Day: June 9, 2024

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ boosts Will Smith’s comeback with $56M opening

New York — “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the fourth installment in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence action-comedy series, opened with an estimated $56 million in theaters over the weekend, handing Hollywood a much-needed summer hit and Smith his biggest success since he slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards.

Expectations were all over the map for “Ride or Die” given the dismal moviegoing market thus far this summer and Smith’s less certain box-office clout. In the end, though, the Sony Pictures release came in very close to, or slightly above, its tracking forecast.

“Ride or Die,” produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, is Smith’s first theatrical test since his 2022 slap of Rock earned him a 10-year Oscar ban. The “Bad Boys” film was in development at the time and was momentarily put on hold, but ultimately went forward with about a $100 million production budget.

Smith starred in the Apple release “Emancipation,” but that film — released in late 2022 — was shot before the slap and received only a modest theatrical release before streaming.

This time around, Smith largely avoided soul-searching interviews looking back on the Oscars and instead went on a whistle-stop publicity tour of red carpets from Mexico to Saudi Arabia, where he attended what was billed as the country’s first Hollywood premiere. The 55-year-old Smith, who for years was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” the YouTube series “Hot Ones” and Friday, made a surprise appearance at a Los Angeles movie theater.

Given that “Bad Boys” trailed May disappointments like “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Fall Guy” – both of which struggled to pop with ticket buyers despite very good reviews – the “Ride or Die” opening counts as a critical weekend win for the movie business.

“The fact that a movie overperformed is the best possible news,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. “It seems like all we’ve been doing over the past few weeks and almost since the beginning of the year, with a couple of exceptions, is try to figure out why seemingly well-marketed, well-reviewed movies have underperformed. This ignites the spark that the industry has been waiting for.”

“Ride or Die” still didn’t quite manage to match the opening of the previous “Bad Boys” film: 2020’s “Bad Boys for Life.” That movie, released in January 2020, debuted with $62.5 million. After the pandemic shut down theaters, it was the highest grossing North American release of that year, with $204 million domestically.

“Ride or Die” added $48.6 million internationally. Though reviews were mixed (64% on Rotten Tomatoes), audiences gave the film a high grade with an “A-” CinemaScore.

Black moviegoers accounted for 44% of ticket buyers, the largest demographic.

In the film, which comes 29 years after the original, Smith and Lawrence reprise their roles as Miami detectives. The plot revolves around uncovering a scheme to frame their late police captain (Joe Pantoliano). In one of the movie’s most notable scenes, Lawrence slaps Smith and calls him a “bad boy.”

Movie theaters will need a lot more than “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” though, to right the ship. Ticket sales are down 26% from last year and more than 40% below pre-pandemic totals, according to Comscore. A big test comes next weekend with the release of Pixar’s “Inside Out 2.” After sending several Pixar releases straight to Disney+, the studio has vowed a lengthy, traditional theatrical rollout this time.

Last weekend’s top film “The Garfield Movie,” slid to second place. Also from Sony, the family animated comedy collected $10 million in ticket sales over its third weekend, bringing its domestic gross to $68.6 million.

The weekend’s other new wide release, “The Watchers,” failed to click with moviegoers. The horror film, directed by Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of M. Night Shyamalan, is about a stranded 28-year-old artist in Ireland. Following poor reviews, the Warner Bros. release grossed $7 million in 3,351 theaters.

That allowed “If,” the Ryan Reynolds imaginary friend fantasy, to grab third place in its fourth weekend of release, bringing the Paramount Pictures cumulative domestic total to $93.5 million. Rounding out the top five was “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” which added $5.4 million in its fifth weekend of release. It has grossed $150 million domestically and $360 million worldwide.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” $56 million.

  2. ”The Garfield Movie,” $10 million.

  3. “If,” $8 million.

  4. “The Watchers,” $7 million.

  5. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” $5.4 million.

  6. “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” $4.2 million.

  7. “The Fall Guy,” $2.7 million.

  8. “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” $2.4 million.

  9. “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” $1.9 million.

  10. “The Strangers: Chapter 1,” $1.8 million.


