The 2017 Belmont lost some of its worldwide flavor when Japan's Epicharis, the UAE Derby's runner-up, was scratched after a morning vet check revealed a right front foot problem had failed to respond to treatment.
Having moved the horse into second place, Ortiz delivered a telling burst three-quarters of the way down the home stretch to set up victory before wearing down his opponent in the final metres to win by two lengths.
With just hours left until the race on Saturday, Epicharis had been listed at the second-best odds at 7-2. It does come with questions about a Japanese horse with a sore foot. Epicharis wasn't ready to run the 1½-mile race three days after the colt was treated for lameness in his hoof.
If you're looking to invest in a long shot, you have options. "For sure, the connections studied the form very well, and the opportunity to come here". They won the 2016 Belmont with Creator.
It is a tribute similar to the blanket or roses, and black-eyed Susans awarded to the victor of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness respectively. "But in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, 'Man, if he won it, I'm wondering what're you going to do with Tapwrit?' But it's all good today". His best finish was third in the Belmont.
Belmont Park's deep, sandy track and sweeping turns can wipe out a tiring horse and benefit a closer able to negotiate the long stretch. Generally, that's the way most of our horses run.
"It was everything that we had talked about", Pletcher said. "He should stay the trip". He showed up and took the Wood by over three lengths. Besides last year's race, he finished sixth aboard Samraat in 2014. Especially with the Derby victor, the two-week turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness is a really short time for horses, but it's a pretty long 14 days for a horse trainer.
Epicharis is scheduled to ship back to Japan Thursday, June 15 at 4 a.m. "He breezed well last weekend, and I felt he needed to be here".
Hagiwara trained 2009 Japanese Derby victor Logi Universe, the only Group 1 victor so far in his career.
The trainers, themselves, are calling this a wide-open race. "I always liked him and we always had a lot of faith in him", Ortiz said.
The road to the winner's circle in the Belmont Stakes ran through the Kentucky Derby - and Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar - even with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners skipping the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Wagering in a separate, non-commingled pool in Japan continued despite the scratch.
"This might be my Derby horse", Ortiz said at the time. "A big tsunami maybe".
- UFC stars excited about McGregor vs Mayweather fight
- IOS 11 won't support iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, and fourth-gen iPad
- Texas governor signs texting-while-driving ban into law
- Prosecutors rest their case at Bill Cosby's trial
- Koepka's trip around the world leads to major title at home
- Davidson: SNP must scrap plans for second indyref
- Ramnath Kovind: NDA's Face Of Presidential Elections
- India scored some great goals against Pakistan: Roelant Oltmans
- Team Halep on regrouping after tough loss in Roland Garros final
- Moment of silence for London fire victims