Although the finish of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes looked like a Tapit trifecta, with three grays finishing one-two-three, Belmont Stakes day was more like a cross-eyed perfecta for leading sire Tapit. In addition to the Belmont Stakes victory by Creator, with Lani third, last year's Belmont Stakes second Frosted came back this year and won the G1 Metropolitan Handicap at a mile, and second place went to the sire's Anchor Down in the Met Mile.
Everywhere you look, there's a Tapit. Here's a Tapit, there's a Tapit, everywhere a tap-Tapit. And the sons and daughters of America's leading sire aren't showing up in just any sort of races. If there is a stakes, it seems to have a Tapit, perhaps two.
Why are they so omnipresent?
First, the Tapit stock are consistent. Most are quick, naturally athletic performers who have versatility and an enthusiasm for racing, even if some are a little set on doing things their own way, like Lani.
Second, the Tapit stock have a lot of class. They rise to the top of the level of their own ability and perform with gusto. Let's face it, at the end of a race, all the horses are tiring, feeling the burn, and all things being equal, the winner is the one who keeps trying the hardest for the longest.
And finally, they are reasonable-sized and nicely balanced horses who tend to take their racing well, have careers that allow us to see how good they are, and make money for their owners and trainers, who will tend to shy away from rather expensive horses that continually leave the connections in the lurch after showing a good physique and ability without ever putting it together on the racetrack.
So essentially, the Tapits can do it all, and the racing results day after day, month after month prove it.
This brings up the question of where Tapit fits in the big picture of breeding, and Tim Capps – writer, racing official, historian, and now director of the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program – said that “a few years down the road, we may look back on Tapit as being one of those stallions like Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, as a game changer, a breed changer. His consistency is terrific, they run at high levels, his black-type percentages are very good, they show ability early, and they train on.”
Those are important qualities in a stallion. We see them in bits, rarely seem them all together. Less frequently do we see all the traits of top stallions transmitted with very high consistency.
But that's Tapit, and his consistency as a sire at a very high level has translated into multiple titles as the leading sire in North America by total progeny earnings.
Tapit was the leading sire in North America for 2014 and 2015, and he is leading this year. When was the last time that a stallion was leading sire three times?
The last stallion to lead the list three times was Danzig in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Prior to that, it was Bold Ruler, who last led the sire list in 1973 and led the list eight times in all. Before Bold Ruler, Nasrullah led the list five times, with Bull Lea also at the same mark.
It is just a little mesmerizing for those of us with a fascination for the history of the sport to note that Bold Ruler is Tapit's male-line ancestor in the 6th generation, with Nasrullah in the 7th generation of the male line. Then Nearco, Pharos, and Phalaris.
Tapit's grandsire A.P. Indy led the sire list, likewise his sire Seattle Slew. So there's stallion power in this male line, generation after generation.
And Capps noted that “Tapit's got pedigree quality everywhere. You don't find holes in his pedigree, and he has done everything you could hope for.”
That is what we expect from a horse by leading sire Pulpit and out of a stakes-winning half-sister to a champion, and Tapit's broodmare sire is leading sire and Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled.
Looking at Tapit's expanded pedigree, it is riddled with the right horses in the right places, and these include some of the greatest racers and stallions, such as Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky, Bull Lea, Nashua, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, and In Reality.
And in Tapit, all the genetic subtleties bound themselves together in symmetry and harmony. Then, split and divided, halved and diminished, the horse's better qualities are so consistently present that they dominate a significant portion of the stallion's offspring.
As we watch the first 2-year-olds by Tapit's freshman stallion sons, champion Hansen and Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tapizar, get their first winners, we are watching breeding history develop because the succeeding generations will determine the influence of Tapit on the breed in the years to come.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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