Mr Speaker Delivers Belmont Derby Shocker


Mr Speaker, ignored at odds of 23-1, charged along the inside to overtake favored Adelaide by a neck for a major upset in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. IT) on the inner turf course July 5 at Belmont Park .

Jose Lezcano piloted the 3-year-old son of Pulpit to victory for owner/breeder Phipps Stable and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

Adelaide was second and Flamboyant third. The final time was 2:01.18 for 1 1/4 miles over a course rated good.

A grade III winner on both turf and Polytrack, Mr Speaker was overlooked after fading to finish a well-beaten fifth and last as the odds-on favorite in the Pennine Ridge Stakes at nine furlongs over the Belmont inner course May 26. He was making his first start at 1 1/4 miles in the Belmont Derby, which was previously the Jamaica Handicap and contested in the fall before this year. The race was given a significant upgrade in purse as well.

Mr Speaker's dam, Salute, is a daughter of Unbridled out of the Hall of Fame mare Personal Ensign, by Hoist the Flag, a winner of all 13 of her career starts, including the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) and seven other grade I races. 

"He definitely redeemed himself; his last race was very disappointing," said McGaughey, who thanked the New York Racing Association for carding the race. "He trained well coming up to today and we changed our game plan; I wanted him back. Jose rode a great race on him."

Adelaide, the 2-1 choice in the field of 10 sophomores, shipped in from Ireland for trainer Aidan O'Brien. He was favored off a three-length win in a group III race over heavy ground at the Curragh at the Belmont Derby distance May 25. The Galileo colt was making a quick turnaround after finishing second to Eagle Top at Royal Ascot June 20 in the 1 1/2-mile King Edward VII (Eng-II).

French raider Pornichet, donning blinkers for the first time, was a run-off leader through the first part of the race, opening up by as many as six lengths while clipping off quarter mile fractions of :23.65 and :48.43. Stalkers Gala Award and Bobby's Kitten ran up to challenge on the backstretch, however. Those three showed the way through six furlongs in 1:12.65 and a mile in 1:37.10 with Toast of New York, Flamboyant, and Adelaide maneuvered into position to challenge. Mr Speaker was last for the opening half mile while racing close to the rail before advancing to midpack at the quarter pole.

Adelaide, ridden by Colm O'Donoghue, emerged with the advantage approaching the furlong marker and may have been surprised by the streaking Mr Speaker, who got a dream run through at the rail to snatch the lead. Adelaide battled back in the final strides, but Mr Speaker proved a game winner under urging from Lezcano.

"We broke, and I got the position I wanted," Lezcano said. "I let him settle. Last time, he was a little aggressive. It was a five-horse field, he broke, and no one wanted to go, so he took the lead. Today, on the backside, I made a little move to try and hold my position. Then I followed a horse I saw running (Adelaide); I think I followed the right horse."

Adelaide was 3 1/2 lengths clear of the show horse, the Joel Rosario-piloted Flamboyant, who was coming off a second in the Pennine Ridge when beaten by a head by Gala Award.

"I had a trouble-free trip," O'Donoghue said of the runner-up. "He sat beautifully and ran strong the last two furlongs."

Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Mr Speaker paid $49, $18.20, and $10.80 as the second-longest shot in the field. Adelaide returned $4.40 and $3.20 in his U.S. debut, completing a $288.50 exacta. The French-bred Flamboyant paid $7.40.

Mr Speaker won on the grass for the first time since taking the Dania Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) last December at Gulfstream Park. Unsuccessfully tried on the dirt when seventh in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) in January, the dark bay or brown colt returned to grass to finish second by half a length to Gala Award in the Palm Beach (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream March 1. Mr Speaker returned to the winner's circle April 19 with a four-length triumph in the Lexington Stakes (gr. III) on the Keeneland Polytrack, his final start before the disappointing Pennine Ridge effort.

"I had a concrete reason (to dismiss his last race), but you always have your doubts," McGaughey said. "Does he belong in the top layer of horses or not? I think today he proved he does. My confidence was shaken a little bit; he was a different horse (before the Pennine Ridge), it was like he had never been in the paddock before. He went to the post and was looking up into the crowd. But today, he was an entirely different horse."

The latest win improved Mr Speaker's career line to 4-1-1 in nine starts with earnings of $945,880 thanks to Saturday's $670,000 winning prize. Mr Speaker is the first graded stakes winner from two foals to race for Salute, who was twice graded stakes-placed in her career.

French invader Gailo Chop was edged for third, followed by Sheldon, Toast of New York, Global View, Bobby's Kitten, Pornichet, and Gala Award. Dance With Fate was scratched.