Tapwrit wins Belmont Stakes by two lengths for Pletcher


Tapwrit wins Belmont Stakes by two lengths for Pletcher

NEW YORK — The road to the winner’s circle in the Belmont Stakes ran through the Kentucky Derby, even if the Derby and Preakness winners skipped the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Tapwrit overtook favored Irish War Cry in the stretch to win by two lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his third career victory in the Belmont. He won in 2007 with filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice.

The first four finishers all followed a well-worn path: run in the Derby, skip the Preakness and come back fresh for the Belmont. Five of the last nine Belmont winners did just that.

Tapwrit finished sixth in the 20-horse Derby after encountering traffic in what Pletcher described as “a sneaky good” race.

“We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, that he had a legitimate chance,” said Pletcher, who is based at Belmont Park. “I think that’s always an advantage.”

Irish War Cry was 10th after pressing the early pace in the May 6 race.

Patch took third in the Belmont after being 14th in the Derby. Gormley, ninth in the Derby, finished fourth Saturday.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.02 on his home track. Ortiz’s brother Irad Jr. won the race last year with Creator.

“The distance, I was sure he could handle it,” Ortiz said.

Tapwrit paid $12.60, $6.50 and $5 at 5-1 odds.

Irish War Cry returned $4.70 and $3.90 as the 5-2 favorite in front of 57,729 on an 82-degree day. Patch, the one-eyed horse trained by Pletcher, was another 5 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $6.50 to show.

Pletcher took two of the year’s three Triple Crown races, having saddled Always Dreaming to victory in the Derby.

“The Derby win was awesome,” he said. “The last five weeks have been the ultimate roller coaster. We felt really good coming in that both horses were doing very well. We felt like both horses suited the mile and a half distance. They had the right running styles and the right dispositions and the right pedigrees. Fortunately, it all fell into place.”

Tapwrit, a 3-year-old gray colt, was purchased for $1.2 million, making him the most expensive horse in the field.

He’s co-owned by John and Leslie Malone, who race as Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta, who won the 2008 Belmont when 70-1 shot Da’Tara spoiled Big Brown’s Triple Crown bid.

John Malone is chairman of Liberty Media Corp., whose holdings include Sirius XM radio and the Atlanta Braves.

The $1.5 million race took several hits before the starting gate opened.

It lacked Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Classic Empire, the expected favorite, dropped out Wednesday with a foot abscess.

Epicharis, the early 4-1 second choice, was scratched Saturday morning after failing a pre-race veterinary exam. The Japan-based colt had been treated for lameness in his right front hoof earlier in the week.

All that left it a wide-open race, and in the end it was Tapwrit that proved he was up to the grueling 1 1/2-mile challenge.

“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said. “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 a little something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep.”

Irish War Cry, who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby, went for the lead and was immediately pressured by 13-1 shot Meantime, ridden by Mike Smith, who won five stakes on the undercard.

“It actually wasn’t our plan to be on the lead,” said Graham Motion, who trains Irish War Cry. “We kind of hoped that somebody else would go for it, but he had to go to Plan B.”

Tapwrit, meanwhile, settled in third, right behind the dueling leaders. They maintained that positioning onto the final turn when Ortiz first asked Tapwrit for his run.

It took a while for Tapwrit to find his best gear. Up front, Irish War Cry put away Meantime and appeared a likely winner at the top of Belmont’s long stretch.

“At the eighth pole, I thought was might be home free,” Motion said, “but it’s the Belmont. It’s a tough race.”

That’s when Tapwrit took up the chase in earnest. It was a two-horse race to the finish line, with Tapwrit gaining the lead in the final furlong.

Gormley finished fourth, followed by Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo and Multiplier.

Hollywood Handsome was pulled up after clipping heels with the horse in front of him, causing jockey Florent Geroux to lose his stirrups in the first turn. He guided the colt to the outside until he could be stopped. The on-call vet said Hollywood Handsome sustained a cut behind his left knee, and it would be closed with staples.

“I got squeezed pretty hard coming into the first turn,” Geroux said. “I almost went down.”

