Tapwrit Surges Past Irish War Cry to Win 2017 Belmont Stakes

The first four finishers all followed a well-worn path: run in the Derby, skip the Preakness and come back fresh for the Belmont.

Yes, there was only one true Santa Anita horse in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, and that was Santa Anita Derby victor Gormley, who finished fourth in the Belmont. Even after a 10th place finish in the Derby, War Cry impressed in the Wood Memorial prep race and he was in prime position in the Derby, but it's possible he did not like the sloppy conditions.

The 149th running of the Belmont Stakes will begin tonight at 6:47 p.m. ET without the surrounding buzz of recent years. Pletcher also uses Javier Castellano, who won the Preakness aboard Cloud Computing for trainer Chad Brown.

Still, Pletcher said he thought that Always Dreaming was the best 3-year-old in his barn and had a real chance to sweep the Triple Crown. 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 past year.

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

Years ago, West Coast racing was for those afraid to compete with the superior trainers and horses in NY.

The only Belmont entry to run in the Derby and Preakness is Lookin At Lee (Post 6).

In the Belmont, Irish War Cry broke well from post 7 and again crossed over the horses inside of him to get to the front entering the first turn, but Meantime was only a head back on the outside after the first quarter. "Right now they're very comfortable that the horse is comfortable and much better than he was two days ago".

A pre-race exam on Saturday morning revealed heat in Epicharis' hoof. Most of his rivals were in trouble as they turned for home but Tapwrit, with jockey Jose Ortiz at the helm, emerged from just off the pace with a strong challenge. "A mile and a half is a long way to go, but in his previous races he has shown us some stamina".

Tapwrit and Patch are trained by Todd Pletcher.

Another horse likely to be in the frame is Lookin at Lee, which was second at Churchill Downs and fourth in the Preakness Stakes. "It looked like Irish War Cry still had a little something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep". Patch, his stablemate, gave Pletcher two-thirds of the trifecta by finishing a late closing third.

Tapwrit thrived in the 1½-mile "Test of the Champion" despite never having won beyond 1 1/16 miles. The connections of Always Dreaming and Preakness victor Cloud Computing elected not to run. Wagering in a separate, non-commingled pool in Japan continued despite Epicharis' absence. Especially with the Derby victor, the two-week turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness is a really short time for horses, but it's a pretty long 14 days for a horse trainer.

One longshot to keep an eye on is Japanese-trained Epicharis, who sits at 12-to-1 odds on Saturday morning, but opened at 4-to-1 on Wednesday.

  • Salvatore Jensen