*Written before the Kentucky Derby and first published in Saturday’s PaulickReport Special print edition.

With a trio of colts expected to start in the Kentucky Derby, leading sire Tapit is poised to take another step forward in his ever-upward trajectory.

An unbeaten 2-year-old who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial before taking his own chance in the 2004 Kentucky Derby, Tapit possessed the genetics and physique to climb every rung along the tortuous path to become the leading sire in the country.

Tapit has grown from a leading freshman sire to a top-tier international influence, and now he regularly receives some of the most important and successful broodmares in the stud book.

He’s earned them, as the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby attests; Mohaymen, Creator, and Lani are all slated to start and have legitimate chances of classic success.

Previously undefeated Mohaymen had been so highly regarded before the Florida Derby that he was actually favored against 2015 2-year-old champion colt Nyquist (by Uncle Mo). The champion prevailed, but Mohaymen has been training well at Churchill Downs, a positive sign over that surface.

Creator, winner of the G1 Arkansas Derby, is out of the Peruvian champion mare Morena (Privately Held). The mare was top of her age and sex from 2 through 4 in her homeland, winning 10 of 15 starts there, then ventured to the States and was multiple graded-stakes-placed, including a third in the G1 Personal Ensign.

The now-12-year-old mare raced through age 6, and Creator is her second foal. Morena has a chestnut 2-year-old colt by Lemon Drop Kid named Pear Lemonade and a yearling colt by Street Cry. This is an old American family with 10th dam June Rose born exactly 100 years ago. Fourth dam Queens Up, a daughter of 1947 English 2,000 Guineas winner Tudor Minstrel, was exported to Europe, and her daughter Crownit was exported to Peru.

In addition to their jet-set pedigrees, all three colts have good speed, as they show in morning works, and it is the kind of speed that allows a horse to stalk effectively, then come with a run through the stretch. Of the three, Mohaymen is the most willing to show his natural pace, while both Creator and Lani have shown a tendency in races to drop out and come with rush.

In particular, Lani is a wildcard in this field. He has shown episodes of unquestioned ability, allied with a disposition that charitably could be called “highly independent.” Lani also has a striking pedigree to match his scopy, classic physique.

The gray colt is out of Heavenly Romance (Sunday Silence), whose most important victory came in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn), and Lani is the mare’s third stakes winner from six foals to race. This is another American family that has gone overseas and returned, with the sixth dam being champion Vagrancy (Sir Gallahad III) and Lani being foaled in Kentucky from his Japanese-bred dam.

One of trio of grays with speed and class and history could give their sire a boost into legendary status with a victory in the Run for the Roses.

Note: Mohaymen did the best of Tapit’s three sons, finishing strongly to get fourth, a head behind Gun Runner; Lani was 9th after racing widest through the stretch; and Creator was checked sharply and bumped soundly, according to the official chart, and finished 13th.

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