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

BRIGHTON – If you stay in the NHL for long enough, the hockey circle of life becomes complete for any player.

Sometimes it might be coaching the son of a former teammate or a former NHL player watching their kids suit up against guys they used to play against. Much more rarely, it might be father and son playing on the same team as the late, great Hall of Famer Gordie Howe did with his sons at the tail end of his brilliant career.

Much more common are NHL players sticking around long enough to play with sons of their former teammates. Such was the case with Patrice Bergeron, 32, skating at practice on Monday with the newly signed Ryan Donato. Bergeron couldn’t help but feel a little old at the notion, but immediately went back to his days as an 18-year-old NHL rookie playing with Teddy Donato in the final season of his NHL career back in 2003-04.

“It’s definitely different. When I was an 18-year-old coming in [to the NHL] I was playing with his dad, and that year [Ryan, as a little kid] was skating a few times after practice and I was there,” said Bergeron, going into the way-back machine to when he was the youngest player in the league in his first season. “Now he’s in the locker room and going to be a part of the team. He comes from a great family. I just hope I can help him as much as Teddy [helped me].

“It certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger. I still think I am, and that I’ve got a few good years ahead of me. It’s a little weird to see that, but that where I am in my career, I guess.”

Clearly, the memories of the younger Donato are notable for Bergeron, and they are doubly so for a young guy in Donato who's idolized No. 37. In fact, Donato said he was blown away that Bergeron even remembered him when they bumped into each other at the summer pro league in Foxboro a couple of years back.

It was a long way away from Bergeron heading over to Donato’s house for pool parties when he was still a teenager just starting to make NHL waves.

“This is what kind of guy Patrice Bergeron is...he was around the house a little bit when I was a little kid and he was a rookie in the NHL,” said Donato, telling the story at last summer’s development camp after dominating the rest of his Bruins prospect peers for a week’s time. “I hadn’t seen him for a pretty long time, and then he saw me in Foxboro a couple of years ago and said ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’

“That’s pretty cool when your idol and the player you most look up to can remember you like that. It says a lot about him as a person, and we know what he’s all about as a player. He’s just a great of the best.”

It was when Donato retold that story to that we had a pretty good idea he wouldn’t be signing anywhere else but with the Black and Gold.

Bergeron and Donato won’t get to play together at the start, unfortunately, with the Bruins franchise center still out with a fractured right foot. That’s part of the reason the Donato, who turns 22 April 9, is being brought in with Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk down with injuries and the Bruins in need of some dynamic wingers with offensive pop. Clearly, Donato has proven everything he needs to at the collegiate level with 26 goals in 29 games this season at Harvard and he was Team USA’s most dynamic player in PyeongChang with five goals scored in the tournament.

It’s still unclear how much of an impact Donato is going to make jumping straight from the NCAAs to the NHL, but he’s ready to start living out his NHL dreams with the Bruins team that also drafted and developed his dad 30 years ago.

“It’s a whirlwind. Right now it’s pretty crazy. Obviously, I’m really excited," he said. "It’s something I don’t want to happen too fast so I can cherish every second of it. Right now it’s a lot of fun,” said Donato, who signed his two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday. “Even going out for [the morning skate] was a dream come true. It didn’t even feel real yet.

“I just want to play well and do whatever I can to help the team. I just want to go in confident and do what I can to help. At the end of the day, it’s just hockey and I’ve been playing it my whole life, so hopefully, I can play to the best of my abilities.”

With a strong Bruins support system headed by a couple of his father's former NHL teammates in Don Sweeney and Cam Neely- who have known him since he was a little kid - and a roster primed for a long playoff run, the younger Donato couldn’t be asking for a better situation to show what he can do in the NHL. 

Now, it’s up to Donato to show he’s a chip off the old block as the son of a former Bruins forward who scored 150 goals and totaled nearly 350 points in a distinguished NHL career. Perhaps it’ll give him a chance to show that he’s going to be even better than the old man, who was pretty darn good in Black and Gold.  



Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue.