Master trainer Dermot Weld, who has won major races on every continent except Africa, scored in the USA on Saturday night when the 5-year-old mare Zhukova (4/5f) won the Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park.
The only mare in the race destroyed her four rivals by six lengths under top rider John Velazquez. Taghleeb beat Sadler’s Joy for second, with Charming Kitten fourth and Wake Forest last of the five.
Weld had hoped for soft conditions in the New York area for the daughter of Fastnet Rock and his prayers were answered when a daylong deluge left bog-like conditions. As a result Highland Sky, Patterson Cross, and Twilight Eclipse, the 2015 Man o’ War winner, were all withdrawn from the feature race.
Zhukova, and John Velazquez stalked the slow pace setting Charming Kitten until the John Murrell-owned mare took over around the mile pole and kicked away from the field in the home straight for a dominant victory, her seventh in total and her first Grade 1.
The victory was the third Grade 1 triumph at Belmont for Dermot Weld following success in the 1990 Belmont Stakes with Go and Go and the 2003 Flower Bowl with Dimitrova.
“We’re absolutely over the moon with that,” said Mark Weld, assistant trainer to his father. “It was a major target over the last few weeks. The rain came, which was a huge help. Johnny was very complimentary about her. He said she could have a future here. She’ll come home now but the (Breeders’ Cup) Filly & Mare Turf would be a definite possibility to finish off the year.”