Service dogs help ease PTSD symptoms in US military veterans, researchers say


Growing community of breast milk donors in Uganda gives mothers hope

KAMPALA, Uganda — Early last year, Caroline Ikendi was in distress after undergoing an emergency Caesarean section to remove one stillborn baby and save two others. Doctors said one of the preterm babies had a 2% chance of living.

If the babies didn’t get breast milk — which she didn’t have — Ikendi could lose them as well.

Thus began a desperate search for breast milk donors. She was lucky with a neighbor, a woman with a newborn baby to feed who was willing to donate a few milliliters at a time.

“You go and plead for milk. You are like, ‘Please help me, help my child,'” Ikendi told The Associated Press.

The neighbor helped until Ikendi heard about a Ugandan group that collects breast milk and donates it to mothers like her. Soon the ATTA Breastmilk Community was giving the breast milk she needed, free of charge, until her babies were strong enough to be discharged from the hospital.

ATTA Breastmilk Community was launched in 2021 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, by a woman who had struggled like Ikendi without getting support. The registered nonprofit, backed by grants from organizations and individuals, is the only group outside a hospital setting in Uganda that conserves breast milk in substantial amounts.

ATTA, as the group is known, receives calls for support from hospitals and homes with babies born too soon or too sick to latch onto their mothers’ breasts.

More than 200 mothers have donated breast milk to support more than 450 babies since July 2021, with over 600 liters of milk delivered for babies in that period, according to ATTA’s records.

In a measure of efforts to build a reliable community, many donors have given multiple times while others help to find new ones, said ATTA administrator Racheal Akugizibwe.

“We are an emergency fix,” Akugizibwe said. “As the mother is working on their own production, we are giving (her) milk. But we do it under the directive and under the support of a lactation specialist and the medical people.”

She added: “Every mother who has given us milk, they are kind of attached to us. They are we; we are them. That’s what makes it a community.”

ATTA makes calls for donors via social media apps like Instagram. Women who want to donate must provide samples for testing, including for HIV and hepatitis B and C, and there are formal conversations during which ATTA tries to learn more about potential donors and motivations. Those who pass the screening are given storage bags and instructed in safe handling.

Akugizibwe spoke of ATTA’s humble beginnings in the home of its founder, Tracy Ahumuza, who would store the milk in her freezer. Ahumuza started the group amid personal grief: She hadn’t been able to produce breast milk for her newborn who battled life-threatening complications. Days later, after the baby died, she started lactating.

She asked health workers, “Where do I put the milk that I have now?'” Akugizibwe said. “They told her, ‘All we can do for you is give you tablets to dry it out.’ She’s like, ‘No, but if I needed it and I didn’t get it, someone could need it.'”

In the beginning, ATTA would match a donor to a recipient, but it proved unsustainable because of the pressure it put on donors. ATTA then started collecting and storing breast milk, and donors and recipients don’t know each other.

Akugizibwe said the group gets more requests for support than it can meet. Challenges include procuring storage bags in large quantities as well as the costs of testing. And donors are required to own freezers, a financial obstacle for some.

“The demand is extremely, extremely high,” Akugizibwe said, “but the supply is low.”

Lelah Wamala, a chef and mother of three in Kampala who twice has donated milk, said she was spurred to act when, while having a baby in 2022, she saw mothers whose premature babies were dying because they didn’t have milk.

Being a donor is a time-consuming responsibility, “but this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Via motorcycle courier on Kampala’s busy streets, breast milk from donors is taken to ATTA’s storage and delivered to parents in need.

ATTA’s goal is to set up a full-fledged breast milk bank with the ability to pasteurize. The service is necessary in a country where an unknown number of women suffer for lack of lactation support, said Dr. Doreen Mazakpwe, a lactation specialist who collaborates with ATTA.

Mazakpwe cited a range of lactation issues mothers can face, from sore nipples to babies born too sick or too weak to suckle and stimulate milk production.

If both mother and baby are healthy, “this mother should be able to produce as much milk as the baby needs because we work on the principle of supply and demand,” said Mazakpwe, a consultant with a private hospital outside Kampala. “So, in situations where there’s a delay in putting the baby on the breast, or the baby is not fed frequently enough … you can eventually have an issue where you have low supply.”

