.