Tapwrit Outlasts Irish War Cry in Belmont

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11th at BEL, Gr. Stk, $1,500,000GI Belmont S. (1 1/2m)Winner: Tapwrit, c, 3 by Tapit

Tapwrit | Sarah Andrew

In 2007, trainer Todd Pletcher was atypically demonstrative when that year’s GI Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy) overcame a wide trip to grab GI Preakness S. hero Curlin (Smart Strike) in the shadow of the wire for a breakthrough first victory in the GI Belmont S. Palace Malice, a son of Curlin, gave the conditioner a second win in the ‘Test of the Champion’ in 2013, while Commissioner (A.P. Indy, 2014) and Destin (Giant’s Causeway, 2016) went agonizingly close to adding to the total.

On a brilliantly sunny Saturday afternoon and in front of a respectable, non-Triple Crowd of 57,729, Tapwrit (Tapit) drove past Irish War Cry (Curlin) to give the trainer his third Belmont in 11 years while simultaneously becoming the third winner in the last four runnings for his Gainesway-based stallion, joining Tonalist (2014) and Creator (2016).

“It’s our home base and I think that’s always an advantage,” commented Pletcher, who saddled Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) to win the GI Kentucky Derby. “We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance.”

Saturday, Belmont Park
BELMONT S. PRESENTED BY NYRABETS-GI, $1,500,000, BEL, 6-10, 3yo, 1 1/2m, 2:30.02, ft.
1–&TAPWRIT, 126, c, 3, by Tapit
1st Dam: Appealing Zophie (GISW, $497,898),  by Successful Appeal
2nd Dam: Zophie, by Hawkster
3rd Dam: Sodeo Sodeo, by Seattle Slew
($1,200,000 Ylg ’15 FTSAUG). O-Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse
Thoroughbred Partners & Robert V. LaPenta; B-My
Meadowview LLC (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher; J-Jose L. Ortiz.
$800,000. Lifetime Record: 8-4-1-0, $1,143,902. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick Rating: A.2–Irish War Cry, 126, c, 3, by Curlin
1st Dam Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers
2nd Dam: Irish Genius, by Beau Genius
3rd Dam: Irish Trip (GB), by Saint Crespin III (GB)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O/B-Isabelle de Tomaso (NJ); T-H. Graham
Motion. $280,000.3–Patch, 126, c, 3, by Union Rags
1st Dam: Windyindy, by A.P. Indy
2nd Dam: Unbridled Wind, by Unbridled
3rd Dam: Banshee Winds, by Known Fact
‘TDN Rising Star’ O/B-Calumet Farm (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher.
$150,000.Margins: 2, 5 3/4, 4 1/4. Odds: 5.30, 2.75, 12.40.
Also Ran: Gormley, Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo, Multiplier, Hollywood Handsome. Scratched: Epicharis (Jpn). Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. NBC HD Video Replay.

Drawn gate two in a field reduced to 11 by the early morning withdrawal of Japanese raider Epicharis (Jpn) (Gold Allure {Jpn}) (see related story), Tapwrit was with the pace for the opening furlong or so, then came back nicely to Jose Ortiz and enjoyed the run of the race as Irish War Cry led the Belmont field into the first turn. Meantime (Shackleford), the GIII Peter Pan S. runner-up, prompted from second in a tightly bunched group, while GI Santa Anita Derby hero Gormley (Malibu Moon) settled in midfield.

With a third of the journey covered in a solid :48.66, Irish War Cry and Meantime still showed the way up front and Patch edged closer while three deep on the course. Tapwrit continued to enjoy a ground-saving trip from fourth. There was no real change in the plot past the midway point in 1:14.01, Irish War Cry was still bounding along up front and as they began their run into the far turn, he’d put a little daylight between himself and Meantime as Ortiz and Tapwrit lie in wait.

Irish War Cry hit the quarter-pole with about two lengths to spare over Tapwrit, now ridden to pick up, and the New Jersey-bred came to the eighth pole clinging on for dear life. But Tapwrit kept boxing on to the outside, surged to the front with 100 yards to race and proved the best stayer on the day. It was a gap back to Patch in third, who completed a 1-3 finish for the Pletcher barn.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling that I can’t explain,” said Ortiz, whose brother Irad Ortiz, Jr. was in the saddle for Creator’s win last year. “I’m very happy right now. I’m happy for the owners and for Todd [Pletcher] for giving me the opportunity. The distance, I was sure he could handle it. It was a great training job by Todd. I always liked [Tapwrit] and we always had a lot of faith in him. Today he showed up. I’m very happy.”

There was a sense of relief from Pletcher, whose Derby high was mitigated by Always Dreaming’s subpar run at Old Hilltop.

“The last five weeks has been the ultimate roller coaster for us,” he acknowledged. “But we felt really good coming in actually that both horses were doing very well, and we felt like both horses suited the mile-and-a-half distance. They have the right running styles, they have the right disposition, right pedigrees, so we were just fortunate it fell into place.”

No Eclipsing This Partnership this Time…

Some 22 months ago to the day, John Malone’s Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and owner Robert LaPenta teamed to purchase hip 34 out of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale for $1.2 million, the third most-expensive offering of the auction and one of three seven-figure transactions.

