06/13/2011 11:52PM

The 2011 Belmont Stakes, in photos


You'd have had a hard time - to say the least - predicting how the 2011 Belmont would play out.  While many thought the race would solidify a racing rivalry, it instead resulted in hot controversy and introduced us to a delightfully quirky winner.

Now, watch the race unfold through photos by Michael Amoruso, Tom Keyser, Justin N. Lane, Kim Pratt, Debra A. Roma, Emily Shields and Barbara Livingston.  With special thanks to John Bambury for his assistance.

Above:  Belmont Park, as always, proved a beautiful backdrop for the famed Test of the Champion while, below, the jockeys head out to the paddock.

Above:  The occasionally unruly Ruler On Ice did not enjoy the trip from the paddock to the racetrack.

Above and below:  Stay Thirsty and Javier Castellano, second-place finishers.  Mike Repole's Stay Thirsty carried the logo of Repole's Pirate's Booty.

Above and below:  Brilliant Speed has an unusually handsome face and glowing eyes.  He and rider Joel Rosario finished third.

Above and below:  Nehro, Corey Nakatani up, finished fourth for trainer Steve Asmussen (above, background).

Above:  Animal Kingdom is his usual professional self in the paddock as trainer Graham Motion watches.  Below, Graham heads to the track.

Above:  Animal Kingdom and John Velazquez in the Belmont post parade.

Above and below:  Shackleford, as usual, hip-hopped and bounced before the race under jockey Jesus Castanon.   They finished fifth.

Above:  Jesus Castanon calms Shackleford in the post parade.

Above and below:  Ramon Dominguez picked up the mount on the popular Mucho Macho Man, who ran seventh.  One of Mucho Macho Man's nicknames is 3M - so 3M was a natural fit as a sponsor (note Ramon's pant leg).

Above:  Santiva and Shaun Bridgmohan look good in the Belmont post parade.  They finished eighth.  

Above:  Prime Cut and Edgar Prado head postward for the Belmont Stakes.  Prime Cut ran 11th.

Above:  Jose Lezcano and Monzon, who finished ninth.

Above:  Isn't He Perfect, with Rajiv Maragh up, finished 12th.

Above and below:  Master of Hounds came Stateside for his Belmont Stakes attempt.  Garrett Gomez rode the lively bay colt, who finished tenth.

And they're off!  The 2011 Belmont Stakes was underway...

Above:  Ruler On Ice (winner), Stay Thirsty (second) and Master of Hounds.

Above:  Isn't He Perfect, Mucho Macho Man, Animal Kingdom, Monzon, Prime Cut.

Above:  Isn't He Perfect, Mucho Macho Man, Prime Cut, Nehro.

Above:  Animal Kingdom trails the field as they head toward the backstretch.

Above and below:  As they head into the homestretch, it's Brilliant Speed, Ruler On Ice and Shackleford in the lead, with Stay Thirsty along the rail and Animal Kingdom on the outside.

 Above: Animal Kingdom and John Velazquez head for home.

Above:  Stay Thirsty fights along the rail and, below, Ruler On Ice and Jose Valdivia, Jr. take the lead.

Above:  The Belmont Stakes' 1-2-3 finishers approach the wire - Ruler On Ice, Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed.  Ruler On Ice paid $51.50 to win, Stay Thirsty paid $19.20 to place, and Brilliant Speed paid $7.90 to show.  The very surprising triple paid $9,268.

Above and below:  Jose Valdivia is exuberant with his first classic victory, aboard Ruler On Ice. 

Above:  Animal Kingdom, after a disastrous start, finishes a respectable sixth.

Above:  The mud-caked Isn't He Perfect and Rajiv Maragh return for unsaddling.

Above:  A mud-caked Monzon, and Jose Lezcano, after the race.

Above and below:  Master of Hounds, and his rider Garrett Gomez, after a Belmont mudbath.  

Above:  Animal Kingdom and John Velazquez after the Belmont Stakes.

Above:  The mud on Animal Kingdom (left), Johnny Velazquez up, reflects his come-from-behind effort, while frontrunner Shackleford, and Jesus Castanon, are comparatively clean.

 Above and below:  Animal Kingdom, and Johnny Velazquez, after the race.

Above:  Jesus Castanon, Shackleford's rider, after the race.

Above and below:  Jose Lezcano (above) and Shaun Bridgmohan (below).

Above:  Jose Valdivia, Jr., all smiles - with very little mud - after his upset Belmont win.

Above and below:  Popular young trainer Kelly Breen enjoys his first classic victory.

Above:  Owner George Hall and Kelly Breen share a winning hug.

 Above and below:  Ruler On Ice - none too happy about the winning flowers or the celebration.

Above:  Kelly Breen comforts his annoyed Belmont winner.

Above:  The blanket of carnations heads down victory lane before Ruler On Ice.

Above and below:  Winning owners George and Lori Hall lead Ruler On Ice down Belmont's grade I victory lane.

Above and below:  Jose Valdivia, overjoyed in the winner's circle (above).  Below, Kelly Breen lays a grateful pat on Ruler On Ice.

Above:  George and Lori Hall, Kelly Breen, and Jose Valdivia, Jr., enjoy their win in the 2011 Belmont Stakes.

Above:  America's newest classic winner is Ruler On Ice, by Roman Ruler - Champagne Glow, by Saratoga Six.  Bred by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm, Ruler On Ice is owned by George and Lori Hall, trained by Kelly Breen and ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr.

Above:  With an eye toward the future, Ruler On Ice heads out of the Belmont Stakes winner's circle.  Congratulations to all of this handsome horse's connections and backers!