02/22/2015 11:09PM

Examining the mares behind Tapit’s record-breaking year

Debra A. Roma
Champion Untapable, one of Tapit's top runners in 2014, is out of multiple Grade 1 producer Fun House. The mare visited the sire again for the 2015 breeding season for what will be their sixth foal together.

The book of mares set to meet Tapit during the 2015 breeding season will be among the strongest in the world.

However, it was the mares Tapit bred in 2010 that helped vault the 14-year-old son of Pulpit to the unforgettable season he had last year.

The resident of Gainesway in Lexington, Ky., finished the year with 156 winners from 323 runners and earnings of $16,812,111, a North American progeny earnings record for a single year. Tapit had three Grade 1 winners, all 3-year-olds, including his first U.S. classic winner, Tonalist, in the Belmont Stakes.

Those looking for the secret formula to pairing a mare with Tapit to get a top-shelf runner probably won’t find it in the pedigrees of his 2014 standouts. Of his six foals to win a Grade 1 race or multiple graded stakes last year, the only clear pattern is a 4x5 cross of Mr. Prospector that comes from the sire himself.

“When you look objectively at where the runners have come from, what’s significant is he seems to work with so many different lines,” said Michael Hernon, director of sales at Gainesway. “This is what makes him extra special because you’re not pigeonholed into one or two particular lines. He doesn’t get just colts or just fillies, and they don’t have to be running on one surface. When you combine all those factors, that’s what makes him special, and the market has certainly embraced that.”

Hernon said Gainesway owner Antony Beck personally reviews all mares submitted to Tapit and discusses them with the farm’s staff to select the best matings.

Winchell Thoroughbreds campaigned Tapit throughout his racing career, maintains a sizable interest in him at stud, and has supported him with mares throughout his time at Gainesway. The operation was rewarded with perhaps the sire’s best runner to date, Untapable, an Eclipse Award winner who swept the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Kentucky Oaks.

David Fiske, racing and farm manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds, has seen more Tapit foals than most, and said the typical Tapit foal has changed over time with the stallion’s books of mares.

“The first couple crops,” Fiske said, “I used to tell people, ‘After they’re born, don’t look at them for about 30 days, because they tend to be a little reedy and leggy and not much substance. Then, after you look at them when they’re about 3 months old, don’t look at them again for another 90 days and then you’ll start to like them.’ I don’t want to say the earlier ones were late-maturing, but they were steadily improving.

“Now, however, he’s getting bred to better mares who are conformationally more substantial, and the resulting offspring still improve significantly and steadily as they get older, but they just seem to do it quicker now.”

Hernon and Fiske discussed the dams of four top runners from Tapit’s 3-year-old crop of 2014. They are presented in alphabetical order.

Dk. b. or br. m., 2005, Distorted Humor—Surf Club, by Ocean Crest
Race record: 14-2-0-3; $63,219; English G3-placed
Produce record: 5 foals, 2 starters, 2 winners, 2 graded stakes winners
Dam of Constitution, Jacaranda (by Congrats)

Baffled, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and young sire Emcee and a full sister to Group 2 winner Surfer, has had two foals to race, and both are graded stakes winners.

Constitution was her second foal, from her first and only mating with Tapit, and earned his Grade 1 triumph in the Florida Derby. He later finished third in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and recently won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Her third foal was Jacaranda, by Congrats, winner of the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes.

Baffled was part of the first book for Graydar during the 2014 breeding season.

Hernon: “Tapit carries the Northern Dancer blood in the female family of his pedigree since his dam, Tap Your Heels, is a granddaughter of Nijinksy II through Ruby Slippers on the bottom side of her pedigree.

“Baffled descends from Mr. Prospector through her sire, Distorted Humor, who is out of a Danzig mare, so we pick up Northern Dancer again. Interestingly, Baffled’s dam Surf Club’s male line goes back to Northern Dancer through her sire, Ocean Crest, a son of Irish champion 2-year-old Storm Bird. It’s worth noting that famed Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien trained both Nijinsky II and Storm Bird.”

