Trainer Todd Pletcher wins his fourth Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby in last five years and third in a row; Tapwrit seems certain to vault to top tier of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands candidates; jockey Jose Ortiz calls him "really scary."
If the winner of today’s 37th Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, Tapwrit, goes on to greater glory, the 10,079 fans in attendance at Tampa Bay Downs may remember his decisive surge entering the far turn as “the move.”
“He just exploded,” said Aron Wellman, President of co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. “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,” said jockey Jose Ortiz. “He’s really scary, and I think he is going to keep improving.”
“We were looking for a big effort from him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said from south Florida via telephone, “and this was everything we could hope for. He won pretty convincingly, and we’re very pleased.”
Tapwrit, who finished second to unbeaten McCraken here four weeks ago in the Grade III Sam F. Davis, earned his second stakes victory in the Grade II, $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, defeating a game State of Honor by four-and-a-half lengths. Wild Shot was third, followed by No Dozing and Beasley.
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. Earlier on the card, the Pletcher-trained 5-year-old Stanford bettered McCraken’s short-lived Sam F. Davis track mark for the distance by winning the Challenger Stakes in 1:41.75.
The victory by Tapwrit is Pletcher’s third Tampa Bay Derby in a row, fourth in the last five years and fifth overall. His Sonic Mule finished eighth.
“He 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 said. “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 is owned in partnership by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, John and Leslie Malone’s Bridlewood Farm and Robert V. LaPenta. He was bred by My Meadowview LLC. The partners 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 Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie.
“This was a breakout race for him,” LaPenta said. “I really felt he stepped up today. This is such a tough sport, and a win like this brings you to the moon.”
For now, Ortiz is prepared to keep both feet firmly in the irons.
“I really like him a lot, and I think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth and a mile-and-a-quarter,” he said. “If he has competition beside him, I think he is going to get much and much better.”