Tapit Trice turned in a stellar performance at the hotly-contested 2023 edition of the Blue Grass Stakes, coming from behind to best the all-but-apparent victor, Verifying, in the last sixteenth by a neck. It was a masterful piloting job by his jockey Luis Saez that set up the exhilarating stretch duel, and with their edgy victory Tapit Trice and Saez cemented Texas-born trainer Todd Pletcher’s power sweep of this year’s highly distilled Kentucky Derby preps.
There are four weeks to go before the big show at Churchill, thus no Derby entry can yet be set in stone, but with the Pletcher barn putting forth Forte, Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns, not simply in the top 20 but within the top 10, in the Kentucky Derby point standings — in first, fourth, and eighth, respectively — it will suffice to say that Pletcher looks set to make a big impact on the Derby’s 149th running.
For his part, Tapit Trice did not draw an ideal post position for himself on the inside and got off to only an approximately sufficient start. As his jockey Luis Saez always notes, the colt is occasionally “slow to get going” and the pace of this outing was certainly not a hot one. Saez and Trice lay seventh in the early going. Saez had his pilot’s work cut out for him up the backstretch, moving wide past the quarter-mile and edging into fourth, then moving third by the time of the far turn.
Post-race, Saez explained it with consummate racing economy in this way: “In the first turn we had an opportunity to put him in the clear. I made a little move early, because the pace was pretty slow, so I could get behind the horse (Verifying) we were supposed to beat. I know we have to beat everybody, but that was the horse to follow, so we were right there, and when he made his move, we were right on top of him.”
The Brad-Cox-trained Verifying was out in front at the top of the stretch, by the time Saez and Tapit Trice had clawed their way through the pack and it was stride-for-stride from there. In the last sixteenth it seemed like a dead heat until Tapit Trice and Saez nosed forward, with Tapit Trice seeming actually to have his racing instincts kick in so that he seemed to recognize that he needed to lock in the win. He stuck his neck out in the last second, and the wire complied by being there.