By Jeremy Balan
A year ago, a gray Todd Pletcher-trained colt was the pursued. In 2017, Pletcher—and another gray—were in pursuit.
With an inside trip just off favored Irish War Cry, Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta's Tapwrit angled out late in the final turn under jockey Jose Ortiz, as the top pair kicked well clear of the rest in Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
After setting pressured fractions of :23.88, :48.66, 1:14.01, and 1:38.93 through a mile, though, Irish War Cry had enough. The 5-2 favorite fought on down most of the stretch, but the final stages were Tapwrit's, as the Tapit colt powered past to win by two lengths.
A year after Pletcher-trained Destin got caught at the wire by Creator in the Belmont, Tapwrit stopped the clock in 2:30.02 to give his trainer a second classic win of the year, after Always Dreaming's victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Pletcher stablemate Patch finished third.
"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 something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep."
Irish War Cry broke well from post 7 and crossed over the horses inside of him to get to the front entering the turn, but Meantime was only a head back on the outside after the first quarter. Graham Motion said the plan wasn't for the son of Curlin to have the lead, but the trainer was not unhappy with the trip or performance by his colt after the race.
"We kind of hoped that somebody else would go for (the lead), but he had to go to plan 'B' and (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) did a great job," Motion said. "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."
The Belmont run fit with Irish War Cry's up-and-down form cycle. He started on the road to the Triple Crown with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2), ran seventh by 21 3/4 lengths in the Fountain of Youth (G2), won the Wood Memorial (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths, and came in 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
"It's very vindicating—for the horse and for me, and the owners and everyone," Motion said of Irish War Cry's classic placing.
Gormley made a simultaneous move with Tapwrit entering the final turn and hung on for fourth, followed by Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo, and Multiplier, to complete the order of finish. Jockey Florent Geroux lost his irons aboard Hollywood Handsome entering the first turn and had to pull the Tapizar colt up.