Todd Pletcher has officially announced that he won't be at the Belmont with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, and that is the right move after a very weak performance in the Preakness. He's not giving up on the opportunity to grab another Triple Crown race, though - his third Belmont if he is successful. And in this colt he has a horse that was seen as one of the stars of this class earlier in the spring and then has looked pretty darned ordinary since. So, can Tapwrit recapture that lost magic and have a big day here?
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Last race: His sixth-place finish in the Derby was a flattering result. Out of the gate he got caught in the early part of the collision that Classic Empire ultimately got the worst of. He sat well off the pace in 15th early on, encountered a bit of trouble, and then moved up to sixth at the end. It was less of an inspiring move, though, and more of a case where he held his ground while others faded. Finishing in the top third of the field in that race is never a bad thing, and other horses were much worse, but I really don't feel like we saw the best of Tapwrit on that day.
Prior experience: It's harsh to say, but you really have to wonder if this horse peaked too soon. Will he ever be as good as he was as a youngster? After a disastrous first try at breaking his maiden, he came back to not only win a maiden race but then win his stakes debut to close out his two year old campaign. At three he started with a solid second behind McCraken in the Sam F. Davis and then was the very impressive winner of the Tampa Bay Derby - though time has not ultimately flattered that race this year. It seemed, then, that he was among the very best of this class. But then he was just awful in finishing fifth in the Blue Grass and better but uninspiring in the Derby. I don't know if the case is that he just hasn't been as good lately or ultimately if he just wasn't great to begin with. Either way, I need to see a lot more from this horse to really be impressed.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher can win Triple Crown races as he obviously proved just a few weeks ago by winning the Kentucky Derby for the second time. He's also won this race twice - with Rags to Riches in 2007 and Palace Malice in 2013, and has a much better win percentage here than in the Derby. He has been named the nation's top trainer seven times and has many meet titles in New York where he is based. He's obviously more than capable of shining in this spot.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz led the country in wins last year and was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for top jockey. He got beaten to his first Triple Crown race win by his brother Irad, though, who won last year with Creator. The two brothers are both wildly talented and extremely competitive with each other, so you can be sure that Ortiz will be hungry to even the score. Before the brothers are done they'll have a large collection of wins in the races - they are that good. This is the fourth time horse and rider have paired up, so Ortiz has seen him at his best and his most underwhelming.
Breeding: Tapwrit is sired by Tapit, the top North American sire who has sired, among many other top horses, Tonalist and Creator, two of the last three Belmont Stakes winner. That alone is a pretty good indicator that this horse can handle the challenge of the distance here. Tapit is a grandson of great stamina influence and Belmont winner A.P. Indy. Damsire Successful Appeal was a moderately successful sprinter, which isn't helpful to this bloodline. He has strong Northern Dancer influences in his pedigree, though, which tend to cross very well with Tapit. As is a recurring theme in this race, this is a well-bred horse that has real strengths that lend themselves to this race.
Odds: MyBookie has Tapwrit as the fifth choice at +800 behind favored Classic Empire, Epicharis, Senior Investment and Lookin at Lee. That feels about right in terms of his spot in the hierarchy, but I'm sure not seeing any value in the price. He would have had to have been far more impressive in his last two races to get me excited about this price.
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