Not the finish Brad Pegram wanted, but Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes furthered his place in history as a jockey agent.
It could become even a more historic summer for the former Princeton schoolboy-turned jockey agent, son of retired agent Jim Pegram, nephew of 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning owner Mike Pegram, and grandson of former Princeton American Legion baseball manager Jim Pegram who guided Post 25 to two state championships.
When Hot Rod Charlie finished second in the Belmont, after leading most of the mile-and-a-half race but overtaken in the stretch as Essential Quality won a head-to-head duel, Brad Pegram became an in-the-money finisher in all three Triple Crown races for the second time in his agency career.
First time was 2018, when Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rode Justify to victory in all three Triple Crown races. Saturday’s runnerup finish, with Flavien Plat aboard Hot Rod Charlie, followed Plat’s Kentucky Derby third-place finish on that horse and his Preakness win aboard Rombauer.
“I hadn’t thought of that. But, yes, this is the second time one of my jockeys has been top three in all three of those races,” Pegram said from his Pasadena, California, home a couple nights after returning from New York City.
“This Belmont was a tremendous race. All the in-the-money horses, including third-place Rombauer, ran well. It was fun to watch. I’m not surprised they ran so well; they all had good wire-to-wire runs in the Derby. Flaven did a great job again and our horse responded with determination.”
Rombauer trainer Mike McCarthy offered Pegram and Plat the Preakness ride on that horse after Hot Rod Charlie’s handlers said he wouldn’t run the Triple Crown’s second leg.
“We were committed to ride Hot Rod Charlie in whatever Triple Crown races he ran. When I told Mike McCarthy that the day after the Preakness, he understood.
“I don’t know when Hot Rod Charlie will run again. We’re back in California and have a lot of races coming.”
Plat won three races last weekend at Belmont, located a short gallop outside New York City. Friday, in a $92,000 allowance optional claiming race, he rode 2-1 favorite Public Sector to victory in a one-mile turf race. Saturday he rode 9-2 Soft Flower to victory in a $90,000, seven-furlong maiden special weight race. And in the race that preceded the Belmont Stakes, he won the $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan Stakes, a mile-and-a-quarter turf race, aboard 3-2 favorite Domestic Spending.
Smith, who hired Pegram early in 2005 and that May won the Kentucky Derby aboard 50-1 Giacomo, Saturday won the $500,000 Longine Stakes, a one-mile turf race, on 7-1 Althiqa. In the day’s 13th and last race, a $94,000 allowance claiming run that covered a mile-and-an-eighth on turf, he finished second on 6-1 Desert Peace — 5-1 Hard Love won by a head.
While Smith did not have a Belmont Stakes mount Saturday, he and Pegram have won the Triple Crown finale three times — on Drosselmeyer in 2010, Palace Malice in 2013 and then Justify in 2018.
An even more historic summer for Brad Pegram and family? He is coaching Pasadena Little League’s 11-year-old All-Stars in tournament play that’ll start Tuesday. That tourney winner will advance to play in Encino, Calif., three miles from Pasadena, and the Encino winner advances to the state tournament. “I think the state tourney is in Irvine,” said Brad, who in 1990 played third base as Princeton’s Babe Ruth League All-Stars became state champions.
“Our son Nolan is on our All-Star team. He’s a pitcher and catcher,” said dad, who hopes Nolan and teammates make him a state baseball champion as both player and coach.