May 26, 2024

Paret upsets Tiller; Tap It to Win flirts with Belmont track record

Paret wins the Tiller at Belmont (NYRA/Coglianese Photos)

Belmont’s Thursday stakes offering, the $80,000 Tiller for turf veterans, and a preceding dirt allowance for well-regarded 3-year-olds didn’t appear to have much in common on paper. But both went to front runners who upstaged better-fancied opponents. While the 38-1 Paret was all heart to steal the Tiller, the 6-1 Tap It to Win ran them off their feet in near track-record time.

Australian import Paret, who had not won since a handicap at Rosehill on August 25, 2018, was overlooked among a salty field in the Tiller. His absence since finishing second in the Oct. 13 Point of Entry here didn’t raise his profile compared to the likes of 2.95-1 favorite Sadler’s Joy, 3-1 second choice Channel Maker, 7-2 third choice Standard Deviation, the 9-2 Dot Matrix, or 5-1 Current. And with Noble Indy the presumptive pacesetter, Paret didn’t stand out tactically either.

But once Jorge Vargas sent Paret past Noble Indy through an opening quarter in :23.90, the James Lawrence charge seized a control that he wouldn’t relinquish. Paret carved out fractions of :49.67, 1:14.68, and 1:38.72 on the firm Widener turf. Dot Matrix was the only rival to emerge a threat, accosting the leader in midstretch and finding him impossible to pass.

Paret dug in determinedly to see off Dot Matrix by a head. After negotiating 1 3/8 miles in 2:14.05 to earn his first black-type laurel, the dark bay gelding provided a $78.50 windfall.

Third-placer Sadler’s Joy closed from last to edge Highland Sky, Current, and Standard Deviation in the blanket finish. Corelli lunged at the start of his U.S. debut and ended up seventh. Next came Channel Maker, Hayabusa One, Go Poke the Bear, Petit Fils, and Noble Indy. Focus Group was scratched along with the main-track-only pair of Rocketry and Its All Relevant.

Paret improved his scorecard to 22-5-2-5, $306,328. Formerly a stablemate of Winx in the Chris Waller yard, the son of Harbour Watch competed mainly in sprint handicaps. He took a few stabs at stakes, most notably the 2018 Epsom H. (G1) where he was 18th of 20 to Godolphin stalwart Hartnell.

Eighth in his U.S. debut in the 2019 Dixie (G2), Paret placed in his ensuing starts in Delaware Park’s Glasgow, the Neshaminy at Parx, and the 5 1/2-furlong Rainbow Heir at Monmouth. The 1 1/2-mile Point of Entry was quite a departure, but he coped well on the front end and succumbed only to Red Knight in an encouraging effort. Paret took another step forward in this reappearance.

“Chuck told me he had been away for a few months and was a little sharp, so I let him be happy,” Vargas told NYRA publicity. “He was sharp, so I just let him go the lead. When he hit the backstretch, he jumped to the right lead and relaxed and came back to me. I thought from there I was going to be OK.

“I asked him before we hit the turn. I knew it was pretty early, but I wanted to see what I had and he gave me some. I sat back and waited a little more, and when I asked him to run again, he jumped and was ready to fight.”

Lawrence explained that Paret’s loving the lifestyle at his Fair Hill base.

“We’ve been working with this horse, trying to just get him to chill out and turn off and it obviously worked,” the winning trainer said. “What a nice horse; he gets all the credit.

“This horse gets turned out at five every morning in his own paddock. Then we train him a few days a week out back on the hills. He trains primarily on Michael Dickinson’s Tapeta surface and he just thrives on it. We turn him out rain or shine every day and he just loves it.”

Paret was bred by Qatar Racing. His dam, Enduja by Encosta de Lago, is a relative of highweight Margot Did, who’s responsible for Group 2 winner and Grade/Group 1-placed Mission Impassible as well as recent Prix Vanteaux (G3) heroine Magic Attitude.

One race earlier, Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Tap It to Win loved being allowed to speed along to his heart’s content in a 1 1/16-mile allowance, and drawing right away from well-regarded classic hopefuls.

Trained by Mark Casse and piloted by John Velazquez, Tap It to Win zipped through fractions of :22.65, :45.64, and 1:09.39, and kept on motoring. The Tapit colt romped by five lengths in 1:39.76, just about a half-second off Transparent’s 1:39.22 set on Sept. 18, 2014.

The 8-5 favorite Mystic Guide, just announced as one of the late nominees to the Triple Crown, made headway amid the chasing pack and did his best work late. Driving 1 1/2 lengths clear of Country Grammer, who had been fifth in the Fountain of Youth (G2), Mystic Guide shaped more like a two-turn type.

Sharp debut winner Basquiat, the 2.55-1 second choice, pursued the winner early but couldn’t keep up and faded to fourth in the eight-horse field. Basquiat was not a Triple Crown nominee, but his Chad Brown stablemate Country Grammer is.

Tap It to Win is not eligible for the Triple Crown, perhaps because one turn might be his game. The Florida-bred scored his previous wins at 6 furlongs, breaking his maiden at Saratoga and recently capturing an entry-level state-bred allowance at Gulfstream. In between he flopped in two stakes, trailing in both Maxfield’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Oct. 27 Street Sense. Off Thursday’s evidence, he deserves more stakes opportunities.

Out of the multiple stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Onepointhreekarats, from the extended family of Songbird, Tap It to Win sports a mark of 6-3-1-0, $124,672.