Mazakpwe said she advises mothers on how to establish their own supply within about a month of receiving donated breast milk, and sometimes all that’s needed is to hold the baby the right way. When mothers start lactating, it frees up supply for new ones who need ATTA’s help, she said.

Akugizibwe said their work is challenging in a socially conservative society where such a pioneering service raises eyebrows. Questions, even from recipients, include fears that babies who drink donated breast milk might inherit the bad habits of their benefactors.

In addition, “If you don’t breastfeed there is a lot of negativity,” said Ikendi, whose premature babies survived on donated milk. “Society looks at you as though you’ve just literally refused to breastfeed.”

She spoke of struggling even when she knew she had no choice after seeing her babies in the intensive care unit for the first time. Through the glass she saw they were so tiny, on oxygen therapy and bleeding from their noses. The babies, a boy and a girl, had been removed at seven months.

Ikendi’s babies received donated breast milk for two months.

One recent morning, an emotional Ikendi held her children as she described how the donated milk “contributed 100% to our babies’ growth.”


Muslim schools caught up in France’s fight against Islamism


Some US families opt to raise teens sans social media

WESTPORT, Connecticut — Kate Bulkeley’s pledge to stay off social media in high school worked at first. She watched the benefits pile up: She was getting excellent grades. She read lots of books. The family had lively conversations around the dinner table and gathered for movie nights on weekends.

Then, as sophomore year got under way, the unexpected problems surfaced. She missed a student government meeting arranged on Snapchat. Her Model U.N. team communicates on social media, too, causing her scheduling problems. Even the Bible Study club at her Connecticut high school uses Instagram to communicate with members.

Gabriela Durham, a high school senior in Brooklyn, says navigating high school without social media has made her who she is today. She is a focused, organized, straight-A student. Not having social media has made her an “outsider,” in some ways. That used to hurt; now, she says, it feels like a badge of honor.

With the damaging consequences of social media increasingly well documented, many parents are trying to raise their children with restrictions or blanket bans. Teenagers themselves are aware that too much social media is bad for them, and some are initiating social media “cleanses” because of the toll it takes on mental health and grades.

This is a tale of two families, social media and the ever-present challenge of navigating high school. It’s about what kids do when they can’t extend their Snapstreaks or shut their bedroom doors and scroll through TikToks past midnight. It’s about what families discuss when they’re not having screen-time battles. It’s also about persistent social ramifications.

The journeys of both families show the rewards and pitfalls of trying to avoid social media in a world that is saturated by it.

Concerns about children and phone use are not new. But there is a growing realization among experts that the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the relationship kids have with social media. As youth coped with isolation and spent excessive time online, the pandemic effectively carved out a much larger space for social media in the lives of American children.

Social media is where many kids turn to forge their emerging identities, to seek advice, to unwind and relieve stress. In this era of parental control apps and location tracking, social media is where this generation is finding freedom.

It is also increasingly clear that the more time youth spend online, the higher the risk of mental health problems.

Kids who use social media for more than three hours a day face double the risk of depression and anxiety, according to studies cited by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who issued an extraordinary public warning last spring about the risks of social media to young people.

The Bulkeleys and Gabriela’s mother, Elena Romero, both set strict rules starting when their kids were young and still in elementary school. They delayed giving phones until middle school and declared no social media until 18. They educated the girls, and their younger siblings, on the impact of social media on young brains, on online privacy concerns, on the dangers of posting photos or comments that can come back to haunt you.

At school, on the subway and at dance classes around New York City, Gabriela is surrounded by reminders that social media is everywhere — except on her phone.

Growing up without it has meant missing out on things. Everyone but you gets the same jokes, practices the same TikTok dances, is up on the latest viral trends. When Gabriela was younger, that felt isolating; at times, it still does. But now, she sees not having social media as freeing.

“From my perspective, as an outsider,” she says, “it seems like a lot of kids use social media to promote a facade. And it’s really sad.”

There is also friend drama on social media and a lack of honesty, humility and kindness that she feels lucky to be removed from.

Gabriela is a dance major at the Brooklyn High School of the Arts. Senior year got intense with college and scholarship applications capped by getting to perform at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre in March as part of a city showcase of high school musicals.

