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Arcangelo takes Belmont Stakes, first woman-trained horse to win a Triple Crown race

The milestone caps the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown and ends a tumultuous five-week showcase of thoroughbred horse racing.
Arcangelo, with jockey Javier Castellano, breaks away from the pack in the final stretch to win the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday.
Arcangelo, with jockey Javier Castellano, breaks away from the pack in the final stretch to win the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday.Mary Altaffer / AP

Jena Antonucci became the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race, as her colt, Arcangelo, won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday and brought down the curtain on five tumultuous weeks of racing.

Jockey Javier Castellano, who won the Kentucky Derby aboard Mage, skillfully guided Arcangelo along the rail and burst past Preakness winner National Treasure and held off Forte in the final strides at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

Antonucci's historic triumph came on the 50th anniversary of Secretariat's famed win at the Belmont for owner Penny Chenery, one of horse racing's best-known female figures.

Antonucci, who is based in Florida, goes into the Triple Crown record books and will sure to be mentioned alongside Julie Krone, the only female jockey to have won one of horse racing’s three big races.

Krone’s Colonial Affair won the 1993 Belmont Stakes to become the first, and so far only, female jockey to win the third jewel of “The Test of the Champion.”

Arcangelo paid $17.80 for a $2 win bet. Forte placed second, and Tapit Twice came in third.

As Arcangelo was holding off the hard-charging Forte, Antonucci was screaming and jumping with every stride before she nearly fell to her knees in joyful relief.

Moments after her unprecedented victory, Antonucci told other would-be history makers to never lose hope.

"Never give up. If you can’t find a seat at the table, make your own table," she told Fox Sports. "Build you team and never give up. You are seen. People see you. Just keep working your butt off."

The Belmont was one of the last trophies not on the mantel of the Castellano, a Hall of Fame jockey based in New York. He said the triumph had special value.

"It means a lot to me," he said in the winner's circle. "My kids grew up in New York. We live in New York City here for 22 years. My neighbors always root for me. Now we have time to celebrate."

Arcangelo covered the arduous 1½-mile race in 2:29.23.

“I give all the credit to the horse,” Castellano said. “This is a wonderful horse. I’m really happy for her [Antonucci], you know, she’s a really good woman. She’s a good horseman.”

The Belmont was the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown, capping what's supposed to be thoroughbred horse racing's annual five-week showcase.

Instead, the past 35-plus days have been filled with questions about the sport's viability after several horses died on the huge stage.

A week ago Friday, Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the host of the Kentucky Derby, announced it had suspended racing on the famed oval to investigate the spike in deaths.

A dozen horses died there during the spring season, a relatively large number compared with the 15 that died at Kentucky tracks all of last year.

And shortly before National Treasure won the Preakness, the ordinarily joyful day at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore was marred by tragedy when Havnameltdown broke down at the top of the stretch of the $200,000 Grade III Chick Lang Stakes and was euthanized.