The steady rise of Tapit

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Tapit's Breeders' Cup-winning daughter Stardom Bound

Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, the end-of-season Anglo-Irish sires’ list featured four American-based stallions in the top five and as many as six in the top eight. But those were the good old days, when many of the leading Kentucky stallions combined the best North American bloodlines with outstanding ability on Europe’s racecourses. Those six stallions were Nijinsky, Lyphard, Alleged, Nureyev, The Minstrel and Riverman.

How times have changed. The 2011 table, to early July, showed no American-based stallions in the top 15 and only five in the top 50. Once again, these five have some links to Europe. Street Cry was conceived in England and foaled in Ireland; Dynaformer is a son of the Derby-winning Roberto; and Giant’s Causeway, Kingmambo and Rahy all raced in Europe.

Surely, though, there must be some American stallions capable of making their mark in Europe, given the chance. Those last three words are all important. Because the drugs issue in American racing, plus the dirt/turf dichotomy, has caused so much suspicion, breeders and buyers are understandably wary of making substantial investments in any American stallion until he has proved himself. The only exceptions to this Catch 22 situation tend to be Darley’s American stallions, with Sheikh Mohammed often being more than happy to give them the chance to showcase their talents on European turf. Consequently Street Cry, Medaglia d’Oro and Bernardini are among the few dirt stallions which could now be considered by Europeans.

Street Cry has established his merits in Europe with the Group winners Carlton House, Majestic Roi, Saamidd, Per Incanto and Big Timer, along with the Listed scorers Zaidan, Cry Of Freedom and Brevity. The fact that he has also sired Group 1 winners on turf in Australia, including a Melbourne Cup winner, adds to his credentials as a turf sire. I wouldn’t be surprised if Godolphin’s two-year-old Street Cry filly Discourse develops into another Group winner, as this strapping filly has plenty of scope.

Medaglia d’Oro looked on the verge of a serious breakthrough in Europe when Passion For Gold and Al Zir showed considerable promise as juveniles in 2009. As he is also responsible for several Graded winners on turf in the USA, including this year’s Just A Game Stakes winner C S Silk, it seems fair to expect the tough grandson of Sadler’s Wells to come up with more good winners in Europe.

Bernardini raced only on dirt and combines two sire lines – A P Indy and Fappiano – which are generally considered to be much more at home on dirt than turf. However, this handsome horse showed last year that he is perfectly capable of siring good European runners, such as Theyskens’ Theory and Biondetti, from mares with Northern Dancer blood.

Coincidentally, top place on the North American sires’ list is currently held by Tapit, another whose pedigree combines A P Indy and Fappiano. Whereas Bernardini is by A P Indy out of a mare by Fappiano’s son Quiet American, Tapit is by A P Indy’s son Pulpit out of a mare by Fappiano’s son Unbridled.

He showed plenty of promise in winning both his juvenile starts by sizeable margins

Pulpit’s six-race career was spent entirely on dirt, which probably explains why he has had comparatively few representatives in Britain and Ireland. It is surely significant, though, that more than $12,000,000 of his progeny earnings of $45,000,000 had been earned on turf (to November 2010). His total of Graded stakes winners on turf stands in double figures and includes the Grade 1 winners Rutherienne and Stroll and the Grade 2 scorers Meteore, Wend and Parading. His European runners include Reach For The Moon (third behind Soviet Song and Casual Look in the 2002 Fillies’ Mile), Gerard Butler’s US Grade 3 winner Pachattack, German Group 3 winner Govinda and French Listed winners Blue Exit and Doo Lang.

Tapit wasn’t one of Pulpit’s turf performers. He showed plenty of promise in winning both his juvenile starts by sizeable margins, including the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity, and he then added to his Triple Crown credentials by landing the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. These efforts earned him third place in the betting for the 2004 Kentucky Derby but he never threatened in finishing ninth.

I was lucky enough to discuss Tapit with his trainer Michael Dickinson at last year’s December Sales. Dickinson feels that rushing Tapit back from illness to contest the Wood Memorial effectively “bottomed” the colt.

For greater detail I re-read The Blood-Horse’s coverage of Tapit’s Wood Memorial win.