“My kids’ schedules will make your head spin,” Romero says. On school days, they’re up at 5:30 a.m. and out the door by 7. Romero drives the girls to their three schools scattered around Brooklyn, then takes the subway into Manhattan, where she teaches mass communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

In New York City, it’s common for kids to get phones early in elementary school, but Romero waited until each daughter reached middle school and started taking public transportation home alone.

In the upscale suburb of Westport, Connecticut, the Bulkeleys have faced questions about bending their rules. But not for the reason they had anticipated.

Kate was perfectly content to not have social media. Her parents figured at some point she might resist their ban because of peer pressure or fear of missing out. But the 15-year-old sees it as a waste of time. She describes herself as academic, introverted and focused on building up extracurricular activities.

That’s why she needed Instagram.

“I needed it to be co-president of my Bible Study Club,” Kate explains.

As Kate’s sophomore year started, she told her parents that she was excited to be leading a variety of clubs but needed social media to do her job. “It was the school that really drove the fact that we had to reconsider our rule about no social media,” says Steph Bulkeley, Kate’s mother.

Schools talk the talk about limiting screen time and the dangers of social media, says her dad, Russ Bulkeley. But technology is rapidly becoming part of the school day. Kate’s high school and their 13-year-old daughter Sutton’s middle school have cell phone bans that aren’t enforced. Teachers will ask them to take out their phones to photograph material during class time.

The Bulkeleys aren’t on board with that but feel powerless to change it.

Ultimately they gave in to Kate’s plea for Instagram because they trust her, and because she’s too busy to devote much time to social media.


Netflix’s recipe for success includes ‘secret sauce’ spiced with tech savvy

LOS GATOS, California — Although its video streaming service sparkles with a Hollywood sheen, Netflix still taps its roots in Silicon Valley to stay a step ahead of traditional TV and movie studios.

The Los Gatos, California, company, based more than 300 miles away from Hollywood, frequently reaches into its technological toolbox without viewers even realizing it. It often just uses a few subtle twists on the knobs of viewer recommendations to help keep its 270 million worldwide subscribers satisfied at a time when most of its streaming rivals are seeing waves of cancelations from inflation-weary subscribers.

Even when hit TV series like “The Crown” or “Bridgerton” have wide appeal, Netflix still tries to cater to the divergent tastes of its vast audience. One part of that recipe includes tailoring summaries and trailers about its smorgasbord of shows to fit the personal interests of each viewer.

So, someone who likes romance might see a plot summary or video trailer for “The Crown” highlighting the relationship between Princess Diana and Charles, while another viewer more into political intrigue may be shown a clip of Queen Elizabeth in a meeting with Margaret Thatcher.

For an Oscar-nominated film like “Nyad,” a lover of action might see a trailer of the title character immersed in water during one of her epic swims, while a comedy fan might see a lighthearted scene featuring some amusing banter between the two stars, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster.

Netflix is able to pull off these variations through the deep understanding of viewing habits it gleans from crunching the data from subscribers’ histories with its service — including those of customers who signed up in the late 1990s when the company launched with a DVD-by-mail service that continued to operate until last September.

“It is a secret sauce for us, no doubt,” Eunice Kim, Netflix’s chief product officer, said while discussing the nuances of the ways Netflix tries to reel different viewers into watching different shows. “The North Star we have every day is keep people engaged, but also make sure they are incredibly satisfied with their viewing experiences.”

As part of that effort, Netflix is rolling out a redesign of the home page that greets subscribers when they are watching the streaming service on a TV screen. The changes are meant to package all the information that might appeal to a subscriber’s tastes in a more concise format to reduce the “gymnastics with their eyes,” said Patrick Flemming, Netflix’s senior director of member product.

What Netflix is doing with its previews may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference, especially as people looking to save money start to limit the number of streaming services they have.

Last year, video streaming services collectively suffered about 140 million account cancelations, a 35% increase from 2022 and nearly triple the volume in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic created a boom in demand for entertainment from people corralled at home, according to numbers compiled by the research firm Antenna.

Netflix doesn’t disclose its cancelation, or churn rate, but last year its streaming service gained 30 million subscribers — marking its second-biggest annual increase behind its own growth spurt during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns.

