The Tapit Train never stops. At the sales, at the races, and in the hearts of breeders and racing fans, the sons and daughters of the elegant gray son of Pulpit are always at the fore.
At the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale that began on Monday evening, Aug. 8, Tapit was at his usual position as a leading commercial sire. His gray son out of Fashion Cat brought $750,000 among the earlier hips to sell at the opening session, and another gray son out of the Tiznow mare Rote was the top-priced colt at the second session on a bid of $1.25 million from John Moynihan, bidding for Stonestreet Stables and Coolmore.
Over the weekend at Saratoga preceding the select sale, the Tapit Train delivered graded successes in the historic Whitney, as well as in the G2 West Virginia Derby.
Frosted was mightily impressive when taking a paceless and potentially listless Whitney and turning it into a demonstration of what a versatile horse can do when allowed to race to his natural aptitude and in a style that fits his physical and mental makeup.
Likewise, Cupid ran a strong and independent race to win the West Virginia Derby. The Tapits, a strong-willed family of horses, seem to do best with minimal restraint. Instead, they seem happiest when they take the game right to the competition, pushing the pace, running freely in their preferred rhythm, and the best of them can maintain that rhythm for a surprising distance.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that Tapit has sired two of the last three winners of the Belmont Stakes, and Frosted was second in the race last year to a certain Triple Crown winner.
So while the colt may have major potential at longer distances, both Frosted and Cupid have shown their best form at 8-9 furlongs.
The Whitney and West Virginia Derby are at 9 furlongs, and Cupid rolled home in West Virginia by four lengths.
A $900,000 Keeneland September yearling, Cupid was a well-balanced and well-grown yearling, even though he was foaled in May. Given the negative response the sales market has to immature yearlings, Cupid was obviously the real deal, although younger than his contemporaries.
And Cupid had a license to attract the interest of high-end yearling buyers.
The gray colt is one of four stakes winners out of the stakes-placed Pretty ‘n Smart (Beau Genius), and the West Virginia Derby winner is a half-brother to G3 winners Heart Ashley (Lion Heart) and Ashley’s Kitty (Tale of the Cat), as well as listed stakes winner Indianapolis (Medaglia d’Oro).
A further interesting piece of history is that Cupid was raised on the farm of George Waggoner that “used to be owned by Tom Gentry, where he bred all those famous horses like Terlingua and Royal Academy,” Waggoner said.
“When I started looking for a farm in Kentucky, I looked at the soils in different areas, really liked this piece of land, and I bought it from the bank quite a few years after Tom Gentry went out of business,” Waggoner recalled.
He bought the farm in 1993 and came to national prominence as a breeder just a few years later. He said, “My friend and adviser Les Brinsfield recommended that I buy Clever Monique, a daughter of Clever Trick. After I bought her and bred her to Is It True, the result was Yes It’s True.”
Waggoner had a good sale with the colt, selling him for $220,000 at Keeneland September, then saw Yes It’s True resold the following year as a 2-year-old in training for $800,000. Trained by Wayne Lukas, Yes It’s True won four stakes at 2 (the G3 Sapling and Hollywood Juvenile Championship), was second in the G1 Futurity, and third in the G2 Breeders’ Futurity.
The following season the quick bay won a half-dozen stakes, including the G1 De Francis Dash. Retired with earnings of more than $1 million, Yes It’s True became a good stallion in Florida and later in Kentucky.
Waggoner credits the quality of the land and the horsemanship of his staff with the farm’s success. He said, “I originally bought 80 acres, then 50 acres that I resold. Then I bought about 90 acres more to bring it up to the present acreage. My farm manager Harvey Turley produces a good horse; he’s a really knowledgeable horseman, and our clients come to the farm in part because of the care and quality of horsemanship they find there.”
As a result, more recent stakes winners from the farm include multiple G1 winner Zazu and G2 winner Flashback, who is now a popular young stallion. Both are by Tapit.
Waggoner believes the association with Tapit is far from finished. He said, “Pretty ‘n Smart, who’s owned by people who have a very large construction business in south Louisiana, has the prettiest Tapit filly I’ve seen. Olin Gentry manages the mare for the owners, and just a few days ago, we were looking over the weanlings, and I told Olin that this filly would be the highest-priced Tapit filly out there. Maybe the highest-priced Tapit period.
“She is big, tall, stretchy, and muscular. Better than Cupid when he sold. She is purely outstanding, and I have no financial interest in her, other than the pride of seeing her raised on my farm.”
Olin Gentry said Cupid’s breeder, JKG Thoroughbreds, is a partnership he manages, headed by Thomas Turner. He said Pretty ‘n Smart is currently in foal to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
The full sister to Cupid is expected to be offered at a yearling sale in 2017, and the Tapit Train keeps rolling along.