Updated on 07/20/2011 2:56PM

Belmont jockey race decided in final yards of final race


Usually, the battle for leading rider at a particular race meet is rather mundane and often is decided long before the last race is run.

But the leading rider at the Belmont spring/summer meet wasn’t decided until the last sixteenth of Sunday’s nightcap and the 526th race run at the meet, when Ramon Dominguez guided Aprilymayjune past Javier Castellano and Ms Diller to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The victory gave Dominguez his 71st win of the meet, two more than Castellano. Had Ms Diller won, Dominguez and Castellano would have tied at 70 wins apiece.

It was the third consecutive Belmont spring/summer title for Dominguez, who has won 13 of the last 15 riding titles at New York Racing Association tracks. Castellano was seeking his first Belmont title and first NYRA meet title since the 2007 Aqueduct fall meet.

Castellano went into the final two days of the meet trailing Dominguez by six wins. But he took advantage of Dominguez’s absence Saturday – Dominguez was at Delaware Park – by riding four winners to pull within two, 69-67, entering Sunday’s final card.

Through the first six races on the card, Castellano had two wins and Dominguez one, leaving Dominguez ahead, 70-69, with four races left. Castellano got beat on two even-money favorites in races 7 and 8 and had his horse, Put Me First, become a late scratch in the ninth.

In the finale, Castellano got Ms Diller to the lead in midstretch, but Dominguez rallied four wide to get the victory.
Dominguez and Castellano will resume their battle Friday at Saratoga, when both will be trying to dethrone reigning champion John Velazquez.

Rice ties Pletcher for leading trainer

Linda Rice admitted she went all-out to win the Belmont Park trainer’s title. She started 20 horses in 16 races over the final four days of the meet. Her aggressive nature proved worthwhile when Sextant won Sunday’s ninth race, which enabled Rice to tie Todd Pletcher for top honors at the meet with 25 winners. Rice had 119 starters to Pletcher’s 94.

For Rice, it was the second straight NYRA meet in which she tied for leading trainer. Rice shared the Aqueduct spring trainer’s title with David Jacobson. In 2009, Rice became the first female trainer to win a meet title at Saratoga.

“We were close, I thought I’d give it a whirl,” Rice said Monday morning at Belmont Park. “I get a little aggressive at the end of meets just because I can give the horses a little time to regroup and adapt to a new track and a new surface.”

If not for some bad luck, Rice might have won the title outright. On Friday and Saturday, she had five horses run second, including a nose loss by Resoundingly and a head loss by dropdown Fight for V L T’s, who was claimed away from Rice.

“Since Friday, I had three favorites either fall out of the gate or get beat a nose at the wire,” Rice said. “Things weren’t exactly coming together Friday and Saturday. We were pretty frustrated.”

Rice said the aggressive approach she took last week at Belmont will likely impact the beginning of her Saratoga meet.

“I’m going to be a little quiet the first couple of weeks,” she said.

Technically, Sextant’s victory was the 1,000th of Rice’s training career under this name. In 1988-89, when she trained under the name Linda Rice-Appleby, she won 21 races.

Lizza wins owner’s title

Carl Lizza died July 8, but his Flying Zee Stable will continue to have an impact on New York racing. With three wins over the weekend, Flying Zee finished as the leading owner by wins with 16.

Carlos Martin, one of several trainers employed by Flying Zee, said Lizza’s widow, Viane, had expressed a desire to Flying Zee’s trainers to win the title for Lizza.

“I think that was something she really stressed to us, that she really wanted him to go out a winner in that respect,” Martin said. “We accomplished that. I think that means a lot to her and the family.”

Rodman works toward Whitney

Rodman, runner-up in the Metropolitan Handicap, worked a solid five furlongs in 1:00.50 on Monday morning over Belmont Park’s main track. He got his last quarter in 23.70 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.54.

“Nothing wrong with that,” trainer Mike Hushion said after the move. “He’s not usually a good gallop-out horse, but I thought he galloped out good today.”

After running second to Tizway in the Met Mile, Rodman was sent off as the even-money favorite in the Suburban at Belmont on July 2, but he finished third, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Flat Out.

“The last race was okay, it certainly wasn’t a winning race,” Hushion said. “He broke a little slow and tried to catch-up the first quarter, which may have explained why he was a little flat the last part of it.”

The Whitney is shaping up to be an excellent race. Among those being pointed to the race are Grade 1 winners Sidney’s Candy, Tizway, Pool Play, Morning Line, and Rail Trip as well as graded stakes winners Mission Impazible and Rodman.