Sport

Jose Ortiz gets first Crown win aboard Tapwrit in Belmont

Tapwrit capitalised on the absence of both the Kentucky Derby (2000m) and Preakness Stakes (1900m) winners to land the final leg of America's coveted three-year-old Triple Crown, the Group 1 Belmont Stakes (2400m), on Sunday.

Todd Pletcher-trained Tapwrit entered the long home straight in second place and gradually drew level with 5/2 favourite Irish War Cry, before pulling away over the final half-furlong to win by two lengths in two minutes and 30.02 seconds for the 1.5-mile distance. This was the second straight year and the 10th time in the past 19 years that the Belmont victor skipped the Preakness after running in the Kentucky Derby.

Tapwrit also became the third Belmont victor in the past four years to be sired by the leading North American stallion Tapit, following Tonalist in 2014 and Creator last year. Going into the Kentucky Derby, he was nearly even with favorite Always Dreaming among bettors but finished a disappointing 10th.

"We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance", trainer Todd Pletcher said after the race, according to the Associated Press. Ortiz always had been bullish on Tapwrit; he won the Tampa Bay Derby aboard him, got smoked atop him in April in the Blue Grass Stakes and then survived a rough ride in the Kentucky Derby but still managed to finish sixth in it.

In winning his third career Belmont Stakes Pletcher captured two of the three jewels of this year's Triple Crown.

Derby win was awesome, and the ebbs and flows of this game are well-documented. "The last five weeks have been the ultimate roller coaster". "He ran a very good race", said Velazquez. We felt like both horses suited the mile-and-a-half (2400m) distance. They had the right running styles and the right dispositions and the right pedigrees. We were fortunate it all fell into place. Always Dreaming and Preakness victor Cloud Computing both skipped the race.

Classic Empire, the Preakness runner-up and the expected Belmont favorite, was found to have a foot abscess on Wednesday morning and was withdrawn from consideration.

Meanwhile, a standard pre-race examination of Carrot Farm's Japanese stakes victor Epicharis Saturday morning by NYRA's Chief Examining Veterinarian Anthony Verderosa, DVM, revealed continued inflammation in the horse's right front.

Sent out as the second choice at odds of 5-1, Tapwrit broke sharply and sat behind favorite Irish War Cry and longshot Meantime as the pair set a sharp pace of 23.88 for the first quarter.

"It looked like Irish War Cry still had something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep".

"Tapwrit was getting a lovely trip", Pletcher said, according to the AP. "We were hoping he had enough when it came crunch time".

"We were hoping we might get a little bit of a stalking trip but we had to go to Plan B and Rajiv did a great job. It's a tough race". "I nearly went down".

The win also created a nice streak for the Ortiz family at the Belmont. He's good at getting horses in position.

Tapwrit, left, and Irish War Cry race to the finish during the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 10, 2017, in Elmont, N.Y. Tapwrit won the race.

Belmont Park on Long Island and Saratoga in upstate NY were believed to be where all the champions trained and raced.

The "Test of a Champion", as the Belmont is known, was anything but this time.



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