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Published on Jun 18, 2012
No, it did not start well for Rags to Riches, or for that matter the filly's jockey, John Velazquez, or her trainer, Todd Pletcher. She stumbled out of the gate for the 139th running of the Belmont Stakes, and for a heart-in-your-throat moment, Velazquez and Pletcher had a simultaneous and bitter thought: Why did we do this? Why did we run this girl against the boys when history told us it was foolish?
Two minutes later, however, Velazquez had Rags to Riches eyeball-to-eyeball with the Preakness champion, Curlin, and Pletcher was on his feet in a clubhouse box, his heart thumping in his chest, his voice uncharacteristically growing louder.
"Come on, baby! Come on, baby! Come on, baby!" Pletcher cried, his voice growing more urgent with every stride.
He is a placid man by nature, and a humbled one when it comes to Triple Crown races. He has been the nation's leading trainer three years running, but before yesterday he had saddled 28 horses in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont, and had not visited the winner's circle.