A well-beaten last on Saratoga debut last summer, Tapwrit came to hand during the Gulfstream West meeting, winning his maiden in November and the rained-off Pulpit S. the following month before getting a break. Runner-up to ‘TDN Rising Star’ McCraken (Ghostzapper) in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. Feb. 11, he overwhelmed his rivals by 4 ½ lengths in the GII Tampa Bay Derby four weeks later. Never in serious contention when a distant fifth in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 8, the gray was involved in that chain reaction at the opening bell of the GI Kentucky Derby and did well, all things considered, to finish sixth.

Eclipse was partners with Twin Creeks Farm on Destin, narrowly defeated in last year’s Belmont, but victory and redemption was sweet this time around for its principal Aron Wellman.

“This is what we bought this horse for was to try to win a Classic, and to be able to execute that game plan, an ambitious game plan, like Todd said, we couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Wellman commented. “I think we all had a very clear vision of how this race was going to be run today, and it was just a matter of execution. We thought it would play out kind of like a turf race and we were looking for a little bit of a turf trip today in that we wanted to just draft in right behind the leaders and cover him, where they keep him gathered.

“He’s an interesting horse because he actually prefers to be in the thick of things and have horses surrounding him. He doesn’t mind taking dirt. The last two races he was sort of out in no-man’s land and didn’t seem to appreciate that too much. It all started at the draw. When we drew down low, we were pleased, and it’s just been an incredible partnership. To be back in this position, we feel incredibly fortunate, incredibly blessed.”

Deja Vu All Over Again for LaPenta…

Robert LaPenta has been down this road before, having sent out the Nick Zito-trained Da’ Tara (Tiznow) to a colossal upset of Triple Crown aspirant Big Brown (Boundary) back in 2008. LaPenta, a resident of the Tri-State area, could not contain his excitement in his brief post-race interview with Bob Costas, and explained later just how satisfying a second Belmont win is.

“What an incredible day. What an incredible ride,” LaPenta said. “Somebody asked me on my way in how this one compared to the Da’ Tara win. You know, this was much more difficult. When we had Da’ Tara, he was 38-1. Everything building up to this, you know, this whole family, all of my friends, hundreds of people love this horse, and it put a lot of pressure on everybody. I mean, every night the phone was ringing, 50 messages, and we all felt confident that he was going to run a good race. Todd did a phenomenal job.”

Bridlewood’s Business Model on Display…

John and Leslie Malone have owned Bridlewood Farm for just under four years, but have made tremendous inroads in that relatively short period of time. When purchasing the former Arthur Appleton property, one of the decisions the new owner made was to retain the services of respected horseman George Isaacs as the farm’s general manager. Isaac’s association with Bridlewood dates back to 1989, when he took over as the farm’s stallion manager. After a handful of years as general manager of Allen Paulson’s Brookside South Farm, Isaacs returned to Bridlewood in 1996 and has overseen the farm’s development ever since. Tapwrit is not the first Classic winner Isaacs has been connected to. From 2001 through 2004, he helped manage the training and racing career of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones for Roy and Patricia Chapman. Isaacs admitted Saturday that these types of victories never get old and praised his new bosses at Bridlewood for their commitment to the business.

“This was a team effort from the start,” he explained. That’s what makes it special. I mean, we all basically ran into each other and loved this horse and figured out a way to get him bought, and luckily Mr. LaPenta came in and Mr. Malone promised [farm trainer] Jonathan [Thomas] and I he’d give us the capital to do our job, that’s what he does. He provides good working capital, excellent management for everyone to do their jobs. But like Aron said, we’re constantly trying to get these upper-tier horses and just get them right and turn them over to [Todd Pletcher] and try to win these sort of races.”

He continued, “It’s very gratifying for two reasons. One, this has been an incredible partnership. When things kind of went not quite how we planned it, no one freaked out or wanted to change the course of what we set out to do, and everything has been very organic.”

Pedigree Notes:

Tapwrit’s dam Appealing Zophie (Successful Appeal) was victorious in the 2006 GI Spinaway S. for Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and the Steve Asmussen barn, then was scooped up by Len Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm for $1.1 million at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November sale. Appealing Zophie’s current 2-year-old, a colt by Candy Ride (Arg), was bought back on a bid of $45,000 out of the 2016 Keeneland September sale, but was purchased for $375,000 by John Oxley at this year’s OBS April Sale. The mare is represented by a yearling Speightstown colt and is in foal to 2016 GI Met Mile hero Frosted (Tapit) on a Feb. 24 cover.

What They’re Saying at the Belmont…

“He ran a real good race. He tried hard to the end. When I straightened up I had horse left and I knew it was going to take a really big run from another hose to catch me. I was pretty confident turning for home. I saw the other horse coming and obviously a race of this magnitude I’m going to ride hard to the wire, and even when I was ahead you know they’re going to be coming at you, but my horse never really gave up. He ran hard to the end he just got a little bit overpowered late in the race, but I’m proud of his effort. I was more disappointed in the Kentucky Derby, but I felt like I had a good shot at winning turning for home. I didn’t want to get any emotions come and cloud my judgement so I kind of just rode my race. It was a little bittersweet. When you get that close to winning the Belmont stakes, and finishing second, but the horse came back and showed his true colors, and I’m glad he showed up and ran this race today. He ran hard.” –Rajiv Maragh, jockey, Irish War Cry

“He ran a very good race. [It was a] good trip. The whole race, that’s where we broke and where we were, I thought he ran a god race. He finished up really well. He can run with a good kick.”John Velazquez, jockey, Patch

 

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