04/26/2017 10:06AM

After five years, Tapit atop Kentucky Derby points list

Barbara D. Livingston
Tapwrit, by Tapit, has earned 54 Kentucky Derby points.

The Kentucky Derby’s points system, which replaced graded stakes earnings as the method for sorting out contenders, completed its fifth year of prep races this spring.

The system’s half-decade in existence has provided an interesting snapshot of which stallions were most proficient in siring the archetypical Derby prospect – precocious colts who run on the dirt, consistently win or place in points races, and peak in the key Derby preps during the spring of their 3-year-old season.

The progeny of 174 different stallions accrued at least one Derby qualifying point since the system was implemented in 2013. While the system has undergone various tweaks, points have typically been distributed sparingly in juvenile races and early 3-year old races, down to one point for finishing fourth, and increased as the Derby trail draws closer to the classic race, with winners of major prep races earning 100 points.

Over the past five years, the overwhelmingly dominant stallion by Derby points has been Gainesway resident Tapit.

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Runners by the perennial leading sire combined for 935 Derby points, more than double that of second-place Uncle Mo with 465 points. Tapit’s 26 runners with points also were more than twice the next-closest sire, Tiznow, with 12 on the board.

“They come around fairly early in their 3-year-old year like he did,” said Michael Hernon, Gainesway’s director of sales. “Everyone’s going for the big horse, that’s for sure, and he produces it so many times. I think that’s the reason why they accumulate a lot of the points. Also, they stay sound, they have a high level of endurance and cardio, and they’re tough horses.”

It is perhaps of little surprise that stallions known for passing on precocity, especially early in their breeding careers, ranked highly by Derby points accrued.

Tapit broke the North American record for first-crop juvenile earnings in 2008, led by champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound. Because much of the crop’s success was courtesy of his fillies, Tapit’s runners had a marginal impact on the following year’s Kentucky Derby trail, but his early success ensured the quality of his books would remain high, and the Derby trail runners eventually followed.

Tapit’s leading point-earner is Frosted, who picked up 113 points with seconds in the Grade 2 Remsen and Holy Bull stakes, a fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, and a win in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial en route to a fourth-place finish in the 2015 Derby. The following year, Tapit had sons Creator and Lani each grab 100 points or more on their way to Derby starts. He is led this year by Tapwrit, who accounted for 54 of the sire’s 66 total points.

Gaining ground on Tapit is the horse who usurped his juvenile earnings record, Uncle Mo of Ashford Stud, led by champion Nyquist. His position as the second-highest point-earner comes from just two crops, and his 10 runners with points ranks him third.

Nyquist continued to carry the banner for his sire all the way to the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner’s circle after earning 130 points. On the way there, he became one of seven runners by Uncle Mo who combined for 365 Derby points, the most accrued by any sire in a single season. Uncle Mo edged Tapit by nine points during that cycle, and no other sire has compiled more than 250 points in one campaign.

The betting favorite has won each of the four editions of the Kentucky Derby since the points system was implemented, meaning they likely were among their fields’ top point-earners heading into Churchill Downs. Subsequently, the sires of the Derby winners rank highly on their own list.

Following second-place Uncle Mo is Malibu Moon, sire of 2013 Derby winner Orb, in third with 426 combined points. Pioneerof the Nile, sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, ranks seventh with 358 points, and Lucky Pulpit is tied for 20th off one runner, 2014 dual classic winner and points leader California Chrome, with 150.

Of course, measuring stallions by their Kentucky Derby points from the past half-decade is far from an airtight indicator of a sire’s overall quality.