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This is turning out to be a career year for one of the best stallions in the world. Now internationally respected, Tapit has been a revelation in the stallion ranks since his first crop, which included champion Stardom Bound and others. With the annual gains in his status as a sire of the first caliber, the stud fee for Tapit’s services has also risen, and the demand for his offspring at the sales has climbed in similar fashion.

The current crop of 3-year-olds is from the second book of mares after Tapit had champion Stardom Bound, and it became evident that he was a sire to reckon with. With each succeeding crop, the stallion’s books of mares have improved so that Tapit is covering more mares every year that are thoroughly high-class producers and prospective producers. And the 2014 3-year-old crop has been even better than those before. Nearly every week produces another major winner or stakes performer by Tapit, who ranks as the leading sire in the country this season with more than $5 million in progeny earnings so far.

In 2014, Tapit has nine stakes winners to date, with two winning at the Grade 1 level. The spring favorite for the Kentucky Derby was G1 Florida Derby winner Constitution, by Tapit, but the handsome colt went on the sidelines before the classic. The stallion’s daughter Untapable looked awfully good winning the Kentucky Oaks to add a classic and another G1 to her sire’s list of credits.

Tonalist is out of the Pleasant Colony mare Settling Mist, and he is considered a serious candidate for the Belmont Stakes next month. With a pair of victories from only four starts, it wasn’t uncommon seasoning that put Tonalist on the map for the longest classic.

Instead, the colt put himself in the mix with a bold move up the rail early in the Peter Pan and then by stretching out and galloping his opponents to bits to win in 1:48.30.

With that performance, the colt’s connections – owner Robert S. Evans and trainer Christophe Clement – and pedigree all suggest that stamina and class are trumps in his makeup. He should be well-suited to the challenge of a classic, and part of the reason for that is the depth and quality of the other half of his pedigree, aside from the excellence of Tapit.

Tonalist is the fifth foal and first stakes winner for his dam, a winning daughter of the important broodmare Toll Fee. A stakes winner by Topsider (Northern Dancer), Toll Fee was bred in Kentucky by John Schiff and won seven of 39 starts for earnings of $333,917. She was a high-class mare who produced nothing of her own ability, although The Bink (Seeking the Gold) was multiple stakes-placed and produced G3 winner Cozzy Corner (Cozzene) and Riskaverse (Dynaformer) as her first two foals. Riskaverse won three times at the G1 level and was second or third in five more for earnings of $2.1 million.

Another daughter of Toll Fee, the Carson City mare Easter Bunnette, produced an even more famous race mare, champion Havre de Grace (Saint Liam). Winner of three G1 races (Woodward, Apple Blossom, and Beldame), Havre de Grace won $2.5 million at the races, then sold for $10 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sale in 2012. Havre de Grace produced her first foal earlier this year, and it was a filly by Tapit.

In addition to these noteworthy relations, the third dam of Tonalist, likewise for Havre de Grace and Riskaverse, is the exceptional Buckpasser mare Toll Booth, who foaled seven stakes winners. One of them was Toll Fee, but the mare’s best was her first stakes winner Plugged Nickle (Key to the Mint), although her last stakes winner Christiecat (Majestic Light) was not far off that mark.

Plugged Nickle won four G1 races — the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Vosburgh, and Laurel Futurity. The robust bay was a staying 2-year-old who made his potential evident with victories in the Laurel Futurity and Remsen Stakes late in his juvenile season, and he followed through with successes in the classic preps of 1980.

Coming into the Kentucky Derby, Plugged Nickle had won six of his last seven races, but that did not prevent him from finishing seventh in the Derby won by Genuine Risk (Exclusive Native), and he ended the season as the highest-ranked sprinter following his Vosburgh victory.

Christiecat won the G1 Flower Bowl, as well as the Diana when it was rated a G2. She was a tall and impressively built mare with scope and quality who appreciated distance and turf.

With produce like these and others, Toll Booth was elected Broodmare of the Year, and one of her half-brothers was leading sire Raja Baba.

The excellence of this family continues, and as part of it, Tonalist may hit the right note for the classics.

**The preceding article first appeared in Paulick Report earlier this week.

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