Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit closed out the 2017 Triple Crown series in style, capturing the $1.5 million NYRABets Belmont Stakes (GI) by two lengths over a field of nine sophomores that mostly represented a group of what amounted to the last men standing after a grueling sophomore spring. The son of Tapit, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, was ridden to victory by jockey Jose Ortiz, who was aboard the gray colt in each of his previous four starts.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling that I can’t explain,” Ortiz said. “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.”
At the public’s second choice at odds of more than 5-1, Tapwrit was good for $12.60, $6.50 and $5. Favored Irish War Cry capped off the $45.20 exacta and paid $4.70 and $3.90 at odds of nearly 3-1. The longshot fan favorite Patch crossed the finish line another 5 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up and was worth $6.50. The trifecta paid $624.
Gormley, Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin at Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo and Multiplier completed the order of finish. Hollywood Handsome was eased after clipping heels with Twisted Tom heading into the clubhouse bend, stumbling and tossing jockey Florent Geroux around in the saddle hard enough to cause him to ride the entire 1 1/2 miles without his irons. The Japanese invader Epicharis was withdrawn.
Following a clean break, Ortiz guided Tapwrit toward the rail to stalk the early pace and save as much ground as possible, while Irish War Cry battled with Meantime early and then settled on the lead before the run up the backstretch, leading the way through splits of :23.88, :48.66 and 1:14.01 for the first three-quarters of a mile.
After making his way around the first bend fighting for the lead, Meantime settled in second and closest to the frontrunner on the outside while Tapwrit remained along the rail tucked in third. Gormley was also up near the early pack of leaders while traveling in the two-path after breaking poorly and bumping hard with J Boys Echo in the first few jumps.
As Irish War Cry led around the far bend, Meantime challenged for the front while Tapwrit also made a move toward the front, first nearest the rail and then outside after being swung out wide to pass Meantime as the field straightened out for the drive.
The mile went in 1:38.95 and Irish War Cry wasn’t giving up his lead easily, but Tapwrit slowly ate up ground between them while moving closer to the rail and a hard-trying Irish War Cry. The early leader held on to post the 10-furlong split in 2:04.10 and, just after the top two brushed briefly with just under a furlong left to run, Tapwrit continued on to claim the win, stopping the clock for the 1 ½-mile test in 2:30.02 over a fast main Belmont Park track.
“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said. “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.”
Tapwrit, who was bred in Kentucky by Barnes and Noble founder Len Riggio’s My Meadowview LLC, was purchased by his ownership group for $1.2 million as a Fasig-Tipton select August yearling at Saratoga in 2015. With the $800,000 winner’s share of the Belmont Park purse, his career bankroll now stands at $1,143,902 and his career line reads 8-4-1-0. In addition to his maiden score and the non-graded Pulpit stakes at Gulfstream Park in December, he won the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (GII) before finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby. He is a son of the grade 1-winning Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie.
“[Belmont Park] is our home base and I think that’s always an advantage,” said Pletcher, who won the Belmont in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice. “We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance.”