The 5-year-old Tapitsfly, who earned her first graded stakes victory in March, scored at racing’s highest level Saturday at Belmont Park with a front-running, stakes-record victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for turf fillies and mares.
Ramon Dominguez prompted Tapitsfly, a Frank L. Jones, Jr. homebred, to take a clear lead from the rail, and the gray daughter of Tapit set honest fractions of 23.47, 46.44, and 1:09.48 as Wallis tracked in second. After Wallis capitulated at the top of the stretch, Tapitsfly extended her advantage, then turned back the stretch run of even-money favorite Winter Memories to prevail by 2 ¼ lengths. Hungry Island finished an additional 1 ¾ lengths behind in third.
“Looking on paper, there was no speed,” noted Dominguez. “I was pretty happy when I got to the paddock and Dale said to me ‘Try to put her on the lead.’ It worked out beautifully. She relaxed for me. Turning for home, she gave a great kick. She was moving right along. I’m assuming the turf course is a little bit on the firm side, which contributed to the fractions to not being as slow as you would have thought. She came home very fast, and I guess the final time was very fast, too. In a race like this, you cannot underestimate Hungry Island and Winter Memories; you know they’re going to be coming at you.”
Off as the 3-1 second choice, Tapitsfly returned $8.40 for a $2 win wager and completed one mile on turf in 1:32.34. The previous stakes record of 1:32 2/5 was set in 1995 by Caress. Elusive Quality established the Widener course record of 1:31.63 in 1998.
Tapitsfly’s most lucrative win to date came in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, a $1 million race which was ungraded at the time. She placed in three graded events before her breakthrough triumph in the Grade 2 Honey Fox in March at Gulfstream and entered Saturday’s race off a third in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on April 14 at Keeneland and a second to Hungry Island in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Like the Longines Just a Game, the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Honey Fox were contested at one mile.
“This year has been good,” said winning trainer Dale Romans, who will saddle Dullahan later today in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes. “She’s won a Grade 2 and a Grade 1. She really needed a Grade 1 and deserved a Grade 1. We were thinking about running at Churchill, but I knew we needed to take on the big girls. Very impressive.”
“Hopefully this is just a set up for things to come later in the day.”
Tapitsfly, 6-6-4 in 21 starts, became a millionaire in the Longines Just a Game, with the $300,000 winner’s share pushing her earnings to $1,253,836.
The win was particularly gratifying for Romans, who purchased and trained Tapitsfly’s dam, Flying Marlin, for Jones. During her racing career, Flying Marlin won four of 17 starts and earned $146,051.
“Frank Jones, my father trained for him when I was born, so it’s always good to win for him,” said Romans. “Plus I bought her mother for him as a race filly. It’s been good. She’s like a member of the family."
Romans said Tapitsfly likely will join his string at Saratoga Race Course.
Up In Time was fourth, followed home by Sylvestris, Wallis, and Dancinginherdreams.