The third and final leg of this year’s Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes (G1), lacked for star power with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Cloud Computing, and pre-race favorites Classic Empire and Epicharis either skipping or scratched from this year’s Run for the Carnations. That left Irish War Cry as the official pre-race favorite in a field of 11.
For most of the race it looked like the Graham Motion-trained charge was going to fulfill the promise that has been heaped upon him since the Kentucky Derby, as Irish War Cry led for the majority of the race. Through the first mile, Irish War Cry set the pace with fractions of :23.88, :48.66, 1:14.01, and 1:38.95. He even led following the turn at the stretch, but it was that last half-mile where his lead over Tapwrit and his jockey Jose Ortiz crumbled. Tapwrit would surge past Irish War Cry when it mattered most and crossed the finish line two lengths ahead for the win. Tapwrit’s official winning time was 2:30.02.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling that I can’t explain,” said Ortiz. “I’m very happy right now. … The distance—I was sure he could handle it. It was a great training job by Todd. I always liked him and had a lot of faith in him. Today he showed up.”
For Ortiz, it was his first career Triple Crown race. His brother Irad won the Belmont on top of Creator last year. Tapwrit was trained by Todd Fletcher, who won his second Triple Crown race of the year. He guided Always Dreaming to a win in the Kentucky Derby last month. Pletcher’s other horse in the Belmont, the one-eyed fan favorite Patch, finished third.
“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” said Pletcher. “It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep.”