A crowd of 57,729 watched Tapwrit run down Irish War Cry on Saturday to take the 149th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. One day after the gray son of Tapit gave trainer Todd Pletcher two-thirds of the 2017 Triple Crown, the conditioner reported his charge was in “excellent shape.”
Pletcher also used the same term to describe the popular one-eyed Patch, who finished third in the “Test of the Champion” behind his stablemate.
“I was really pleased with their energy level,” he said. “It was a great win for the whole team.”
Tapwrit entered the third jewel of the Triple Crown off a pair of subpar efforts, a fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and a sixth-placing in the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs. The sophomore broke from post 2 in the Belmont Stakes under jockey Jose Ortiz, whose brother Irad Ortiz Jr. captured last year’s Belmont aboard Creator.
“It was all about the start,” Pletcher said. “He broke great, unlike his previous two races. For a second, I even thought he was going to be on the lead. (But) that was exactly the trip we talked about in the paddock before the race.
“Jose, it’s obvious he’s an up and coming superstar, if not there already,” the horseman added. “We felt he was a good fit for this horse. His riding style fits our training style. Even though (Tapwrit) didn’t fire his best shot in the Blue Grass and was compromised at the start of the Derby, he maintained his confidence in the horse.”
Pletcher saddled Always Dreaming to Kentucky Derby glory on May 6, but that Bodemeister colt skipped the Belmont Stakes after fading to eighth in the Preakness Stakes (G1) last out.
“Any time you have a Derby and a Belmont winner it’s awesome,” Pletcher said. “We feel fortunate to have won two legs. It will be interesting to see how it develops down the road. Patch put himself in the thick of things. Coal Front, who is two-for-two and looked good winning (an allowance) here (at Belmont) Thursday, is possible for the (July 8) Dwyer (G3), as well as Battalion Runner. They’re in the mix.”
Always Dreaming and Tapwrit may end up facing each other later in the season. The duo’s trainer indicated they were both targeting the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) going 10 furlongs at Saratoga on August 26, with runs in either the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) one day later at Monmouth Park before that. Both of those races are scheduled for 1 1/8 miles.
“We have options with Patch,” he added. “He’s still eligible for a one-other-than, and there’s the ($100,000) Curlin (Stakes on July 28 at Saratoga).”
Following are the handle numbers for Belmont Stakes week as well as the non-commingled pool set up for betting in Japan:
Thursday all-source handle = $10,309,891
Friday all-source handle = $20,763,469
Saturday all-source handle = $93,666,832
Belmont Stakes Racing Festival all-source handle = $124,790,193
Belmont Stakes all-source handle = $47,163,773
Belmont Stakes Japan handle = $4,698,525