09/12/2013 3:04PM

Hot Sire: Tapit


Courtesy of GaineswayTapit

Gainesway stallion Tapit drew the attention of breeders as soon as his first foals hit the racetrack in 2008, and his first crop was led by champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound. A Grade 1-winning son of Pulpit, Tapit finished the year atop both the North American freshman sire list and juvenile list, setting a then-record for earnings as a juvenile sire. Now, a half-decade later, his subsequent crops have helped him become one of the most productive sires in North America, with a reputation for siring precocious and talented juveniles.

That was reflected on Churchill Downs’s evening race card of Sept. 7, when Tapit’s 2-year-old daughter Untapable earned both a Win and You’re In berth for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and points for the 2014 Kentucky Oaks after winning the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes in her second career start. In the following race, Tapit’s son, the maiden Tapiture, took the lead in midstretch before yielding to fast finishers Cleburne and Smart Cover in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes, settling for a solid third.

At age 12, Tapit has become the anchor stallion at Antony Beck’s Gainesway in Lexington, Ky., which also boasts champions Smoke Glacken and Afleet Alex, classic winner Birdstone, and a handful of promising young sires led by Corinthian. Tapit’s credentials on the racetrack were solid, and his pedigree offered even more ammunition for a potentially great stallion career, being a second-generation son of A.P. Indy via Pulpit and having female family ties to champion sprinter and sire Rubiano and, further back, to sire Relaunch.

Purchased for $625,000 as a yearling at the 2002 Keeneland September sale, Tapit raced for Joan and Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds. The gray or roan horse won three of six starts at 2 and 3 under the guidance of trainer Michael Dickinson, topped by his victory in the 2004 Wood Memorial Stakes. He was retired to Gainesway in late 2004 and stood for $15,000 in his initial season. By 2007, as Tapit’s first foals surfaced at the yearling sales, his stud fee was $12,500 and he was ensconced in the middle rungs of a competitive Central Kentucky market, with, like all other young sires, much to prove.

Tapit’s fee remained $12,500 in 2008, but by year’s end he was on a different trajectory. Breeders’ Cup winner Stardom Bound led a parade of accomplished horses from Tapit’s first crop, followed by Grade 1 winner Laragh. Future Grade 1/Group 1 winners Careless Jewel and Testa Matta, and Grade 2 winner Headache were also among this group. Stardom Bound’s earnings of more than $1.42 million catapulted Tapit to his perch atop the freshman and juvenile sire lists for 2008, and his progeny earnings of $2,811,337 set a North American record that stood until 2012, when Harlan’s Holiday surpassed it.

Tapit’s ascent has been very impressive and goes a long way toward justifying his $125,000 stud fee for 2013, the second highest in North America behind Darley stallion Bernardini. As of Sept. 9, he ranks eighth on the North American general sire list and seventh on the juvenile list (he also ranks 16th on the turf list). His runners have already earned more than $46.5 million through just six crops of racing age, with an impressive earnings per starter average of $98,147.

Untapable is Tapit’s highest-earning juvenile this year, and, based on the ability displayed in her first two starts, should be major player in her division later this fall. She won her maiden at Churchill Downs in June, winning at 5 1/2 furlongs and earning a debut Beyer Speed Figure of 75, and then, after an 11-week break due in part to a minor illness, came back to win the 1 1/16-mile Pocahontas by 1 1/2 lengths with a stout stretch rally under Rosie Napravnik. Untapable took the next step up the Beyer ladder with her Grade 2 score, earning a Beyer Figure of 81 in the two-turn race.

Winchell Thoroughbreds bred and races Untapable, the latest in a series of runners sired by its former star that it has developed and campaigned. The filly is out of the Grade 2-winning Prized mare Fun House and is a half-sister to Winchell-bred Grade 1 winner and Kentucky Derby third Paddy O’Prado. Grade 1-winning millionaire Olympio and Grade 2 winners Early Flyer and Call Now are close relatives. All three of these, as well as Fun House, were bred and raced by the late Verne Winchell, the founder of Winchell’s Donuts and CEO of Denny’s, who created the family’s Thoroughbred operation.

Tapiture was on the verge of providing the Winchells with back-to-back juvenile graded stakes wins on the Sept. 7 evening card at Churchill but fell short by a half-length in the Iroquois. Like Untapable, the colt was making only his second career start. He finished second to Strong Mandate in a 6 1/2-furlong August maiden at Saratoga, and the winner came back roll to a dominant score in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on closing day of the Spa’s 150th anniversary meet. Tapiture was bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds and is owned by Ron Winchell, and his pedigree sheet is a handbill for Tapit and the Winchells’ breeding method. He is out of Winchell homebred Free Spin, a winning Olympio mare, and is a full brother to stakes winners and $200,000-earners Remit and Retap, both of whom were bred by the Winchells.

Tapit’s influence on the contemporary Thoroughbred zeitgeist is not limited to juveniles, of course, although Stardom Bound and 2011 champion 2-year-old male Hansen (from Tapit’s fourth crop) have captured the most headlines. Several of his best runners did not reach peak form until they matured, including excellent turf performer Tapitsfly, who won more than $600,000 as a juvenile but picked up both of his Grade 1 wins last year at age 5; Joyful Victory, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Margarita this year at 5; and last year’s talented Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner and Winchell homebred Tapizar, who retired at 4 after his career-defining win and joined his sire at Gainesway this year.

Success on the racetrack for Tapit’s progeny has translated into strong demand at auction for them. His 2012 yearlings averaged more than $250,000, and did even better during this year’s mid- and late summer yearling sales, bringing an average of $363,768 (paced by a yearling at the select Japan Horse Racing Association sale that brought $790,400 and two $500,000 yearlings at Fasig-Tipton’s select Saratoga sale). Those numbers, impressive enough, were bolstered by early returns at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Through Keeneland’s four Book 1 sessions, 31 Tapit yearlings had sold for $13,995,000, making him the sale leader by gross. He had four yearlings sell for seven figures through Thursday, led by a $1.55 million colt out of Grade 3 winner Successful Outlook and a half-brother to recent Test Stakes winner Sweet Lulu, purchased by Regis Farms and Stonestreet Stables.