NEW YORK — This was a Belmont for the Birds. It was Summer Bird, not Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borel, who came roaring down the long stretch and won the final jewel of the Triple Crown on Saturday.
The upset ended Borel's bid to become the first jockey to win a personal Triple Crown, and he failed to deliver on a guarantee that he would capture the Belmont with the little gelding. Borel won the Kentucky Derby aboard Mine That Bird, then won the Preakness with the filly Rachel Alexandra.
Summer Bird, sent off at 11-1 odds, blew past Dunkirk and Mine That Bird to give jockey Kent Desormeaux a Belmont Stakes victory he desperately wanted.
With the crowd cheering on the leaders in the stretch, Mine That Bird made a huge move outside and took a brief lead over Dunkirk.
But it was Summer Bird who pulled away for a 2¾-length victory over Dunkirk. Mine That Bird was third in the field of 10 3-year-olds
"I thought I was home free," Borel said, "but the other horses galloped by."
They sure did, and there wasn't any happier rider than Desormeaux.
Last year, he won the Derby and Preakness aboard Big Brown, only to have to pull up the colt in the Belmont. And in 1998, he brought Real Quiet into the Belmont for a Triple try only to get beat by Victory Gallop by a nose in a heartbreaking defeat.
"I hope from now on we'll talk about winning one," Desormeaux said.
There was an inquiry filed by Charitable Man's jockey Alan Garcia against Dunkirk for interference, but it was disallowed by the racing stewards.
Charitable Man was fourth, followed by Luv Gov, Flying Private, Brave Victory, Mr. Hot Stuff, Chocolate Candy and Miner's Escape.
The winning time for the 1½ miles was 2:27.54.
Mine That Bird was sent off as the 6-5 favorite, but he seemed a bit more frisky than usual in the paddock and on the walk through the tunnel to the track. And he was a little too eager in the race, pulling Borel into contention sooner than anyone expected.
"He might have been a hair higher today coming in here, just a little more amped up," Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley said, "but overall he was the same horse I led up in the Derby. He ran a great race and just got beat, and you have to accept that and go on."
Summer Bird, meanwhile, looked almost regal before the start. The chestnut son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone — yes, the same sire as Mine That Bird — took the rail route usually the trademark of a Borel ride before breaking into the clear.
"The colt broke like a rocket," Desormeaux said. "He absolutely dragged me around the race track. I had an armchair ride until I found some room. I found room."
Summer Bird, trained by the recently licensed Tim Ice, returned $25.80. $9.30 and $4.70. Dunkirk paid $5.40 and $3.60, and Mine That Bird returned $2.60 to show.
Ice seemed stunned by his colt's accomplishment, which came on the trainer's 35th birthday. As he walked into the postrace news conference, he was serenaded with a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
"Right now it's just unexplainable," he said. "If my career goes nowhere from here, I've got a Belmont win."
He sure does. And once again, the "Test of the Champion," prevented a little Triple Crown history. While a Triple Crown wasn't on the line for a horse, Mine That Bird was attempting to become only the 12th horse to pull off a Derby-Belmont double.
But for now, the Belmont remains a race usually reserved for long shots. The favorite has won only six of the last 30 runnings of the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races.
Summer Bird won the Belmont in just his fifth career start. Owned by Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayarana, the colt did not run as a 2-year-old. In his third start, he was a closing third in the Arkansas Derby and came back and was a closing sixth in the Derby — 13 lengths behind Mine That Bird.