Tapwrit launched an eye-catching rally past horses on the far turn and blew past pacesetter State of Honor after turning for home in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), stamping his Kentucky Derby ticket with a 4 ½-length decision.

“We were looking for a big effort from him and this was everything we could hope for,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He won pretty convincingly and we’re real pleased.”

Second to McCraken in the February 11 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa, Tapwrit continued to improve while making his second start in a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, picking up 50 points to increase his total to 54. Jose Ortiz has been up for both starts in 2017.

“I really like him a lot and I think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth and a mile-and-a-quarter,” Ortiz said. “If he has competition beside him, I think he is going to get much better.”

Tapwrit dropped back to eighth, a little more than five lengths off the pace in the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby as State of Honor flashed forward at the break and set the pace on a clear lead, establishing splits in :23.42, :46.65 and 1:10.57.

The winner still had plenty of work to do leaving the backstretch before closing dramatically into contention.

“After he made the lead, Jose kept him occupied down the lane because he has the tendency to idle when he gets ahead,” Pletcher said. “This was everything we could have hoped for.”

Tapwrit was off as the even-money favorite among 10 rivals and finished up in a stakes-record 1:42.36.

State of Honor held second at 9-1, 1 ½ lengths better than Wild Shot in third. It was another half-length to fourth-placer No Dozing, who finished a nose better than 9-2 second choice Beasley.

Tapwrit is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, John and Leslie Malone’s Bridlewood Farm and Robert LaPenta. Bred in Kentucky by My Meadowview LLC, the gray son of Tapit sold for $1.2 million at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August sale. He’s out of the Grade 1-winning Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie.

A maiden winner in his second career outing at Gulfstream Park West in early November, Tapwrit followed with a one-length victory in the off-the-turf Pulpit at Gulfstream Park in mid-December. His record now reads 5-3-1-0.

(S V Photography)