Saratoga Springs

Tapwrit saddled with Belmont expectations

The 2017 Belmont Stakes winner hasn't finished first in 14 months, but will carry co-topweight in Saturday's Whitney
Tapwrit, the 2017 Belmont Stakes winner, watches activity around trainer Todd Pletcher's barn on Thursday morning.
Tapwrit, the 2017 Belmont Stakes winner, watches activity around trainer Todd Pletcher's barn on Thursday morning.

No matter what happens in the rest of Tapwrit’s career, he’ll always be identified as the winner of the 2017 Belmont Stakes.

You can’t take that away from him.

What trainer Todd Pletcher would like to take away from him is a few pounds from Tapwrit’s weight assignment for Saturday’s Whitney at Saratoga Race Course.

Since the Belmont on June 10 of last year, Tapwrit hasn’t been able to get to the track much, finishing fourth to West Coast in the Travers after an 11-week break from the Belmont.

Then he took a much longer vacation, returning to racing on June 3 as a comeback at Belmont and steppingstone to the Grade II Suburban, where he finished fifth behind Diversify, the 7-5 favorite for the Whitney.

Despite his light schedule, Tapwrit will carry co-topweight of 124 pounds, giving as many as seven pounds to three of the eight Whitney entrants, including two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Mind Your Biscuits. (Diversify will also carry 124.)

Otherwise, Tapwrit has two solid works under his belt at Saratoga and has shown in the mornings that he’s ready to roll, Pletcher said.

“I feel well about the way he’s training. I like the fact that he drew a favorable post,” he said. “I wish he wasn’t still getting penalized for the weight allowances 14 months after his last win, but hopefully he can overcome that and put forth a good effort. He’s been training well, so he’s going to run his race.”

Tapwrit’s running style is to come from off the pace, and he and jockey Jose Ortiz will break from post No. 1.

Like many of the Whitney contenders, Pletcher will be counting on the 30-1 long shot Dalmore to put early pressure on Diversify up front.

That wasn’t the case in the mile-and-a-quarter Suburban, when Ortiz had a chance to cut inside and save ground coming around the grandstand turn, but went outside instead.

He was forced to go wider when Dr. Dorr angled out from inside Tapwrit, then Ortiz had to get around the tiring War Story in front of Tapwrit. By then, they had no chance to catch Diversify, who ran away to win by 6 1/2 lengths.

“It was one of those things where Diversify got loose, he [Ortiz] was set a little back and kind of had a choice to make in the middle of the turn whether to go inside or go outside. Jose chose to go outside and those horses fanned him way out to the middle of the track.

“It never materialized from that point. Jose said afterwards that if he could do it over again, he would’ve stayed inside. That’s the way it played out. He was concerned that the speed was maybe going to come back and he didn’t want to stop his momentum, so he decided to go out.”

In the Belmont last year, Tapwrit stalked Irish War Cry from the rail, then got to the outside of him and outfinished Irish War Cry by two lengths.

Tapwrit skipped the Jim Dandy and Haskell to train up to the Travers, and needed more time off after that when he shed a frog during the Travers, losing the triangular piece of tissue that sits on the underside of the hoof.

To get ready for the Whitney, Tapwrit has been breezing in company, with Vino Rosso two weeks ago and a horse named Village King, who hasn’t raced outside of Argentina, last weekend.

“It seems like they get comfortable running with other horses, use themselves a little better, stay a little more competitive, focused and on the bridle,” Pletcher said.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

Categories: -Sports

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