Horse Racing

Tapwrit wins 149th Belmont Stakes

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AP Images

Tapwrit wins 149th Belmont Stakes

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."

13-1 shot Cloud Computing springs upset to win 142 Preakness Stakes

13-1 shot Cloud Computing springs upset to win 142 Preakness Stakes

BALTIMORE -- Sometimes it pays to have a fresh horse.

Cloud Computing skipped the Kentucky Derby, while eventual winner Always Dreaming and Classic Empire mixed it up in the mud at Churchill Downs.

Two weeks later, Cloud Computing pounced on those two horses in the Preakness, pulling off an upset victory by a head at 13-1 odds Saturday. He became the first horse to skip the Derby and win the second leg of the Triple Crown since filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

"Some of the reason that we won today was because we were patient and didn't throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very difficult track," winning co-owner Seth Klarman said. "We made a great call."

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire dueled for most of the race before Classic Empire stuck his nose in front midway on the far turn. It looked as if Classic Empire would go on to win, but Cloud Computing ran him down on the outside.

Always Dreaming faded to eighth in the 10-horse field on a cool and cloudy day at Pimlico. The crowd of 140,327 and wagering total of $94,127,434 were records, bettering the marks set last year.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, Cloud Computing ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.98 and paid $28.80, $8.60 and $6. It was just the dark brown colt's fourth career start, the fewest of any horse in the race, and only his second win. He didn't run as a 2-year-old because of injury.

Classic Empire returned $4.40 and $4, and 31-1 shot Senior Investment was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $10.20.

New York-based trainer Chad Brown earned his first victory in a Triple Crown race. Castellano won for the second time. He rode Bernardini to victory in the 2006 Preakness.

Castellano comes from a racing family, with a father, uncle and brother who have been jockeys.

"We've been working for a long time for this moment," he said. "It's great for the family."

The 142nd Preakness had been billed as a match race between Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, and it was from the start.

They broke out of the starting gate next to each other and the fight was on. Always Dreaming took a slight lead with Classic Empire on his flank.

Meanwhile, Cloud Computing was back in third as Castellano watched the duel unfold in front of him.

Always Dreaming was the first to throw in the towel, surrendering the lead to Classic Empire midway around the final turn.

"We didn't have an excuse," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Always Dreaming. "We were in a position we expected to be, and I think the turnaround was a little too quick. He ran so hard in the Derby and today just wasn't his day."

Always Dreaming lost for the first time in five races this year. He'd won his first four by a combined 23 1/4 lengths.

Classic Empire and Julien Leparoux went into the stretch with three-length lead, seemingly on his way to the winner's circle.

At that point, trainer Mark Casse thought he was headed there, too.

"Of course," he said. "But I thought I was going to win a lot of times before, so it doesn't shock me."

But Classic Empire also paid a price for putting away Always Dreaming. Classic Empire fought on to the finish line, but couldn't hold off a fresh horse in Cloud Computing.

"Certainly I'm not going to dispute the fact that I brought in a fresh horse as part of our strategy," Brown said. "Our horse is very talented, too. Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them let's take them on two weeks' rest when we have six (weeks), and it worked."

After Cloud Computing ran third in the Wood Memorial, Brown and the owners decided the colt would benefit from skipping the Derby. He came into the Preakness after a six-week break.

"It just didn't work out in the Wood. We just ran out of time," Brown said. "We just really zeroed in on this race, and thankfully it worked out."

The victory was especially sweet for Klarman, who grew up a few blocks from Pimlico. He turns 60 on Sunday. He and William Lawrence have been buying and racing horses together since 2006.

"This is the culmination of 25 years of hard work and learning and trying to figure this game out," said Klarman, president of the Baupost Group, a hedge fund valued at $31 billion.

"In my regular life, I'm a long-term value investor. This is gambling. It's really been a thrill and this is the highlight of our career so far as thoroughbred owners."

Klarman, who races as Klaravich Stables, is a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Lookin At Lee, the Derby runner-up, was fourth. Gunnevera was fifth, followed by Multiplier and Conquest Mo Money. Hence was ninth and Term of Art last.

Creator pulls off Belmont Stakes upset with close victory

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Associated Press

Creator pulls off Belmont Stakes upset with close victory

NEW YORK -- The finish was dramatic, even without a Triple Crown on the line.

Creator found an opening in the stretch and ran down Destin in the final stride to win the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes by a nose -- the closest possible margin of victory. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., pointed to the sky in an appropriate winning salute given the horse's name.

