Irish War Cry, 10th in the Derby, will likely go off as the favorite at Elmont, New York, but the race, the longest in the Triple Crown series, could be wide open.
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.
Ortiz always had been bullish on Tapwrit; He won the Tampa Bay Derby aboard him in March, got smoked atop him in April in the Blue Grass Stakes and then survived a rough ride on the first Saturday in May but still managed to finish sixth in the Derby.
Given there was no Triple Crown at stake this year and that the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing respectively, were absent, there was a sense this year’s Belmont Stakes may not have lived up to the hype.
“By the quarter pole, when Rajiv went on, I was right on top of him – that’s when I think I beat him”, Ortiz said.
Tapwrit, who entered the race with 5-1 odds to win, was followed by Irish War Cry, who led the field for the majority of the race. Many were questioning which Irish War Cry showed up for the Belmont.
In a sport where history tends to repeat itself, a Pletcher horse got another dream trip, just as he did in Louisville with Always Dreaming on the First Saturday in May.
It was a thrilling showdown in NY amid concerns the race wouldn’t live up to expectations after some key withdrawals, with Classic Empire and Epicharis pulling out of contention prior to Saturday’s contest. Gormley, ninth in the Derby, finished fourth Saturday.
Betting stations were packed throughout the afternoon and evening, as horse racing fanatics and partiers alike sipped on light beer, margaritas, wine and, of course, Belmont Jewel cocktails – a blend of whiskey, lemonade, pomegranate juice and lemon zest that could be served in lively souvenir glasses for the reasonable price of $20. He previously won in 2007 with Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice.
Tapwrit and Patch are trained by Todd Pletcher. The distance-I was sure he could handle it.
“We come hopeful, not expecting”, O’Meara said.
Pletcher is quietly building his Triple Crown race resume, which now is up to five wins for a trainer who will turn 50 in less than three weeks. Right behind Irish War Cry on the odds board is Lookin at Lee.
Think about previous year when the two-year-old champion and Kentucky Derby, Nyqvist, sat out the Belmont and the race ended at the wire with a near photo finish.
“It was everything that we had talked about”, Pletcher said. “Through the years, there’s been some pretty good-priced horses“.
Tapwrit’s career stats now stand at 8: 4-1-0 with earnings of $1,143,902.
Tapwrit’s winning time for 1 1/2 miles was 2:30.02. Only one, Gormley, has won a Grade I race, that being the Santa Anita Derby.
He paid $12.60 for a $2 bet, and rewarded his owners, a partnership of Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred and Robert LaPenta, a first-place check worth $800,000.