NEW YORK (AP) – Tapwrit overtook favored Irish War Cry in the stretch to win the Belmont Stakes by two lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his third career victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.02 on his home track. Ortiz’s brother Irad won the race last year with Creator.
“The distance, I was sure he could handle it,” Ortiz said.
Tapwrit finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Five of the last nine Belmont winners have followed that same path.
“We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance,” said Pletcher, who is based at Belmont Park. “I think that’s always an advantage.”
Pletcher took two of the year’s three Triple Crown races, having saddled Always Dreaming to victory in the Derby.
Tapwrit paid $12.60, $6.50 and $5 at 5-1 odds. The 3-year-old gray colt was purchased for $1.2 million, making him the most expensive horse in the field.
Irish War Cry returned $4.70 and $3.90 as the 5-2 favorite, while Patch, the one-eyed horse trained by Pletcher, paid $6.50 to show.
The $1.5 million race took several hits before the starting gate opened.
It lacked Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Classic Empire, the expected favorite, dropped out Wednesday with a foot abscess.
Epicharis, the early 4-1 second choice, was scratched Saturday morning after failing a pre-race veterinary exam. The Japan-based colt had been treated for lameness in his right front hoof earlier in the week.
All that left it a wide-open race, and in the end it was Tapwrit that proved he was up to the grueling 1 1/2-mile challenge.
“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.”
Gormley finished fourth, followed by Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo and Multiplier.
Hollywood Handsome was pulled up after jockey Florent Geroux lost his irons in the first turn and guided the horse to the outside until he could be stopped.