Horse racing has a funny way of writing Hollywood scripts and that was evident once again in 2023, as history was made 50 years after Secretariat’s dominant success in the Belmont Stakes, as Jena Antonucci became the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race. As female jockeys are also raising in the horse racing industry, it seems to be a trend that we are looking forward to seeing grow.
In the process, the trainer also became the first female trainer to achieve the feat of having a Belmont Stakes winner, and the look of glee on her face after Arcangelo crossed the line was splashed on major newspapers across the United States on the Sunday after the race.
The success story once again threw horse racing back into the limelight, but this time it was for all the right reasons after Bob Baffert’s extended battle with Churchill Downs to get runners into the Kentucky Derby.
Antonucci Makes History
Heading into the Belmont Stakes, horse racing in the United States was searching for a success story. It had been a testing period for those involved in the industry, with a number of runners losing their lives at Churchill Downs across Kentucky Derby week, and a historic small field lining up for the Preakness Stakes.
However, at Belmont Park, we got a Triple Crown race that was suitable for the tag of the ‘test of a champion’. If you bet using TwinSpires horse racing promotions you probably were surprised with the winner of this race.
Arcangelo was among the outsiders in the betting to land victory after winning the Peter Pan Stakes on his most recent start. The race had only produced two winners of the Belmont Stakes in the last 70 years, and few gave the progressive three-year-old much of a chance, especially with the returning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero Forte making his return to the track at Belmont Park.
But, he was handed a ride of a lifetime by Javier Castellano, who landed victory in a second Triple Crown race of the season following victory aboard Mage in the Kentucky Derby.
Glass Ceiling Smashed
Before the race even started there was history made, as Antonucci became only the eleventh female in Belmont Stakes history to saddle a horse for the famous Triple Crown race.
The trainer revealed that she always believed that Arcangelo was capable of this level of performance, despite having to wait until late March for the three-year-old to land a first career victory. She revealed that the team behind her deserved enormous credit for what they were able to do to get the horse ready for the stiff test at Belmont Park with little wiggle room following the Peter Pan in the middle of May.
The 47-year-old still has bigger targets to reach now, as she looks to put her 13 years of experience to use when assessing the next race for the Belmont Stakes winner.
What Could Be Next?
Antonucci will now be assessing the next steps for her Belmont Stakes hero, but entries in some of the prestigious Grade 1s between now and the end of the season look like the most likely targets.
A run in the Travers Stakes could be on the card, as this year’s talented crop of three-year-olds will square off for a final time before heading into open company. It will also be interesting to see what the target is for the three-year-old for later this season, as a run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic could on the agenda.
However, that could be a challenging race to win this year, with Forte likely to improve after finishing second following a ten-week layoff, and Bob Baffert’s paid of Arabian Lion and Arabian Knight likely to be targeted at huge races before the end of the season. But, Arcangelo certainly deserves to be in the conversation after a dominant performance at Belmont Park.