Part of last year’s subscription growth flowed from a crackdown on viewers who had been freeloading off Netflix subscribers who shared their account passwords. But the company is also benefiting from the technological know-how that helps it to keep funneling shows to customers who like them and make them think the service is worth the money, according to J. Christopher Hamilton, an assistant professor of television, radio and film at Syracuse University.

“What they have been doing is pretty ingenious and very, very strategic,” Hamilton said. “They are definitely ahead of the legacy media companies who are trying to do some of the same things but just don’t have the level of sophistication, experience nor the history of the data in their archives.”

Netflix’s nerdy heritage once was mocked by an entertainment industry that looked down at the company’s geekdom.

Not long after that put-down, Netflix began mining its viewing data to figure out how to produce a slate of original programming that would attract more subscribers — an ambitious expansion that forced Time Warner (now rolled into Warner Bros. Discovery) and other long-established entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. into a mad scramble to build their own streaming services.

Although those expansions initially attracted hordes of subscribers, they also resulted in massive losses that have resulted in management shakeups and drastic cutbacks, including the abrupt closure of a CNN streaming service. 

What Netflix is doing with technology to retain subscribers to boost its fortunes — the company’s profit rose 20% to $5.4 billion last year — now is widening the divide with rival services still trying to stanch their losses.

Disney’s 4-year-old streaming service recently became profitable after an overhaul engineered by CEO Bob Iger, but he thinks more work will be required to catch up with Netflix.

Netflix isn’t going to help its rivals by divulging its secrets, but the slicing and dicing generally starts with getting a grasp on which viewers tend to gravitate to certain genres — the broad categories include action, adventure, anime, fantasy, drama, horror, comedy, romance and documentary — and then diving deeper from there.

In some instances, Netflix’s technology will even try to divine a viewer’s mood at any given time by analyzing what titles are being browsed or clicked on. In other instances, it’s relatively easy for the technology to figure out how to make a film or TV series as appealing as possible to specific viewers.

If Netflix’s data shows a subscriber has watched a lot of Hindi productions, it would be almost a no-brainer to feature clips of Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt in a role she played in the U.S. film, “Heart of Stone” instead of the movie’s lead actress, Gal Gadot.


Meloni joins cultural elite celebrating Italian opera’s recognition as a world treasure

VERONA, Italy — Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni joined top political and cultural figures at Verona’s ancient Arena amphitheater Friday night for an open-air celebration of Italian lyric opera’s recognition by UNESCO as a global cultural treasure.

Conductor Riccardo Muti presided over an orchestra of 170 musicians from Italy’s 14 opera houses, joined by over 314 choral singers and a cast of global star opera stars who delivered a greatest hits of Italian opera from Verdi to Puccini, Donizetti to Bellini for an appreciative crowd. La Scala’s two star dancers, Roberto Bolle and Nicoletta Manni, also performed.

“I am here to testify to my enthusiasm and my pride for the fact that Italian lyric opera has received this great recognition,” Muti told the crowd. “Of course, this is an important moment, because recognition is never a point of arrival but a point of departure.”

“The great masterpieces are our heritage, which we Italians have given to the world,” Muti added in a prepared message for the television audience.

While UNESCO included Italian opera on its intangible cultural heritage list in December, the Arena proved a fitting place to celebrate the milestone. The ancient stone amphitheater built by the Romans is home to a popular summer opera festival that for generations has made opera accessible to the uninitiated with lavish productions. More than half of the 400,000 spectators at the Arena each summer are foreigners.

“We have brought together the entire Italian opera system to celebrate, together with the great singers of the world,” said the Arena’s deputy artistic director, Stefano Trespidi. “I am convinced that this evening will bring benefits to the entire music and opera system.”

Joining Italian opera stars like Luca Salsi, Francesco Meli and Vittorio Grigolo were international stars including German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, Australian soprano Jessica Pratt and Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez. Russian soprano Anna Netrebko canceled at the last minute due to illness.

Though a previous center-left government prepared the UNESCO bid for Italian lyric opera, the recognition has been embraced by Italy’s far-right-led government. Besides Meloni, also attending the gala were Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano — who has set out to replace foreign opera house directors with Italians — and Senate speaker Ignazio La Russa, both members of her Brothers of Italy Party.

