Tapwrit wins Belmont Stakes

by Leon Thompson June 25, 2017, 1:11
Tapwrit wins Belmont Stakes

His winning time for the 1 1/2 miles was 2 minutes, 30.02 seconds.

Tapwrit capitalised on the absence of both the Kentucky Derby (2000m) and Preakness Stakes (1900m) winners to land the final leg of America's coveted three-year-old Triple Crown, the Group 1 Belmont Stakes (2400m), on Sunday.

Interestingly, five of the last nine Belmont winners did just that. Ortiz always had been bullish on Tapwrit; he won the Tampa Bay Derby aboard him, got smoked atop him in April in the Blue Grass Stakes and then survived a rough ride in the Kentucky Derby but still managed to finish sixth in it.

Tapwrit returned $12.60 for a $2 win wager. Irish War Cry finished second while Patch took third. Trainer Graham Motion didn't plan on having the favorite on the lead so jockey Rajiv Maragh was forced into Plan B.

"We talked about it, but we felt like Jose fit the horse well; he'd done nothing wrong", Pletcher said. "We were hoping he had enough when it came crunch time".

Japanese horse Epicharis was a morning scratching due to a hoof injury, missing out on a chance to secure a $1 million bonus that would have gone to the connections of the colt had he won.

"But we felt really good coming in that actually both horses were doing very well and were suited to the mile and half, with the right running styles and the right disposition, the right pedigrees".

And Saturday was his time to shine, with a horse whose victory could be appreciated on many New York-centric levels, even without a Triple Crown on the line.

It will be fascinating to see how Tapwrit gets on at November's Breeders' Cup Classic, where winners of the Triple Crown races tend to test their mettle. Tapwrit's Belmont was Pletcher's third, after Palace Malice won it in 2013 and the filly Rags to Riches outdueled Curlin in 2007 in what remains one of the most goosebump-inducing sporting events I've witnessed live. They want to be in a tactical position.

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Tapwrit, safely tucked away to Irish War Cry's outside, made his move and blew the doors off Irish War Cry. Tapwrit's stablemate, Patch, came in a distant third.

Jose Ortiz added, "It's an unbelievable feeling that I can't explain. It's a tough race".

Tapwrit, despite his lofty price tag, has been a work in progress since he finished at the back of the pack in a forgettable debut last September 3 at Saratoga Race Course.

Only 10 horses finished after long shot Hollywood Handsome was pulled up after breaking his irons around the first turn. "I nearly went down".

But the Belmont Stakes was still the main attraction, and its anthem - "New York, New York" - was appropriate.

Jose Ortiz, NYRA's 2016 riding champion, was in the saddle for Tapwrit's fourth win from eight starts.

Gulfstream Park in South Florida is an acceptable alternative during the icy months of winter, along with Arkansas' Oaklawn Park, which has probably grown to be top three in the world of horse racing during the early spring.

Tapwrit, trained by New York-based Todd Pletcher and a son of the great sire Tapit, was bred for the distance, something that was obvious to every person watching at Belmont and to the millions watching on TV.

When the main event hit the track, though, with Frank Sinatra's traditional "New York, New York" piping over the PA, the 149th Belmont Stakes was all-New York, baby.

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