Spearman has reason to celebrate, as Tapwrit wins Belmont

In the span of a few minutes, Brian Spearman received hundreds of texts and emails.

It’s what happens when people see you on national television.

Spearman, a Ridgefield resident, was spotted on the podium following Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, as NBC’s Bob Costas interviewed several fellow members of Tapwrit’s ownership groups. The horse had just staged a late charge to overtake Irish War Cry and win the Belmont — the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown — by two lengths.

“It was really unbelievable,” said Spearman, the chairman and an equity partner at Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, one of Tapwrit’s three ownership groups. “My first reaction (on the homestretch) was that Tapwrit was going to hit the board — finish in the top three. Then you hold your breath.

“We got our dream ride,” continued Spearman. “The jockey, Jose Ortiz, stayed close to the front and stalked Irish War Cry before making his move down the stretch. Tapwrit closed spectacularly.”

At a lengthy one-and-a-half miles, the Belmont is a test of strategy and endurance. Most years, the winner is decided on an unforgiving homestretch.

“Tapwrit’s bloodline is good for distance, but you don’t train horses for a mile and a half,” said Spearman. “You don’t know how much gas is left in the tank.”

After Tapwrit’s sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the horse’s owners and trainer Todd Pletcher elected to bypass the Preakness and head to Belmont to begin training. The decision proved wise, as Tapwrit became the ninth horse in the last 18 years to skip the Preakness and win the Belmont Stakes, placing first in a time of two minutes, 30.02 seconds.

“His training went well, so we felt good heading into the race,” said Spearman, who watched with the other owners from a spectator box at the finish line. “He had a clean start and Jose (Ortiz) took the inside path. Tapwrit was perfectly positioned to make his run.”

The victory came with a prize of $800,000, pushing Tapwrit’s career earnings to over $1.1 million. Purchased for $1.2 million at a 2015 yearling sale in Saratoga (N.Y.) by Equity, Robert LaPenta and Bridlewood Farms, Tapwrit has now finished first in four of his eight starts.

Tapwrit made his debut with a 10th-place finish as a two-year-old last September in Saratoga and then won his final two starts of 2016 in Florida, including a victory at the Pulpit Stakes.

Tapwrit began the 2017 season by placing second at the Sam F. Davis Stakes in Tampa, Fla., and then followed with a convincing win at the Tampa Bay Derby on March 11. In his final tuneup for the Derby, Tapwrit was fifth at the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes on April 8 at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky.

More races should come over the next few months. Among the pre-Labor Day options are the Jim Dandy Stakes, the Travers Stakes, and the Haskell Invitational, followed by the Breeders’ Cup in November. With three different winners in the Triple Crown races, those upcoming events will help determine the American Horse of the Year, which is part of the Eclipse Awards presented in January.

“We’d love to run Tapwrit before Labor Day, but we’ll have to see how he’s feeling and how he’s training,” said Spearman. “Todd (Pletcher) has him stabled right next to Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner, so we know Tapwrit is going to get a lot of attention.”

In the meantime, Spearman will continue responding to congratulatory emails and texts and celebrating Tapwrit’s triumph.

“My Ridgefield friends told me that they wanted to get together this week,” said Spearman. “They said the drinks were on the guy with the pony.”