Horse racing - Japan's Epicharis scratched from Belmont Stakes
15 June, 2017, 04:01
Tapwrit capitalised on the absence of both the Kentucky Derby (2000m) and Preakness Stakes (1900m) winners to land the final leg of America's coveted three-year-old Triple Crown, the Group 1 Belmont Stakes (2400m), on Sunday. Ironically, 10 years ago in the Belmont, Curlin was caught in deep stretch by Pletcher's first Belmont victor, the filly Rags to Riches. Five of the past nine Belmont winners did just that. Tapwrit also became the first horse to win the race from the second post since 1994, according to ESPN.
"It's our home base so it's always an advantage", Pletcher acknowledged. Irish War Cry was prominent in the Derby until he weakened in the stretch to finish 10th. It was a long way back to 'TDN Rising Star'Patch (Union Rags) in third. He also finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and also had a dud in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth when he finished seventh. The final time in the 1 ½ mile race over a track rated fast was 2:30.02. It was Jose's first career win at the Belmont - or in any Triple Crown race for that matter - but his brother, Irad Ortiz Jr., won the race on Creator in just past year.
"We always had a lot of faith in him", Ortiz said.
Tapwrit returned $12.60 for a $2 win wager. As the Wood Memorial victor separated himself from the field, Ortiz encouraged Tapwrit and the pair went after Irish War Cry. Patch, the one-eyed horse, paid $6.50 to show.
"The [Kentucky] Derby win was awesome, and the ebbs and flows of this game are well-documented". The last five weeks have been the ultimate rollercoaster for us. They had the right running styles, the right dispositions, the right pedigrees. "Fortunately, it all fell into place".
So this grand Long Island racetrack, the site of Triple Crown coronations for immortal horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and, most recently, American Pharoah, was more or less an audition stage for a bunch of unproven 3-year-olds, any one of whom might evolve into a future powerhouse.
Pletcher took two of the year's three Triple Crown races.
John Malone is chairman of Liberty Media Corp., whose holdings include Sirius XM radio and the Atlanta Braves. Epicharis, who had been dubbed the "Japanese Invader", arrived in NY on June 1 after race organizers offered his owners a win bonus of $1 million in addition to the usual prize of $800,000, but Epicharis' withdrawal earlier this morning due to lameness in his front right hoof ends their chances at a cool $1.8 million payday.
Those fears were fuelled when Classic Empire, an early favourite, was pulled from the lineup.
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On Saturday morning, the field was whittled to 11 when Japanese horse Epicharis failed his veterinary exam. Epicharis wasn't ready to run the 1½-mile race three days after the colt was treated for lameness in his hoof.
"It was everything that we had talked about", Pletcher said. Hagiwara added, "The horse was close to being able to compete, but we ran out of time". Trainer Graham Motion told USA Today his colt is ready.
Tapwrit, meanwhile, settled in third, right behind the dueling leaders.
It took a while for Tapwrit to find his best gear.
But the time was good enough to put away a talented Irish War Cry, who led most of the way after being pressed early by Mike Smith aboard Meantime. It's a tough race.
"I got squeezed pretty hard coming into the first turn", Geroux said. "I nearly went down and I lost my stirrup".
Jose Ortiz was aboard Tapwrit on Saturday for the jockey's first victory in a Triple Crown race.
It really nearly is time for the 149th Belmont Stakes.
Tapwrit overtook favorite Irish War Cry deep in the stretch to win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday at Elmont, N.Y.
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