Only the great Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens had a more impressive string of success (five in a row) at the Belmont Stakes than America’s leading sire Tapit. After the most recent renewal of America’s longest classic, Tapit has sired three of the last four Belmont Stakes winners, and only 2015 Horse of the Year American Pharoah and his Triple Crown triumph over Frosted prevented the sequence from being four in a row.

The string of successes began in 2014 with Tonalist, then Frosted (2nd), with Creator and Tapwrit adding consecutive victories for the leading sire.

A son of the good racehorse and sire Pulpit, Tapit combines the classic influences of the A.P. Indy / Seattle Slew male line with the Fappiano branch of Mr. Prospector through Unbridled, who is the broodmare sire of Tapit. Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby, A.P. Indy won the Belmont, and Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown; so this set of sires knows “classic.”

They also sired classic stock, and they have been the dominating forces in American classic racing for a generation.

 

man o' war2

In addition to Tapit, only Man o’ War, his sire Fair Play, and their male-line ancestor Australian sired three winners of the Belmont Stakes. The only stallion to sire more was Lexington, the greatest American sire of the 19th century who sired four of the first 12 Belmont winners.

 

Historically, however, few stallions sire classic winners of any description, and for Tapit to get a trio of Belmont Stakes winners tells us something about why the gray is so effective as a stallion. Tapit gets speed, which is important for effective placement and maneuverability in longer races; the sire also gets stock that are undoubtedly high-spirited but are also very game and enthusiastic racehorses, and when they are looking down that long stretch at Belmont Park, a horse needs to lay it on the line willingly.

For a stallion to produce those good, solid racehorse qualities in foal after foal is the mark of a very important sire, and beyond the pedigree and conformation of Tapit, there is something deep in the character and genetics of the horse that produces racehorses year after year.

However we characterize it, this essence of the racing Thoroughbred is the most essential and most elusive quality in breeding.

And Tapit has this in spades. From my work evaluating racing prospects as yearlings and as 2-year-olds, I continue to find the stallion has a high percentage of youngsters who score above average for cardio, stride length and function, mechanical efficiency, as well as body balance and mass. Tapit generates that high proportion of quality prospects year after year, regardless of the mares he’s bred to.

As a result, Tapit has led the North American sire list by gross earnings each of the last three years, but he is almost certain to be finish no better than second this year for one reason: Arrogate.

In 2017, the best racehorse in the world, according to Longines Best Racehorse Rankings, has earned more money ($13 million) singlehandedly than any sire’s total progeny earnings. Arrogate’s earnings are nearly double the total earnings in 2017 for the progeny of Candy Ride, who is currently second to Unbridled’s Song.

With earnings of $1.1 million, Tapwrit is the year’s leading earner for Tapit, in third place among sires and who has total progeny earnings of more than $5.8 million in 2017.

That’s not chicken feed, and consistency of quality and athleticism are among the reasons for the Tapit’s dominant position among American stallions.

As a result, the gray son of Pulpit gets the pick of mares from owners willing to spend $300,000 for a live foal. These typically include mares who are stars of the racetrack and the producers of those stars.

This was the situation that resulted in the production of this year’s Belmont Stakes winner, who was conceived four years ago, before Tapit had led the national sire list.

Bred in Kentucky by My Meadowview Farm LLC, Tapwrit is out of the Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie, who won the 2006 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga when owned by the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. At the 2007 Fasig-Tipton November sale, Leonard Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm bought the G1 winner for $1.1 million.

Appealing Zophie had sold twice previously: for $105,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September sale and for $150,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training.

The quick dark bay filly made a fast turnaround and won her maiden at Keeneland on April 20, less than two months after her sale in Florida. She progressed briskly at 2, and in addition to winning the Spinaway, she was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. At 2 and 3, Appealing Zophie won three of 12 starts, earning $497,898.

As a broodmare, Appealing Zophie has seven foals of racing age, and Tapwrit is the sixth. The mare’s current 2-year-old is a colt by Candy Ride who sold to John Oxley for $375,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April auction of juveniles in training. The mare has a yearling colt by Speightstown and is in foal to 2016 Metropolitan Handicap winner Frosted (Tapit) on a Feb. 24 cover.

If that prospective foal by Frosted looks as splendid come his yearling season as Tapwrit did when presented at the Saratoga Select yearling sale two years ago, the result may be as spectacular. Tapwrit, an elegant and well-made young horse who looked special at the time, sold for $1.2 million to Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta.

I rather believe they feel he was worth every penny.

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