The loudest applause was reserved for Italy’s nonpartisan president, Sergio Mattarella. And Muti seemed to be making a point against Eurosceptics on the far-right when he transitioned from the Italian anthem, with its “Brothers of Italy” refrain echoing the name of Meloni’s party, to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which is the European Union anthem.

Europeans are voting for European Parliament seats in an election that concludes Sunday and could determine whether far-right parties will have a greater say in the direction of the 27-member bloc.


UN: More aquatic animals farmed than fished in 2022

ROME — The total global volume of fish, shrimp, clams and other aquatic animals that are harvested by farming has topped the amount fished in the wild from the world’s waters for the first time ever, the United Nations reported Friday.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, in its latest report on fisheries and aquaculture — or farming in water — says the global catch and harvest brought in more than 185 million tons of aquatic animals in 2022, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Experts say the milestone in human history had been expected, as the hauls from fisheries have largely stagnated over the last three decades — largely because of limits in nature.

Manuel Barange, who heads FAO’s fisheries and aquaculture division, said aquaculture has benefited from a growing recognition of the nutritional benefits — like omega-3 and other micronutrients found in food from aquatic animals — and lesser environmental impact than food derived from land animals.

The total amount of aquatic animals captured in the wild fell from 91.6 million tons in 2021 to 91 million tons the following year, FAO said in its latest State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

Global production rose to 94.4 million in 2022, up from 91.1 million a year earlier, it said.

Asia was the source of more than 90% of all aquaculture production of aquatic animals, the FAO added.

Some 90% of aquatic animals that are farmed or fished go to human consumption, with the remainder going to other uses like feed for other animals or fish oils.

The most common fish that are captured in the world’s oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and ponds include Peruvian anchovies, skipjack tuna and Alaskan pollock, while freshwater carp, oysters, clams, shrimp, tilapia and prawns are among the most harvested animal life.


Dornoch wins the first Belmont Stakes run at Saratoga Race Course

SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York — When Luis Saez first rode Dornoch at Saratoga Race Course last summer, he told trainer Danny Gargan, “You have the Derby winner.”

While that did not come true, Dornoch made good on that optimism Saturday by winning the first Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, hugging the rail and holding off Mindframe to spring a major upset in the Triple Crown finale at odds of 17-1.

The horse co-owned by World Series champion Jayson Werth won the Belmont five weeks after a troubled trip led to a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. This time, Dornoch sat off leader Seize the Grey, passed the Preakness winner down the stretch and held on for a 1 1/2-length victory.

“I would put it right up there with winning on the biggest stage. Horse racing is the most underrated sport in the world, bar none,” said Werth, who won Major League Baseball’s championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. “It’s the biggest game: You get the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont. We just won the Belmont. This is as good as it gets in horse racing. It’s as good as it gets in sports.”

It’s the first win in any Triple Crown race for Gargan and the second in the Belmont for Saez, who said he never lost faith in Dornoch.

“He’s one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, and we’ve always thought it,” Gargan said. “We let him run his race, and he won. If he gets to run, he’s always going to be tough to beat.”

It’s the sixth consecutive year a different horse won each of the three Triple Crown races. Sierra Leone, the Derby runner-up who went off as the favorite, was third and Honor Marie fourth.

Dornoch paid $37.40 to win, $17.60 to place and $8.10 to show. Todd Pletcher-trained Mindframe paid $6.80 to place and $4.20 to show and Sierra Leone paid $2.60 to show after a jumbled start and more directional problems.

There were no such issues for Dornoch, who triumphed at the track known as the graveyard of favorites for its penchant for upsets.

“No one believed in this horse,” Gargan said. “It’s speechless. He’s such a talented horse.”

Despite there not being a Triple Crown on the line, it’s a historic Belmont because the race was run at Saratoga for the first time in the venue’s 161-year history. It returns next year while Belmont Park undergoes a massive, $455 million reconstruction with the plan for the Triple Crown race to go back to the New York track in 2026.

Having it at Saratoga necessitated shortening the race to 1 1/4 miles from the usual “test of the champion” 1 1/2-mile distance that has been a hallmark of the Belmont for nearly a century. The temporary change contributed to getting more quality horses into the field who previously ran in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or both. At 1 1/4-mile distance, Dornoch crossed the wire in a time of 2:01.64.