By Christie DeBernardis
ELMONT, N.Y.–It is not often in racing, or with horses in general, that things go exactly according to plan, but Intrepid Heart (Tapit) is one of the rare exceptions. When Robert and Lawana Low purchased the $750,000 colt as a 2-year-old at OBS April with the help of bloodstock agent Jacob West, they did so with Saturday’s GI Belmont S. in mind.
The gray’s sire Tapit is responsible for three Belmont winners in Tonalist, Creator and Tapwrit. His dam is by Touch Gold, a Belmont winner himself, and his half-brother Commissioner (A.P. Indy) finished just a head behind the aforementioned Tonalist in the 2014 Test of a Champion.
“We really admired his breeding,” said Robert Low. “Being a Tapit out of a Touch Gold mare, he has Belmont written all over his pedigree. With him kind of coming to hand late, it was too late for the [GI Kentucky] Derby and [GI] Preakness, but perfect for the Belmont. We have been thinking Belmont from the day we bought him. Todd Pletcher guaranteed us the win.”
The owner of the trucking company Prime Inc. paused a moment and laughed, “I thought I’d get a chuckle out of you with that. None of these horses come with any guarantee, but we did talk about the Belmont when we bought him. Actually, [Pletcher] did say something like that, but I think it was in jest.”
Intrepid Heart proved he was special right from the start, graduating by 7 3/4 lengths at first asking at Oaklawn Feb. 18 and earning the ‘TDN Rising Star’ nod. He followed suit with a wide-trip Keeneland optional claimer win Apr. 5 and finished third last time as the favorite in Belmont’s GII Peter Pan S. May 11 after stumbling at the start.
“He stumbled out of the gate and kind of chased a pretty fast pace, running up within two or three lengths of the pace,” Low said. “It just set that race up in a way that is not suited to what he wants to do. After the wire, he galloped out very strongly in front of everybody. It just wasn’t a good set up with the poor start and the fast pace. If we had to do it over again, and you could predict how these things are going to come out, you might do it differently. But, we all thought it was a fairly good race considering the situation. He gave us hope.”
Intrepid Heart will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez Saturday. Pletcher and Velazquez each have two Belmont wins to their credit, including one as a team with Rags to Riches.
“Johnny V rode Capote Belle to our first Grade I win in the Test,” Low said. “We love Johnny. We are very fortunate to have this trainer/jockey combo.”
The Lows got hooked on racing early on in their career as owners thanks to Capote Belle, who won the Test in their first year in the business in 1996.
“We got hooked early on,” said Low, who lives on a farm in Primatara, Missouri, with his wife and their band of 14 broodmares. “One of the first fillies we bought named Capote Belle won the GI Test S. at Saratoga, so we were hooked for life after that. We had to wait for that next Grade I for a long time, but we have had some good horses and really enjoy the game and enjoy being on the farm with the mares and babies.”
That second top-level score came just last year courtesy of ‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) in the GI Arkansas Derby, which was extra special to Low as he grew up going to Oaklawn Park.
“We are in Missouri and always went to the races at Oaklawn Park,” said Low. “Winning the Arkansas Derby is right up there, for us with winning the Kentucky Derby. It was very exciting for us. He also won the [GII] Rebel up there. He is just a really nice horse. He is a fast horse and, it turns out, a very courageous horse. You may recall, he had a broken leg, a very bad injury, and he is still recovering from it. He is at the Cornell [Ruffian] Clinic at Belmont.”
In addition to his time spent at Oaklawn Park, Low grew up around horses and always dreamed of one day owning a racehorse.
“I was a farm kid,” said Low, who has 14 horses in training and 11 2-year-olds in the pipeline. “My mom and dad went to Oaklawn Park to the races. I got some exposure to it early and it has kind of stuck with me. If I ever hit a homerun, I was going to buy a racehorse and, finally, it was fortunate enough to happen for us.”
Low’s wife Lawana did not have the same equine upbringing, but her passion for horses is quite strong.
“She just kind of got sucked in, but she was a country gal and it kind of came naturally to her,” said Low. “She loves it, probably more than I do.”
When the Lows first got into racing, back in the Capote Belle days, they started with a trainer who, coincidentally, had a relative working in their company.
“We started with a young guy from down there named Danny Peitz. I am in the trucking business and his brother worked in the parts department in our shop, so we just kind of made a connection,” said Low. “We were with Danny for several years. In the last four or five years, we have spread around a little bit more. We got hooked up with Todd Pletcher through Jacob West. Todd has most of our store-bought horses. Our homebreds still go primarily to Danny and Steve Margolis.”
The Lows have come a long way in the past 23 years and have had quite a bit of success, but a win in the Belmont would be a dream come true.
“To win one of the Triple Crown races would just be awesome,” Low said. “I think every owner has a goal of winning one of the Triple Crown races or all of them if possible. It would mean a lot to us. I am getting amped up already.”