Pletcher thus took two of the three 2017 Triple Crown races, having saddled Always Dreaming to victory in the Derby. And he trains Always Dreaming, who won the Kentucky Derby this year but finished only eighth in the Preakness Stakes.
Hopes of a horse from Japan winning the Belmont Stakes for the first time in the race’s 149-year history were dashed when veterinarians scratched Epicharis on Saturday morning because of continued inflammation in his right front foot. “It looked like Irish War Cry had a little something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep”, said Pletcher.
All horses running at Belmont Park undergo the same pre-race evaluation to ensure they are fit to compete.
Tapwrit’s winning time for 1 1/2 miles was 2:30.02.
New Mexico’s own jockey Mike Smith was aboard the horse Meantime, but it would be Tapwrit who would emerge victorious after holding off Irish War Cry down the stretch.
Irish War Cry set the pace early, as many expected them to.
“It’s our home base and I think that’s always an advantage”, Pletcher said.
It was the first Triple Crown race victory for Ortiz, and it came a year after his brother, Irad, won the Belmont aboard Creator. “It’s a feeling I can’t explain right now”. He showed no signs of fatigue as jockey Jose Ortiz charged with him past Irish War Cry on the outside and through the finish line for the victory.
The 7-2 early favorite Irish War Cry is only in the Belmont after trainer Graham Motion licked his wounds from the colt’s 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago. Patch, his stablemate, gave Pletcher two-thirds of the trifecta by finishing a late closing third. Tapwrit had 5/1 odds paying $12.60 on a bet to win.
“It’s all good”, Pletcher said. 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.
Jose Ortiz said the difference between the Belmont and the Kentucky Derby, in which Tapwrit was sixth, was the longer distance Saturday. “The last five weeks have been the ultimate roller coaster”. Lookin at Lee finished second and fourth at Churchill Downs and Pimlico respectively, but running in all three Triple Crown events can take its toll.
Epicharis, thought to have a big shot to give Japan its first Belmont victor, was scratched the morning of the race when a veterinary exam revealed continued inflammation in his right front foot.