May 19, 2022

Shapiro passes Test of the Champion to salvage Triple Crown

Tapwrit with Jose Ortiz up wins the 2017 Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park (c) Uli Seit/

by Scott Shapiro

The 2017 Triple Crown season is complete and as always it provided handicappers with challenging analytical puzzles from start to finish.

Much like 2016, my handicapping in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness did not land me on the winner, but I was able to overcome poor analysis in the first two legs, and salvage the three-race series with strong work in the Belmont Stakes.

The first Saturday of May saw a wide-open twenty-horse affair run over an off track that turned out to give a major advantage to horses competing over the inside portion. Todd Pletcher’s Always Dreaming brought a three race win streak into the “Run for the Roses” and rode the better part of the surface all the way to victory with late running Lookin At Lee saving ground throughout picking up the pieces for a solid second at big odds of 33-1.

My top choice Hence, who cost me dearly this spring, hardly ran a step after a poor break and the logical runners I pinned my hopes on all finished outside of the top few.

My saving grace in the Derby was the push I gave on 40-1 long shot Battle of Midway who got out of the gates well and ran a big third. However, I faded the winner, which led to an ROI of -100% to start the Triple Crown series.

The Preakness Stakes came two weeks later, and I felt the Derby winner had a huge shot to win the second jewel and move onto to Elmont with a chance to be a part of history. However, once again my assessment was way off when second choice Classic Empire put him away on the far turn before being run down by eventual winner Cloud Computing in the final strides.

For the second straight year I misinterpreted the data from the Derby and the Triple Crown preps, which yielded no return on my modest investment in Baltimore. I also lost more money on Calumet Farm’s Hence who this time had a perfect trip, but had nothing when the real running started.

The Belmont Stakes lacked star power in 2017, but I had hopes that much like last year’s rendition when my top three ran first, second, and fourth, respectively, it could bail me out. Sure, Creator, Destin, and Governor Malibu were much bigger prices than my top choice this year Tapwrit, but a strong performance from my “Top 4 in the Belmont” could salvage my pride and my bankroll.

The pricey son of Tapit got a dream trip due to a picturesque ride from jockey Jose Ortiz and ran down 5-2-favorite Irish War Cry in the stretch to capture the $1.5 million dollar race. My pick for third Patch rallied past Gormley late at odds of 12-1 and landed me the cold trifecta returning $312 on a one-dollar wager.

I wish I could tell you that I crushed the race at the windows, but much like the Preakness it was not a race I was heavily invested in. Fortunately several of my friends and followers stuck with me and in the end netted a profit over the three races.

The 2017 three-year-old male crop will not be remembered for its star power and one must wonder what Mastery could have done had he remained healthy in the races leading up to the Triple Crown.

With the spring almost in the rear view mirror it is almost time to start thinking about Saratoga and Del Mar, and for the three-year-old males, the Travers Stakes. As usual new colts will emerge and challenge the ones that ran in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. As always, it should be lots of fun.

I will catch my breath and look forward to an awesome summer out here “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.”