Spearman hoping for Tapwrit win at Travers

For a second time this summer, Brian Spearman will gladly pick up the tab.

Spearman, a Ridgefield resident, is the chairman and an equity partner at Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, one of several groups sharing ownership of Tapwrit, the three-year-old horse that won the Belmont Stakes in early June.

Tapwrit will race for the first time since the Belmont victory this Saturday, at the Travers Stakes in Saratoga, N.Y.

With Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing also scheduled to compete, the Travers will have three Triple Crown winners for the first time since 1982.

A Tapwrit victory in Saturday’s one-and-one-quarter-mile race would come with added meaning for Spearman: He grew up in Saratoga and spent college summers working at the Saratoga Race Course.

“I'm trying to not think about the possibility of him (Tapwrit) winning the Travers because I want to be able to sleep the rest of this week,” said Spearman, who worked for more than 30 years at PepsiCo before joining Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in 2015. “I would be disingenuous if I did not tell you it's a boyhood dream to win the Travers … even if that means I'm buying pizza and beer again for my friends in Ridgefield.”

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.

Tapwrit has spent the past two months training for the Travers. In his final hard practice last Friday, Tapwrit ran a half-mile in 50.24 seconds on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.

“I thought he looked good, said Pletcher to Brisnet.com, an online horse racing data and handicapping site. “The track was playing fair; it wasn’t super fast but it was in good shape.”

“Todd Pletcher has been in Saratoga supervising Tapwrit and Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner that is also in his barn,” said Spearman. “Tapwrit did not run in any tune-up races since the Belmont. We have chosen to take the approach of training up to this important race.”

The Travers has a total purse of $1.25 million, with 670,000 going to the winner. Tapwrit enters the race with career earnings over $1.1 million, including the first-place prize of $800,000, at the Belmont.

Purchased for $1.2 million at a 2015 yearling sale in Saratoga by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, 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.

The horse 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 in March. In his final race before the Kentucky Derby, Tapwrit was fifth at the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes in April at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky.

Notes: Of the 63 Belmont Stakes winners that have run in the Travers, 29 of them won the race and another 18 finished second or third. Last year’s Belmont champion, Creator, went on to finish seventh at the Travers.

Saturday’s race is the 148th running of the Travers, which debuted in 1864.

Two Pletcher-trained horses have won the Travers: Flower Alley in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011.

The last time the Travers field included three different Triple Crown winners was in 1982, when Gato del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler, and Conquistador Cielo competed. None of those horses won, however, as Runaway Groom finished first.

NBC will air this year’s Travers during its live television coverage from 4:30 to 6 p.m.