“When we came home from Florida, we did an ultrasound and it showed a very significant lung infection,” Dickinson revealed. “We did another ultrasound two weeks later and one lung was 100% and the other was 80%. We gave him a little five-furlong breeze and he could blow a house down. I was going to wheel him back and work him a mile, but I told owner Ron Winchell and manager David Fiske I’ve got to give him as long as I dare to get him healthy, and give the lungs a chance to heal. It takes 28 days for the lung to get a new lining.”

Exceeding expectation
With Tapit needing more Graded stakes earnings to ensure his place in the Kentucky Derby field, his connections felt compelled to send him to the Wood Memorial, even though he wasn’t fully fit.

“What Dickinson feared going into the Wood was that Tapit, being such a generous and competitive horse, would try too hard and give more than what was expected of him,” reported The Blood-Horse.

Dickinson’s expectation was that Tapit would come “late and easy” to take the $75,000 third prize. Instead, Tapit came through to land the $450,000 first prize but he paid the price, disappointing in both his subsequent starts before retiring to Gainesway.

Tapit has been something of a revelation ever since his first runners reached the track in 2008. Indeed, he ended the year as champion first-crop sire, even though the opposition included such successful young sires as Medaglia d’Oro, Speightstown, Lion Heart and Candy Ride.

I half expected Tapit to struggle to maintain that level of success, as American breeders had a habit of moving on rapidly to the next wave of new stallions. After all, he had started out at only $15,000 and his fee was reduced to $12,500 in his second and third. However, his first foals proved very popular when they reached the sales in 2006, with 13 selling for an average of $108,692 and a median of $87,000. These figures helped prompt considerable demand for Tapit’s services in his third season in 2007 and he covered more than 170 mares.

The foals from those 2007 matings are three-year-olds this year and this crop is proving every bit as good as its two predecessors. There were six Graded winners among the 94 foals in his first crop, including the Grade 1-winning fillies Stardom Bound, Laragh and Careless Jewel. His smaller second crop, numbering 74, has so far produced three Graded winners, and now Tapit’s third crop, with 120 named foals, already has five Graded winners, led by Zazu and Tell A Kelly. That’s 14 Graded winners from his first 288 foals – an impressive 5%. There’s also a winner of the Japanese Dirt Derby and a Grade 1 winner in Venezuela. It is worth mentioning that as many as ten of his 14 American Graded winners are fillies, including all five of his Grade 1 winners.

Tapit isn’t the first notable stallion produced by his female line

Tapit’s cumulative Average Earnings Index stands at 2.46, even though his mares’ progeny by other stallions have a Comparable Index no higher than 1.68. Only 32% of stallions have an AEI higher than their Comparable Index and few better the figure by as much as .78, as Tapit has done. There were aspects of his pedigree which always suggested that he could do well. For a start, he is inbred 3 x 4 to Mr Prospector and 5 x 3 to Nijinsky. As Mr Prospector and Nijinsky appeared together in the pedigrees of so many good performers, duplicating them both was likely to pay dividends.

Also, Tapit isn’t the first notable stallion produced by his female line, as his third dam Moon Glitter was a stakes-winning sister to Relaunch. Relaunch sired the Breeders’ Cup winners Skywalker and One Dreamer, while his son Cee’s Tizzy was responsible for the dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow. Relaunch’s broodmare daughters also made a considerable impact on the Breeders’ Cup, producing Ghostzapper and Forever Together.

Relaunch put up some of his best efforts on turf and I suspect that Tapit could make his mark in Europe, given the chance. His daughter Tapitsfly won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf before it was graded. His Spanish son As de Trebol was first past the post in the Prix du Palais-Royal in 2009 and his French daughter Malicia is on the verge of Group class. It could pay to watch out for Qatar’s Pearl, a $420,000 yearling now with Ger Lyons. John Ferguson also gave $750,000 in March for a two-year-old filly by Tapit.

Perhaps European connections will be more prepared to invest in animals from Tapit’s higher-priced crops. His fee rose to $35,000 in 2009, then to $50,000 a year later before reaching $80,000 this year. I hope his talents will survive a trip across the Atlantic, as we need some viable alternatives to the Danehill and Sadler’s Wells lines which have become so dominant.

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