The Belmont may be a two-and-a-half minute sprint, but in the fast-paced world of horse racing it can feel like an agonizing marathon; often the horse that can strike late in the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown emerges victorious. The win brings the Tampa Bay Derby winner's total earnings to $1,143,902.
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.
The victor, Tapwrit, may have done most of his racing in Florida, but he lives here. 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. Thunder Snow was last in the field of 20.
Tapwrit, a 3-year-old gray colt, was purchased for $1.2 million, making him the most expensive horse in the field. Aqueduct, New York's base for winter racing, was a place to go between meets at Belmont and Saratoga. Brands (G1). Pletcher stablemate Patch finished third, another 5 3/4 lengths back.
Jockey Jose Ortiz captured the first Classic victory of his young career.
The trainer of the winners of the first two Triple Crown races are represented in the Belmont.
Tapwrit was never worse than fourth as Ortiz kept pacesetting Irish War Cry in his sights. "This is home. It's extra special". It looks like too tough a spot.
Epicharis, the early 4-1 second choice, was scratched on race morning after failing to recover from a hoof problem.
Though Irish War Cry led from the gate, Tapwrit's inside stalking strategy paid off in the end, as the Todd Pletcher owned horse stormed out of the final turn to run down Irish War Cry and Meantime to win the 2017 Belmont Stakes.
Hoppert: This deep closer rallied to win the Lexington Stakes and finish third in the Preakness, and his speed figures are improving.
"It could not have unfolded any better", Pletcher said. Post time for the Stakes itself should take place at 6:47 ET. "Turning for home, I thought we might have it but it's a long way home", he concluded. "It's going to be a good betting race".
"The distance, I was sure he could handle it", Ortiz said. "The last five weeks have been the ultimate roller coaster".
There was no Triple Crown on the line to add to the day's allure, but a crowd of 57,729 horse-playing, horse-loving connoisseurs came out nonetheless, and offered their full-throated support for some of the sport's more unsung stars.
"While we are greatly disappointed for fans of Epicharis, we have to face the fact that he was not able to compete today", Hagiwara said.
"The [Kentucky] Derby win was awesome, and the ebbs and flows of this game are well-documented".
Drape: He reminds me of Palace Malice, the 2013 Belmont victor, who rebounded from a troubled Kentucky Derby to run big here.