Tapwrit thrust himself squarely into the Kentucky Derby (G1) discussion with a spectacular victory in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), setting a stakes record while winning the the 1 1/16-mile contest by a widening 4 1/2-lengths.
Soon after the break, Tapwrit got shuffled back and bumped around going into the first turn and was eighth after a quarter mile in :23.42. Still in seventh at the halfway point, Tapwrit suddenly picked up the pace with three furlongs to run, and in less than an eighth-mile, sped past State of Honor to take the lead. He continued to pour it on in the stretch under a strong hand ride by Jose Ortiz.
“He just exploded,” said Aron Wellman, President of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners who co-owns the colt with Bridlewood Farm and Robert LaPenta. “That was what we were hoping for, and he delivered.”
“When I asked him between the half-mile and 3/8 poles, he let me know he was going to win the race right away,” added Ortiz. “He’s really scary, and I think he is going to keep improving.”
“We were looking for a big effort from him,” echoed trainer Todd Pletcher said, “and this was everything we could hope for. He won pretty convincingly, and we’re very pleased.”
Tapwrit’s time of 1:42.36 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth is a new stakes record, bettering the mark of 1:42.82 set last year by Destin.
“He (Tapwrit) had kind of a rough trip around the first turn and got shuffled around a little, but he handled it professionally and steadied himself and got in good stride up the backstretch,” Pletcher continued. “After he made the lead, Jose kept him occupied down the lane because he has a tendency to idle when he gets ahead. This was everything we could have hoped for.”
Tapwrit improved to 3-for-5 in his career and the winner’s share of $210,000 raised his career earnings to $313,902.
Tapwrit was bred by My Meadowview LLC. His owners purchased him for $1.2-million two years ago at the August Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Tapwrit is by Tapit, out of the Spinaway S. (G1) winner Appealing Zophie.
“I really like him a lot, and I think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth and a mile-and-a-quarter,” Ortiz said, looking ahead to Tapwrit’s potential run at the Kentucky Derby. “If he has competition beside him, I think he is going to get much and much better.”
The Tampa Bay Derby was worth 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Challenge, giving the son of Tapit a total of 54, currently second-most on the list.