Speaker rules house at Belmont

Trainer Shug McGaughey see's his 3-year-old colt win the Belmont Derby on Saturday.Garry Jones/AP Trainer Shug McGaughey see’s his 3-year-old colt win the Belmont Derby on Saturday.

Shug McGaughey always believed Mr. Speaker was a good horse and was rewarded on Saturday when the 3-year-old colt won the biggest race of his career, taking the inaugural $1.25 million Belmont Derby.

Sent off at 23-1, Mr Speaker rallied up the rail under Jose Lezcano to edge out European invader Adelaide by a neck over Belmont Park’s inner turf course.

“He definitely redeemed himself,” McGaughey said. “His last race was very disappointing.”

In his prior start, on May 26, Mr Speaker weakened to fifth as the odds-on choice in the $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont after taking the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland by four lengths on April 19. “I had a concrete reason (to dismiss his last race), but you always have your doubts,” said McGaughey, who saddled Orb to victory in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. “Does he belong in the top layer of horses or not? I think today he proved he does.”

Rallying from last in the field of 10, Mr Speaker fought gamely to the wire to win for the fourth time from nine starts, returning $49 to win after stopping the clock in 2:01.18 before a crowd of 11,184.

The victory aboard Mr Speaker was one of three stakes scores for jockey Jose Lezcano, who also won the Belmont Sprint Championship aboard Clearly Now ($6.40) and the Suburban aboard Zivo ($29.40).

Clearly Now set the track record of 1:19.96 for seven furlongs, breaking the mark of 1:20.17 set by Left Bank on July 4, 2002.

Kid Cruz ($3.40), who is named after Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, took the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Captain Serious and is going to be pointed for a start in the July 26 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga and then a possible start in the Aug. 23 Travers Stakes.

Minorette ($14.60) earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in the fall with a victory in the $1 million Belmont Oaks.

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