Report: 2017 Belmont Stakes

The 149th running of the Belmont Stakes took place on June 10, and HorseDoc® ‘Talking Horses’® presents a firsthand report by Dr. Gregory Beroza.


NYRA/Chelsea Durand

The 2017 Belmont Stakes was run on Saturday, June 20th at beautiful Belmont Park. This year was not a Triple Crown year and, in fact, neither the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming nor the 2017 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing were entered in the $1.5 million mile and a half final Triple Crown “Test of 3 year old Champions.”

Unlike some previous years, the two most favored horses Tapwrit (second favorite at 5-1) and Irish War Cry (favorite at 5-2 odds), finished first and second. Lookin At Lee at 6-1 odds finished seventh out of 11 entries and was the only horse to compete in all three 2017 Triple Crown races. Tapwrit’s time for the 1.5 miles was 2:30.02 minutes. The track record is 2:24.00 minutes held by the great Secretariat in 1973. Patch at 12-1 odds finished third and Gormley at 8-1 odds finished fourth. Hollywood Handsome ran into a problem on the backside, received a minor laceration to the back of his knee, was prudently pulled-up early by jockey Florent Geroux and didn’t complete the race. Epicharis was scratched from the Belmont on Saturday morning due to a sore right front hoof.

Tapwrit, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz, now has a record of 4-1-0 in eight starts. By winning the Belmont Stakes, the $1.2 million dollar yearling purchase added $800,000 to his $1,143,902 earnings for his owners Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta. After the Belmont, Todd Pletcher stated that, “[Belmont Park] is our home base and I think that’s always an advantage.” This was Pletcher’s third Belmont Stakes win (Rags to Riches in 2007 and Palace Malace in 2013), and Ortiz’s first. Pletcher tied his mentor D. Wayne Lukas’ record from 1996 for having won both the Kentucky Derby (Pletcher with Always Dreaming and Lukas with Grindstone) and the Belmont Stakes (Pletcher with Tapwrit and Lukas with Editor’s Note) in those two Triple Crown races in the same year.

Tapit has now sired three Belmont Stakes winners: Tapwrit (2017), Creator (2016) and Tonalist (2014).  Tapit’s sons Lani (third in 2016) and Frosted (second in 2015) also finished in former Belmont Stakes in the money. Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit potentially could meet up again in the summer or fall in the Haskell, Jim Dandy, Travers and Breeders Cup races to help determine the best three year old racehorse of 2017.

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Earlier Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert had a stellar day winning four stakes races and $1,387,000 in purses by winning the Grade I $700,000 Acorn with Abel Tasman, the $1,200,000 Grade I Metropolitan Handicap with Mor Spirit, the $500,000 Grade II Woody Stephens with American Anthem, and the $150,000 Easy Goer with West Coast. Mike Smith was the winning jockey for all four races. Mike Smith also rode Jerry Hollendorfer-trained superstar four year old mare Songbird, who went off at 1-2 odds, to victory in the Grade I $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes. That was Smith’s fifth stakes win on Saturday.

Also just before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes race, Graham Motion, trainer of Irish War Cry, pulled off an upset win of the Grade I $1 million dollar Woodford Reserve Manhattan turf race with long shot Ascend, a five year old gelding going off at 27-1 odds. Ascend was ridden by Jose Ortiz, the same jockey who in the very next race rode Tapwrit against Motion’s Irish War Cry to win the Belmont Stakes.

The 2017 Belmont Stakes Festival took place from Thursday, June 8th through Saturday, June 10th. Friday night, the audience was entertained by popular Billy Joel sound alike group Big Shot and Saturday night with an Andy Grammer concert. On Saturday, the backside was filled with vendors, assorted foods, events and picnickers simply out to enjoy a great day of racing.The atmosphere was pleasant, enjoyable and uncrowded. Paid attendance for Belmont Stakes Day was 57,720. The Belmont Stakes record attendance of 120,139 was in 2004 when Smarty Jones finished second to Birdstone in his Triple Crown bid.

Saturday’s on-track handle was $11,594,599, virtually unchanged from 2016’s on-track handle of $11,694,897. The all-source handle for the three-day 2017 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival was $124,740,193, eclipsing 2016’s all-source handle of $122,816,359. The total Belmont Stakes handle from Japan, which is not included in the all-source handle figure, was $4,698,525. The highest betting record for any Belmont Stakes was $150,249,399 in 2014.

NYRA/Susie Raisher

Dr. Gregory A. Beroza, DVM, DACVS, DABVP has been a practicing veterinarian for 36 years and HorseDoc® ‘Talking Horses’® media host, author and consultant since 2007. He is the Founder and Chief of Staff at Long Island Equine Medical Center, President of EQUISCAN — the first privately licensed equine nuclear diagnostic facility on East Coast — and Founder and President of LONG ISLAND EQUINE MEDICAL FOUNDATION INC.  Contacts:, [email protected] or Twitter @DrGregoryBeroza

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Go Riding.

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