A gray colt named Arcangelo won the Belmont Stakes, the third and final race in the Triple Crown series, on Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY
This victory makes Jena Antonucci the first female trainer to win the race in its 155-year history.
“I have no words yet,” Antonucci said in tears after the race. “We’re trying to soak it all up – we’re so proud of this horse right now. It’s unbelievable.”
Now a barrier breaker in a male-dominated sport, she offered an inspirational message: “Don’t give up,” she said. “If you can’t find a seat at the table, make your own table.”
As for her winning horse, she added, “He’s just got the heart of a champion. He’s just that guy.”
Jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Arcangelo, also won his first Kentucky Derby this year aboard Mage.
Meanwhile, a spate of recent horse deaths has reignited scrutiny of the horse racing industry’s safety practices.
Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held, suspended racing in Louisville after 12 horses died at the track since April. Earlier this month a horse was euthanized after being injured during a race at Belmont Park.
Industry leaders insist the sport is safer than ever; horse deaths have dropped more than 37% since authorities began tracking them in 2009, the Associated Press reported.
The Humane Society responded to the recent deaths on Friday: “Practices and conditions that do not prioritize horse safety and the reckless use of drugs and medications have created a deadly environment for racehorses, and potentially the entire racing industry. Without a genuine commitment to reform that puts the safety and welfare of horses at the center of the sport, racing may be in its final days,” said Keith Dane, Senior Director of Horse Welfare.
Outside Belmont Park, a group of people carrying placards gathered to protest against the ‘cruelty and death’ of horse racing in a demonstration organized by the non-profit organization NYCLASS Animal Rights Advocacy, social media video show.