Kentucky Oaks winner Rags To Riches bids to buck two major trends when she lines up in the 139th renewal of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
The Todd Pletcher-trained runner is aiming to become the first filly in 102 years to win the 12-furlong Classic, as well as give her handler a landmark first win in a Triple Crown event.
Pletcher boasts a multitude of big-race honours but he has yet to send out a winner in either the Belmont, Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes.
The AP Indy filly, who runs in the colours of Michael Tabor, will be out to emulate Ruthless and Tanya, who took the race in 1867 and 1905 respectively.
Rags To Riches has won her last four starts, culminating in her four-and-a-quarter-length triumph at Churchill Downs, and Pletcher is hoping to prolong her winning streak.
“What we have to gain is, it hasn’t really been done in modern times,” he said.
“She’s sort of accomplished everything a three-year-old filly could accomplish. From a historical perspective, it would place her at the highest level.
“She’s doing very well right now. She came out of her last work well.”
Rags To Riches will also be out to maintain her family honour as she is a half-sister to last year’s Belmont winner, Jazil.
“She arguably has the best pedigree for the race a horse could have,” Pletcher added.
“She has such an efficient action and is so powerful behind she gives the impression she will stay forever.”
Pletcher’s charge will start from stall seven with John Velazquez taking over from regular partner Garrett Gomez who is committed to Hard Spun.
Much interest in the race is set to focus on Curlin and Hard Spun as they cross swords for the third time at Belmont Park.
Hard Spun came out on top in the Kentucky Derby where he finished second to Street Sense, one place ahead of his Steve Asmussen-trained rival.
However, Curlin gained his revenge last time when snatching the Preakness by a head from Street Sense with Hard Spun back in third.
Although Asmussen is well acquainted with the challenge of Hard Spun, he admits it is harder to assess the chance of Rags To Riches.
“She’s a very intriguing horse. There are no comparisons to make because she has never run against males,” explained Asmussen.
“She’s not going to be a pace factor, so her running is not really going to change how the race is run.
“She’s just another quality horse in the race and Curlin is going to have to run extremely well to win.”
Kentucky Derby seventh Tiago also reopposes for trainer John Shirreffs while Preakness fourth CP West represents Nick Zito.
The seven-strong field is completed by Imawildandcrazyguy, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and Lone Star Derby winner Slew’s Tizzy.
Belmont Stakes betting:
Coral: 10-11 Curlin, 100-30 Rags To Riches, 6-1 Hard Spun, 11-1 Tiago, 12-1 Imawildandcrazyguy, 16-1 CP West, Slew’s Tizzy.
William Hill: 10-11 Curlin, 11-4 Rags To Riches, 5-1 Hard Spun, 14-1 Tiago, 16-1 CP West, Imawildandcrazyguy, 33-1 Slews Tizzy.