Race of the Week 2018

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A New York State of Racing

Tapwrit rallies to win the Belmont Stakes

Tapwrit, the 5-1 second choice rallied down the stretch to pass the favorite, Irish War Cry, to win the 2017 Belmont Stakes (G1) by two lengths. With the Belmont victory, trainer Todd Pletcher secured his second jewel of this year’s Triple Crown having previously taken the 2017 Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming.


Tapwrit followed a familiar pattern for Pletcher, a run in the Kentucky Derby and then skip the Preakness to prepare for the Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit had a rough trip in the Derby after breaking badly and then running into trouble a few times, yet still managed to finish sixth. The son of Tapit came back to New York to freshen up for his run in the Test of a Champion.


"It's our home base and I think that's always an advantage,” said Pletcher. “We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance."


At the start of the mile and a half classic, Irish War Cry was immediately sent to the lead, where he would stay for almost the entire race. He was challenged on the outside by Meantime, who was ridden by Mike Smith, the winner of five stakes on the card up to that point. Irish War Cry was left to run on the inside of the track, a place that riders had been trying to avoid all day long.


While Irish War Cry was carving out fractions of 23.88, 48.66, and 1:14.01, Tapwrit and his rider Jose Ortiz were content to sit behind the pacesetters in third place just a couple of lengths behind. Gormley was running close to Tapwrit in fourth position.


After a mile of the race went in 1:38.95, Irish War Cry was left alone in front with a length and half lead as Meantime backed out of the competition. At that point, it was up to Tapwrit and Gormley to take a shot at the New Jersey-bred on the lead. Tapwrit was up to the task, but Gormley flattened out as the field turned for home. The final time for the twelve furlongs was 2:30.02.


Tapwrit was moved outside of Irish War Cry by Ortiz as they hit the top of the stretch and they were able to wear down the leader and pass him nearing the sixteenth pole. As they approached the wire there was no doubt that this highly touted progeny of Tapit, who was purchased for $1,200,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Saratoga, had finally lived up to his potential.


"Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” said Pletcher. “It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had a little something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep."


For the winning rider, Jose Ortiz, this was his first Belmont Stakes victory in three tries. Last year his brother, Irad, won this race with Creator. "It's an unbelievable feeling that I can't explain,” said the winning rider.  “I'm very happy right now. I'm happy for the owners and for Todd [Pletcher] for giving me the opportunity."


"The distance, I was sure he could handle it. It was a great training job by Todd. I always liked him and we always had a lot of faith in him. Today he showed up. I'm very happy."


Patch, the much-loved horse with one eye, who was also trained by Pletcher and also skipped the Preakness after a run in the Kentucky Derby, was able to close and get third place. Pletcher’s career stats in the Belmont Stakes now stand at 24: 3-5-3. He previously won in 2007 with Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice.


Graham Motion, trainer of Irish War Cry, gave his post-race comments, "It actually wasn't our plan to be on the lead. We kind of hoped that somebody else would go for it, but he had to go to Plan B and [jockey] Rajiv [Maragh] did a great job. At the eighth pole, I thought we might be home free, but it's the Belmont. It's a tough race.

"I'm very proud of how he ran. I thought he ran a very game race. Yes, it's very vindicating - for the horse and for me and the owners and everyone. I thought he ran very game, honestly."

Tapwrit’s career stats now stand at 8: 4-1-0 with earnings of $1,143,902. At the windows his backers earned $12.60, 6.50, and 5.00 across the board. The $2 exacta of the top two choices reversed paid $45.20 and the trifecta with Patch returned $624.


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 Meet Matt Shifman 

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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