A Bird won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but it wasn't the 6-5 favorite and fan choice Mine That Bird, rather his half brother Summer Bird that wound up in the winner's circle.
The 1.5 mile-race set up for an exciting finish as Mine That Bird was battling both Dunkirk and Charitable Man going down the stretch, but Summer Bird, who went off at 11-1, rallied a breezed past the bunch in the race's final furlong.
Summer Bird paid $25.80, $9.30, and $4.70 while Dunkirk placed and returned $5.40 and $3.60 . Mine That Bird finished third and paid $2.60 to show.
They were followed in order by Charitable Man, Luv Gov, Flying Private, Brave Victory, Mr. Hot Stuff, Chocolate Candy, and Miner’s Escape.
Summer Bird, out of the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall, was making just his fifth start, all at three years old. He broke his maiden in his second outing March 19 at Oaklawn Park and then was jumped into stakes company, running third, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, in the Arkansas Derby. In the Kentucky Derby, Summer Bird made a good run late while wide and closed ground to finish sixth, beaten 13 lengths.
Jockey Calvin Borel failed on his personal Triple Crown bid as he was attempting to be the first jockey to ride the winner of all three legs of the Triple Crown on different horses. He earned the Roses with Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby and was on top of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra in the second leg at Pimilco.
Borel drew some criticism for his ride in the race, but defended his actions afterwards to reporters.
"He was fighting me a little bit. I had to let him go a little," Borel said. "I thought he was home free."
Ironically, the winning jockey was Kent Desormeaux knows all about falling short in the Belmont spotlight. He rode Big Brown last year with the Triple Crown on the line and faltered.
Without a true Triple Crown contender entering the race, the buzz simply was not there for this year's edition.
A crowd of 52,861 wagered $9,021,196 on Belmont Stakes Day races June 6, compared with $13,233,071 on-track handle a year ago when Big Brown's Triple Crown attempt was witnessed by 94,476. The 2008 handle figure was second-highest in Belmont Stakes Day wagering history.