Free Spin
B. m., 1998, Olympio—Spin n Win, by Private Account
Race record: 6-3-0-2; $91,440
Produce record: 8 foals, 5 starters, 4 winners, 1 graded stakes winner, 2 stakes winners
Dam of Tapiture, Remit, Retap

This Winchell homebred visited Tapit for three of her first four matings and the result produced two stakes winners, Remit and Retap. Multiple Grade 2 winner Tapiture was the mare’s sixth foal.

After foaling Tapiture, Free Spin was bred to Tapit on Southern Hemisphere time and sent to Haras La Leyenda in Argentina, where the mare remained the property of the Winchells. She returned to the United States with her Tapit filly named Tap Spin, her fifth by the sire, after Tapiture’s success.

Though Free Spin came back open for the 2015 foaling season, Fiske said that the mare would be bred to Tapit for the foreseeable future.

Fiske: “She’s got kind of a modest female family. She’s probably the best thing about the female family. She had some physical problems that kept her from really getting to her best race, but she had enough talent, and she was one of those mares that got bred to Tapit early on, and it was like, ‘We don’t know what kind of foals he’s going to produce, let’s see what this mare does.’ And she’s produced three stakes winners by him.”

Fun House
B. m., 1999, Prized—Bistra, by Classic Go Go
Race record: 29-5-11-6; $432,922; G2 winner
Produce record: 9 foals, 5 starters, 4 winners, 2 graded stakes winners, 1 champion
Dam of Untapable, Paddy O’Prado (by El Prado)

The most refined gem of the Winchell breeding program is almost inarguably Untapable, and her Grade 2-winning homebred dam has proven to be one of the best producers for Winchell.

Untapable was Fun House’s second Grade 1 winner, following her second foal, Paddy O’Prado, by El Prado. Untapable was the mare’s sixth foal and the second by Tapit. The first, a filly named Double Tapped, was a maiden winner.

Fun House was bred to Tapit again for the 2015 foaling season to produce what will be their sixth foal together. Fiske said that number would continue to grow.

Fiske: “Fun House was an average-sized mare that had some speed. She was a Grade 2 winner on the turf at Santa Anita going a mile. She’s come up with Grade 1 winners by El Prado and Tapit. Untapable is just a gift. I don’t know how else to put it. We’ve had quite a few Tapits, and quite a few of them that have won stakes, but she may be the best horse we’ve ever produced.

“She’d already produced Paddy O’Prado before she ever got to Tapit. I think their life lines just coincided. Tapit was ascending and she was a graded stakes winner herself so we thought, ‘What the hell?’ She’s a well-balanced mare that’s got good conformation. She’s from a family that we’ve been mining for over 30 years.

“She’ll be buried on the farm. She’s not going anywhere.”

Settling Mist
B. m., 1999, Pleasant Colony—Toll Fee, by Topsider
Race record: 19-1-4-1; $71,540
Produce record: 8 foals, 5 starters, 4 winners, 1 graded stakes winner
Dam of Tonalist

On a catalog page, Settling Mist is a slam dunk. Her half-sisters include Easter Bunnette, dam of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace; The Bink, dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Riskaverse; and Grade 3-producing mares Rahfee and Toll Order.

She was part of the highly anticipated first book for champion Smarty Jones, producing Abraham Again, who raced in Mexico. Tonalist was the fifth foal out of Settling Mist, and the only by Tapit, creating the dam’s lone stakes-level horse.

Settling Mist was cataloged for the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale with Tonalist in utero, but she was withdrawn due to lack of interest on the sales grounds. She was later sold privately to Charles Fipke, who has bred the mare to his stallions Tale of Ekati and Jersey Town.

Hernon: “I saw [Tonalist] as a yearling over at Timber Town, and I’ll put up my hand and tell you I wasn’t impressed with him, but he’s really come around physically. He was very big and gangly, and on the awkward side early on in his life. He has improved and furnished with time, and [trainer] Christophe Clement has developed him into a very good racehorse. He’s very changed physically, and all for the better.

“[Nijinsky II is] an influence in Tonalist’s ability to get the Belmont trip. He won the English Triple Crown, which is the 2000 Guineas at the mile, the [1 1/2-mile] Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger at a mile and six furlongs.”