We went to Plan B, says Irish War Cry's trainer
NEW YORK (AP):
Graham Motion, who trains Irish War Cry, ridden by Jamaican Rajiv Maragh to second place in last Saturday's Belmont Stakes, said it was never the plan to lead the 12-furlong race, which the horse lost after being chased down by Tapwrit.
Tapwrit overtook favoured Irish War Cry in the stretch to win by two lengths, 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.
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 Motion. "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 duelling leaders. They maintained that positioning on to 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 I 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.
"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 16th, he dug down deep."
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 favourite 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.