NEW YORK — Tapwrit overtook favored Irish War Cry in the stretch to win the Belmont Stakes by two lengths Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his third career victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit ran 11/2 miles in 2:30.02 on his home track.

“The distance, I was sure he could handle it,” Ortiz said.

Tapwrit finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Five of the last nine Belmont winners have followed that path.

“We felt like with the five weeks in between, and with the way this horse had trained, he had a legitimate chance,” said Pletcher, who is based at Belmont Park. “I think that’s always an advantage.”

Pletcher took two of the year’s three Triple Crown races, saddling Always Dreaming to victory in the Derby.

Tapwrit paid $12.60, $6.50 and $5 at 5-1 odds. The 3-year-old gray colt was purchased for $1.2 million, making him the most expensive horse in the field.

Irish War Cry returned $4.70 and $3.90 as the 5-2 favorite. Patch, the one-eyed horse trained by Pletcher, was another 53/4 lengths back and paid $6.50 to show.

The $1.5 million race took several hits before the starting gate opened.

It lacked Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Classic Empire, the expected favorite, dropped out Wednesday with a foot abscess.

Epicharis, the early 4-1 second choice, was scratched Saturday after failing a pre-race veterinary exam. The Japan-based colt had been treated for lameness in his right front hoof this week.

All that left it a wide-open race.

“Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip,” Pletcher said. “It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had a little something left, but the last sixteenth he dug down deep.”

Irish War Cry, who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby, went for the lead and was pressured by 13-1 shot Meantime.

“It actually wasn’t our plan to be on the lead,” said Graham Motion, who trains Irish War Cry. “We hoped somebody else would go for it but had to go to Plan B.”

Tapwrit, meanwhile, settled in third, right behind the dueling leaders, who maintained that positioning onto the final turn when Ortiz asked Tapwrit for his run.

It took a while for Tapwrit to find his best gear. Up front, Irish War Cry put away Meantime and appeared a likely winner at the top of Belmont’s long stretch.

That’s when Tapwrit took up the chase in earnest. It was a two-horse race, with Tapwrit gaining the lead in the final furlong.