06/09/2006 11:00PM

Jazil breaks through in a scramble

Jazil, ridden by 18-year-old Fernando Jara, wins the Belmont, his second career victory. He came off a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

ELMONT, N.Y. - For Jazil, there no longer is any loneliness for the long-distance runner. He had closed strongly in the Wood Memorial, and in the Kentucky Derby, but could not get up in time. Going 1 1/2 miles in the 138th on Saturday at Belmont Park, however, Jazil overpowered his 11 rivals on the turn and drew away for a 1 1/4-length victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

The victory was the first in a Triple Crown race for both trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and jockey Fernando Jara, 18.

McLaughlin is a former assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. So is Todd Pletcher, who failed to get over the hump with a Triple Crown win, but whose horses, Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver, finished second and third, respectively. Bluegrass Cat finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Sunriver.

Steppenwolfer was fourth and was followed, in order, by Oh So Awesome, Hemingway's Key, Platinum Couple, Bob and John, Sacred Light, High Finance, and Deputy Glitters. Double Galore was eased.

Jazil ($14.40) completed 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:27.86. His owner, the Shadwell Stable of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, earned $600,000 from a gross purse of $1 million.

Jazil, a son of Seeking the Gold out of the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour, won for only the second time in eight starts. His only previous victory had been against maidens at Aqueduct in December, but he had run well in several major races for 3-year-olds earlier this year.

Jazil was second in the Wood Memorial, and finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the Kentucky Derby. As in those races, Jazil dropped back to last in the Belmont, then made a strong, extended run. This time, though, no one finished in front of him.

Jara rode a terrific race in the Derby, saving ground throughout, and showed coolness beyond his years in the Belmont. At the start of the race, Jazil bumped solidly with Bluegrass Cat, and Jara's right foot came out of the irons, but he deftly put it back in the stirrup without interrupting his mount's rhythm.

Then, as the field moved down the backstretch, Jara cleanly brought Jazil between horses without having to check, then took him to the outside for the extended run around the far turn.

"I was very confident when he was weaving through at the five-eighths pole to the quarter pole alongside Bluegrass Cat, moving the right way," McLaughlin said.

Bob and John broke sharpest, but jockey Garrett Gomez kept him off the rail while leading through fractions of 23.02 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.36 seconds for a half-mile. By staying off the rail, he forced Deputy Glitters to race wide, and let High Finance come up inside of him.

Bob and John continued to lead past six furlongs in 1:12.14 and a mile in 1:37.53, but then Bluegrass Cat moved sharply to challenge for the lead. Jazil, however, immediately came after Bluegrass Cat, and they raced as a team past the quarter pole, completing 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.69.

Jazil gained the edge on Bluegrass Cat soon after turning into the stretch, and went resolutely to the wire.

The Belmont, run before an announced crowd of 61,168, was held on a blustery afternoon that more resembled fall than the last days of spring. There was a strong headwind down the backstretch that became even more pronounced as the day progressed. The wind, combined with bright sunshine, helped dry out a main track that had been pounded by rain earlier in the week. The track was sealed overnight, then opened with harrows in the morning, resulting in a fast track.

The Belmont did not have the winners of either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes, which last occurred in 2000. Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby, but suffered a career-ending injury in the Preakness. Bernardini, the Preakness winner, was kept out of the Belmont in order to prepare for major races later this summer.

Edgar Prado, who rode Barbaro, and Tom Albertrani, who trains Bernardini, combined forces in the Belmont with Deputy Glitters, but there would be no joy for them this time. Deputy Glitters finished 11th.

Because of the absence of two of the division's leaders, bettors had trouble separating the leading contenders in the Belmont. Five horses - Bob and John, Jazil, Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer, and Sunriver - all went off between 9-2 and 6-1, with Bob and John favored.

- additional reporting by David Grening