Tampa Bay Derby victor Tapwrit wins Belmont Stakes

Irish War Cry, which led most of the race, finished second by two lengths after being passed in the home stretch.

Jockey Jose Ortiz captured the first Classic victory of his young career.

The 49-year-old Pletcher may be a Texas native, but he settled into the biggest and best racing jurisdiction in North America nearly 30 years ago. The time off between the first Saturday in May and the second Saturday in June allowed Pletcher to saddle a rested and powerful horse, and Ortiz gave him the ride he needed to take the white carnations that go to the victor. In 2016, Ortiz was the leading rider in North America in wins with 351, won his first Saratoga riding title and was a finalist for the Eclipse Award as outstanding rider. Brother Irad Ortiz Jr rode Creator to an upset win a year ago.

Last year, Jose was on the back of Forever d'Oro and came in 13th. Two of those involved oh-so-close photo finishes, when Commissioner missed by a head against Tonalist in 2014 and Destin was nipped by nothing more than Creator's nose a year ago.

Star-on-the-rise Brown also seems unbeatable these days as he looms over the NY scene, and he will be defending his first-ever Saratoga title in a few weeks, having stopped Pletcher's domination with a record 40 wins last summer. Five of the last nine Belmont winners followed that same path. "It's a feeling I can't explain. I'm happy for the owners and for Todd [Pletcher] for giving me the opportunity". "The [reasons] I think he suits our style of training and he suits Tapwrit is he's a pretty aggressive rider, he's good from the gate, he's good at getting horses in position, and generally that's the way most of our horses run". The final time in the 1 ½ mile race over a track rated fast was 2:30.02.

"Unbelievable", Ortiz said after the race. "It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race", Tapwrit trainer Todd Pletcher said.

It lacked Always Dreaming and Preakness victor Cloud Computing.

The location is also meaningful for Pletcher, who works out of Belmont Park. "He's just a phenomenal rider".

"He remained very confident in the horse even after the Blue Grass [Stakes] and after the tough trip in the [Kentucky] Derby". We felt really good coming in that both horses were doing very well. "And he could not have ridden him any better today".

When the main event hit the track, though, with Frank Sinatra's traditional "New York, New York" piping over the PA, the 149th Belmont Stakes was all-New York, baby.

Last year, Jose rode more winners (316) than any other jockey on the NYRA circuit. He holds 26 meet titles in NY, including 12 at Saratoga. As a result, the runner-up in the UAE Derby was scratched from the Belmont Stakes.

Completing the order of finish were Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Looking At Lee-the only horse to have competed in all three legs of racing's Triple Crown this year-Meantime, J Boys Echo, Multiplier, and Hollywood Handsome, who was eased. Now he won't ever forget Tapwrit. I always liked him, and we always had a lot of faith in him. "Today he showed up".

  • Julie Sanders