"Today was perfect for us by inches," said Steve Asmussen, who will be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame this summer at Saratoga. "Being the victor of the Belmont Stakes will look good on that plaque."

The 50-year-old trainer has won more than 7,300 races, including the Preakness with champions Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. He was taken off the Hall of Fame ballot last year, though, because of allegations made by PETA about the way he treated his horses. He was later cleared by racing authorities in Kentucky and New York.

The 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion" wraps up the Triple Crown a year after American Pharoah's run to glory in becoming the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. A different horse won each leg -- Nyquist took the Derby and Exaggerator won the Preakness.

This was Creator's day, a hot, sticky one at Belmont Park with temperatures in the mid-80s. Exaggerator, the 7-5 favorite in the field of 13, raced well back in the pack, moved into contention but just didn't have his usual finishing kick. He finished 11th.

A 3-year-old gray colt, Creator came flying down the stretch as Destin tried to hang on to the lead. He almost made it, but settled for second with Japan-based Lani a closing third.

"I'm glad to see him put that number up; they came to the wire together," Asmussen said of the Creator-Destin showdown. "Irad gave him a dream trip. The horse ran super."

Creator, sent off 16-1, returned $34.80, $14.60 and $9.40. Destin, trained by Todd Pletcher, returned $9.40 and $6.20 and Lani paid $6.60. The winning time for the 1 1/2 miles was 2:28.51. The first three finishers were gray colts.

Governor Malibu was fourth, followed by Stradivari, Brody's Cause, Cherry Wine, Gettysburg, Suddenbreakingnews, Trojan Nation, Exaggerator, Seeking the Soul and Forever d'Oro.

Creator was one of several closers in the field, and the race set up perfectly for him. Gettysburg was a late addition to the field. Both horses are owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Asmussen, with Gettysburg a front-runner who could set the stage for a thrilling finish.

That's exactly what happened. After setting a slowish pace, Gettysburg dropped back after a mile, and Destin took charge well into the stretch. With Ortiz urging him on, Creator stormed into contention after running near the back of the pack for his third win in 10 career starts. Ortiz, one of the nation's leading riders, won his first Triple Crown race.

"He was calm and I just waited for somewhere to go," Ortiz said. "When he got clear, he started running."

Unlike Exaggerator.

Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame rider aboard the colt, second-guessed his decision to ask Exaggerator to wait behind the pace. When he tried to make a move, the horse trained by his brother, Keith, just didn't have it.

"I don't know if there would have been any difference in the outcome," Kent Desormeaux said. "When I picked him up at the quarter-pole to try and win the race, there was nothing there."

Exaggerator and Lani were the only horses who ran in all three Triple Crown races. Lani improved each time, running ninth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness.

"He was in very good condition, and the distance was good," Lani's jockey Yutaka Take said.

The track was a fast one all day, and the rain held off until after the finish when a downpour soaked a crowd much smaller than the 90,000 that showed up for American Pharoah's Triple Crown.

Earlier in the week, celebrity chef Bobby Flay became a co-owner of Creator along with WinStar.

Attendance figures were not yet released by the New York Association.

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In five other Grade 1 races on the card:

-- Frosted ($6.70) ran the fastest Metropolitan Mile in the 123-year history of the race, blowing away the field for a 14 1/4 length victory and earning an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Ridden by Joel Rosario, the 4-year-old gray colt stormed into the lead around the turn and widened his advantage with every stride. The winning time was 1:32.73, off the track record by nearly a half-second, but faster than Tizway's Met Mile time of 1:32.90 in 2011.

-- Cavorting ($10.60) ran her way into an automatic berth in the BC Distaff by taking the $1 million Ogden Phipps by 2 1/2 lengths over Forever Unbridled. The 4-year-old filly is trained by Kiran McLaughlin, who also trains Frosted. Favorite Curalina was fourth.

-- Flintshire ($3.40), a 6-year-old bred in England, made his first start of the year a winning one in the $1 million Manhattan for 4-year-olds and up on the turf.

-- Celestine ($17) took charge in the stretch to win the $700,000 Just A Game for 4-year-old and up fillies and mares on the turf.

-- Carina Mia ($6.10) edged past Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia in the stretch and won the $700,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies.

Also, Tom's Ready ($17.20) rebounded from a 12th place finish in the Derby to win the Grade 2 $500,000 Woody Stephens; and Shaman Ghost ($9.60) won the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational.