February 22, 2024

Tapwrit summons up A-game in Tampa Bay Derby

Tapwrit cemented a position in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate with his win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) (SV Photography)

Tapwrit took full advantage of the absence of McCraken from Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), winning by an emphatic 4 1/2 lengths as the 11-10 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep.

Second to the undefeated McCraken in last month’s Sam F. Davis (G3) over the same track and distance, Tapwrit assumed the favorite’s role Saturday after McCraken suffered a minor setback two weeks ago. Under Jose Ortiz, the gray son of Tapit raced near the back of the 10-horse field and then steadily improved position throughout as State of Honor set fractions of :23.42, :46.65, and 1:10.57.

Leading by two lengths after six furlongs, State of Honor was in good shape turning for home and with only Tapwrit challenging from behind. However, the favorite blew past the long-time leader with relative ease and drew off handsomely to finish in a stakes record 1:42.36 over a fast track.

“When I asked him between the half-mile and three-eighths poles, he let me know he was going to win the race right away,” Ortiz said. “He’s really scary, and I think he is going to keep improving.

“I really like him a lot, and I think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth and a mile-and-a-quarter,” he said. “If he has competition beside him, I think he is going to get much and much better.”

Owned by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbreds, and Robert LaPenta, Tapwrit paid $4.20. State of Honor held second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Wild Shot. No Dozing finished fourth.

Tapwrit is the fourth Tampa Bay Derby winner in the past five years for trainer Todd Pletcher (SV Photography)

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Tapwrit earned 50 qualifying points toward Derby eligibility, pushing his total to 54. Points of 20-10-5 were awarded to the second- through fourth-place finishers.

“He had kind of a rough trip around the first turn and got shuffled around a little, but he handled it professionally and steadied himself and got in good stride up the backstretch,” said Todd Pletcher, who has now trained four of the past five winners of the Tampa Bay Derby. “After he made the lead, Jose kept him occupied down the lane because he has a tendency to idle when he gets ahead. This was everything we could have hoped for.”

This was the second career stakes win for Tapwrit, who has now earned $313,902 from a line of 5-3-1-0. Last of 10 in his debut at Saratoga last September, he rebounded to graduate at Gulfstream Park West over a mile, and then won the $75,000 Pulpit over the same distance at Gulfstream Park on December 10. The February 11 Sam F. Davis was his season debut.

Bred in Kentucky by My Meadowview LLC, Tapwrit was a $1.2 million yearling buy. He was produced by Spinaway (G1) winner Appealing Zophie, by Successful Appeal.