11 June, 2017
Trainer Bob Baffert, left, appears with Kiyoshi Hagiwara, trainer of race horse Epicharis, passing in background, at Belmont Park, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Elmont, N.Y. Epicharis, is expected to run in the 149th Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday.
The colt arrived in NY on June 1 after a 24-hour journey from Japan that included a layover in Alaska.
With Classic Empire out, the race is wide-open. A field of 12 is set to run the 1½-mile race, with Irish War Cry as the early 7-2 favorite.
Last year's 3-year-old champion, Arrogate, is now the best horse in the world and his first graded stake was in last year's Travers, so anything can happen as we head into the summer months. NBC will broadcast the festival.
Pletcher's jubilation at winning his third Belmont Stakes was compounded by the performance of his stable's other runner, fairytale galloper Patch, who rallied strongly to finish third, five lengths behind his stablemate.
Tapwrit did not run in the Preakness, but finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Graham Motion didn't plan on having the favorite on the lead so jockey Rajiv Maragh was forced into Plan B. And now he's a favorite.
Irish War Cry took his first 1 ½-mile gallop around the track on Thursday morning, and Motion was pleased with how his horse looked. "He was great. [Assistant trainer Alice Clapham] said he was looking around a little bit, but he's very sensible".
Irish War Cry returned $4.70 to place and $3.90 to show.
Hagiwara trained 2009 Japanese Derby victor Logi Universe, the only Group 1 victor so far in his career. The colt had been treated for lameness in his right front hoof earlier in the week. J Boys Echo will compete in the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday.
"They feel confident they can make the race tomorrow, but they're still going to monitor the horse", he said of the Japanese team. "We were hoping he had enough when it came crunch time". His sire Union Rags won the Belmont in 2012 after I'll Have Another scratched the day before his Triple Crown attempt.
Pletcher is quietly building his Triple Crown race resume, which now is up to five wins for a trainer who will turn 50 in less than three weeks.
Hagiwara thinks his colt is especially well-suited to the track at Belmont.
"The Derby was a tough assignment for (Patch), a lightly raced horse and draws the far outside post", Pletcher said.
There was no Triple Crown on the line to add to the day's allure, but a crowd of 57,729 horse-playing, horse-loving connoisseurs came out nonetheless, and offered their full-throated support for some of the sport's more unsung stars.
His consistency and his durability speak for themselves. Just four years ago Pletcher won the Belmont with Palace Malice, who entered the 1 1/2-mile test off a 12th-place finish in the Derby.
The Brooklyn Invitational (G2) begins the graded action on Saturday, featuring Todd Pletcher-trained Sent It In over 1 1/2 miles on the dirt.
Tapwrit's victory gave Pletcher two of the three races in the Triple Crown.
"He's a unique horse in how strong he is, how he takes things, how he comes out of his races, how gritty he is, how durable he is", Asmussen said, per Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form.
"We realize how fortunate we are".