by Brian Bohl
William Lawrence and Bradley Thoroughbreds’ Tapit Today broke through in a stakes after a trio of close efforts, running down pacesetter Mitchell Road from the outside in the final furlong and holding off her competitor for a one-length win in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Belmont Park.
The Tapit mare was coming off a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf on September 12, which followed a fourth-place effort in the Grade 3 Matchmaker in July at Monmouth Park and another third in her 5-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Suwannee River in February at Gulfstream Park.
In her first start at Belmont, Tapit Today broke sharp from the outside post under jockey Jose Ortiz and tracked in third position as Mitchell Road and Sweet Bye and Bye led the eight-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.89 seconds, the half in 50.37 and three-quarters in 1:13.11 over the firm inner turf.
Out of the final turn, jockey Luis Saez kept Mitchell Road near the rail, but Tapit Today challenged from her outside, went eye-to-eye and passed her rival in mid-stretch. The Chad Brown trainee maintained that urgency and completed the 1 1/16-mile course in a 1:42.56 final time.
“She had an outside post and I tried to ride her like she was the best and control the race a little bit if I had enough horse, and I did,” said Ortiz, who registered his Belmont fall meet-leading 35th win. “Past the half-mile, I had the favorite right inside of me and I controlled the race from the three-eighths pole to the wire.”