Belmont win was plenty compelling for Tapwrit's team

$1.2 Million Gamble Pays Off As Tapwrit Captures Belmont Stakes

Tapwrit capitalized 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. Pletcher rarely runs horses back as quickly as that, habitually favoring the sort of break he had to prepare Tapwrit for the Belmont, where he is based.

Five other Southern California horses, four of those trained by Baffert, won races on the undercard. They want to be in a tactical position. The field was missing the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, plus Epicharis was a late scratch.

Always Dreaming's loss to surprise victor Cloud Computing at the Preakness stripped this year's Belmont of any Triple Crown drama. Classic Empire, the expected favorite, dropped out Wednesday with a foot abscess. Irish War Cry earned $280,000, while Patch picked up $150,000.

Sent out as the second choice at odds of 5-1, Tapwrit broke sharply and sat behind favorite Irish War Cry and longshot Meantime as the pair set a sharp pace of 23.88 for the first quarter.

Epicharis thought to have a big shot to give Japan its first Belmont victor, was scratched the morning of the race when a veterinary exam revealed continued inflammation in his right front foot.

"The distance, I was sure he could handle it", Ortiz said.

Jose Ortiz raises his hand as he rides Tapwrit to the winners' circle after winning the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 10, 2017, in Elmont, N.Y.

New Mexico's own jockey Mike Smith was aboard the horse Meantime, but it would be Tapwrit who would emerge victorious after holding off Irish War Cry down the stretch.

"I don't think there's any secret that Jose's been a rising star for the last few years, and he's just a phenomenal rider", Pletcher said. "He got a lovely trip".

"We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunchtime", said Pletcher.

"At the eighth pole, I thought was might be home free", Motion said, "but it's the Belmont". The positioning stayed the same until the final turn when Tapwrit turned it on.

"That last sixteenth (of a mile) Tapwrit really dug down deep", Pletcher said.

Irish War Cry by 5-3/4 lengths.

The one-eyed Patch finished third in the 2400m "Test of Champions".

It was the second victory in five starts this year for the gray son of Tapit, who took the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March but subsequently finished fifth in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes and then sixth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

Jockey Jose Ortiz and Tapwrit riding to victory at the Blemont Stakes.

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