Updated on 06/09/2012 4:16PM

Belmont: Tapitsfly gets first Grade 1 in Just a Game

Justin N. Lane
Tapitsfly, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, holds off Winter Memories to win the Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Dale Romans has spent a lot of time trying to teach Tapitsfly how to relax. But as he handicapped Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Just a Game Handicap, he threw those lessons out the window.

Believing his filly was the primary speed in the field, Romans instructed jockey Ramon Dominguez to put Tapitsfly on the lead from the start. The 5-year-old mare was most cooperative, going to the front immediately, and she kept on rolling, scoring a 2 1/4-length victory over even-money favorite Winter Memories in the Just a Game at Belmont Park. It was 1 3/4 lengths back to Hungry Island in third.

Tapitsfly, who won her first Grade 1 race, covered the mile in a stakes record time of 1:32.34 over the Widener turf course. Tapitsfly, who returned $8.40 to win as the second choice, eclipsed the mark of 1:32.53 set by Caress in 1995.

“We’ve been working all year on trying to get her to relax and we couldn’t do it,” Romans said.

Dominguez, who rode Tapitsfly to a second-place finish from off the pace in the Churchill Downs Distaff on Derby Day, said he was hoping Romans would give him the green light to go to the front on Saturday.

“He said ‘Ramon, we have worked to get her to settle but you try to make the lead,'” Dominguez said.  “I’m sure the work they have done has paid off because she wasn’t rank by any means, so that made a difference.”

After running fractions of 23.47 for the quarter, 46.44 for the half-mile and 1:09.48 for six furlongs, Tapitsfly still came home in an eye-catching 22.86 seconds.

“That was pretty impressive, to say the least,” said Romans, who won this race last year with C.S. Silk. “She’s a super-nice filly and when she’s on her game, she’s tough to beat.”

Tapitsfly, who won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, improved her record to 6 for 21 and increased her lifetime earnings to $1,253,836.

Romans, who trains Tapitsfly for owner/breeder Frank Jones, scratched the mare out of last weekend’s Mint Julep at Churchill Downs to run her in the Grade 1.

“She really needed a Grade 1 and deserved a Grade 1,” Romans said. “We were thinking of running at Churchill. We said, ‘Why do that? We need to take on the big girls.’ ”

The big girls included Winter Memories, who had won all four of her previous starts over Belmont’s turf course, including a Grade 1. Winter Memories, under Javier Castellano, came with a move, but she was no match for Tapitsfly.

“I was afraid [Tapitsfly] would get off,” said Jimmy Toner, the trainer of Winter Memories. “[Castellano] had to move a little sooner than he wanted. She ran good.”

Hungry Island, last after the opening half rallied to be third, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Up in Time. Sylvestris, Wallis and Dancinginherdreams completed the order of finish.