01/20/2017 11:10AM

Leading sires of 2016: Tapit continues to raise the bar

Barbara D. Livingston
Tapit again broke his own single-season earnings record for a North American sire in 2016, and leads the general sire list for the third time.

Tapit continues to set the bar higher for himself as he reigns atop the North American sire charts.

Tapit broke his own single-season progeny earnings record in 2016, establishing a new mark for the third consecutive year by leading Kentucky’s stallions with a bankroll of $19,896,996 – more than $7 million ahead of his closest pursuer, Curlin, with $12,772,052. Along the way, he surpassed a milestone in career earnings and notched a rare accomplishment in top-level company.

Tapit, who has stood his entire career at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, shattered his own single-season earnings record with still more than a month remaining in 2016. He first set the record in 2014 – his first year atop the general sires list – with $16,813,536, then broke the mark again with $18,397,691 in 2015.

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Tapit, a Grade 1 stakes winner, also surpassed the $100 million mark in career progeny earnings during his latest record season, doing so in June. Comparing Tapit to his peers, other perennial leading sires who compete for similar purse levels, he reached that milestone quite swiftly.

Giant’s Causeway has finished among the top 10 general sires every year since 2005, leading the list in 2009, 2010, and 2012. He passed the $100 million mark in 2012, doing so, like Tapit, with nine crops of racing age; however, that span also included several years when he stood in dual hemispheres, giving him more foals.

The late Smart Strike was the leading sire in 2007 and 2008, establishing a single-year earnings record since broken by Tapit. He passed the $100 million mark in 2013 with his 14th crop of racing age.

Tapit’s career earnings stood at $108,048,057 as of Jan. 5, and he also is closing in on 100 individual stakes winners, with 89 through 2016. His best runners have been Eclipse Award champions Untapable, Hansen, and Stardom Bound as well as Belmont Stakes winners Tonalist and Creator.

Tapit’s top-level performers propelling him to his third record season in 2016 included a pair of dual Grade 1 winners in Creator, who won the Arkansas Derby before giving his sire a second victory in the oldest and longest American classic, and Eclipse Award finalist Frosted, who won the Metropolitan Handicap and Whitney Stakes. Frosted turned in a scintillating performance in the Met Mile, romping by 14 1/4 lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 123, the top number of the year.

Tapit sired three other Grade 1 winners on the season with turf filly Time and Motion, and Pretty City Dancer and Sweet Loretta, the dead-heat winners of the Spinaway at Saratoga. The Spinaway was believed to be the first dead-heat sweep for a sire in a Grade 1 or Group 1 event since Prince of Dance and Scenic, both by Sadler’s Wells, won the 1988 Dewhurst Stakes.

Tapit also was represented by Grade/Group 2 winners Anchor Down and Lani, both also Grade 1-placed, and Grade/Group 1-placed performers A Lot, Divining Rod, and Farrier. Lani finished third behind Creator in the Belmont.

Tapit, a 16-year-old son of Pulpit, will again stand for a fee of $300,000 in 2017, continuing to reign as North America’s most expensive stallion.

Second to Tapit on the general sires list in 2016 was Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm’s Curlin, who edged out Uncle Mo with a bankroll of $12,772,052 to $12,461,749. Both of those young classic sires have had their advertised fees increased to $150,000 for 2017, placing them among Kentucky’s elite.

Curlin again put together a career year in 2016, with Exaggerator winning three Grade 1 events, including the Preakness, and 2015 Eclipse Award divisional champion Stellar Wind twice defeating the great Beholder in Grade 1 events in California. Curlin has been represented by a classic winner or classic-placed runner in each of his first four crops, with 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice, 2014 Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin, 2015 Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice, and now Preakness winner Exaggerator. Exaggerator also was second in the Kentucky Derby to Uncle Mo’s champion son Nyquist.

Curlin also was represented by Grade 1 winners Connect, Curalina, and Off the Tracks in 2016.

Uncle Mo, standing at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky, was the leading freshman sire of 2015 with record earnings for that category – breaking the mark Tapit established when he burst onto the scene in 2008. Uncle Mo acquitted himself well as the third-leading general sire of 2016, largely on the continued exploits of that first crop.

Nyquist, the Eclipse Award champion juvenile male of 2015, won the Kentucky Derby as well as the Florida Derby to again earn a nod as an Eclipse Award finalist. Uncle Mo also is the sire of Grade 1 winner Outwork; Grade 2 winners Mo Town, Mokat, and Laoban; and Grade 3 winners Auntie Joy, Front Pocket Money, Lost Raven, Mo Tom, and Unbridled Mo.

War Front tops in stakes winners

Around the country and around the world, the quality of War Front shone through in 2016. The Danzig horse, the linchpin of the roster at historic Claiborne Farm, led all Kentucky stallions by stakes winners in 2016, with 22 to Tapit’s 21.

War Front’s season was led by the California-based turf filly Avenge, winner of the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes and Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes. She finished third behind Eclipse Award finalists Queen’s Trust and Lady Eli in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf after setting the pace.

War Front’s other standouts included On Leave, winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes in New York. American Patriot won the Grade 3 Kent Stakes in course-record time at Delaware Park, then finished third in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes in Chicago. Second in the Secretariat was Long Island Sound, who later became a Group 3 winner in Ireland.

Stalwart millionaires Departing and War Dancer, both racing as 6-year-olds in 2016, each added stakes wins to their résumés. Departing won the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial in Indiana and placed in stakes in three others states, concluding his career with 16 stakes wins or placings and nearly $2 million in earnings. War Dancer, Grade 1-placed in 2015, captured the PTHA President’s Cup at Parx Racing.

War Front also led Kentucky’s juvenile sires with eight stakes winners to six for Into Mischief, led by a pair of standout fillies overseas. Brave Anna won the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, one of Europe’s leading events for juveniles, after taking the Group 3 Albany Stakes at the renowned Royal Ascot meeting. Second in the Cheveley Park was Roly Poly, winner of the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes in England and the Group 3 Balanchine Stakes in Ireland.

Domestically, War Front’s standout juveniles included Lull, winner of the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies and second in the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes, and the versatile With Honors, winner of the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf and second in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes on dirt.

Top juvenile sire: Into Mischief

Into Mischief has demonstrated that he’s no joke, as the Spendthrift Farm resident continues to establish himself as one of the top young sires in the country.

Into Mischief, by Harlan’s Holiday, ranks atop the juvenile sire list by earnings with a bankroll of $3,122,695 from 2-year-olds. His young guns were led by dual Grade 1 winner Practical Joke, who won his first three career starts in New York. The colt romped in his debut by five lengths before gritty scores in the Hopeful Stakes, by a neck over Royal Copy, and the Champagne Stakes, by a nose over Syndergaard. He then shipped across the country to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Into Mischief also was represented by 2016 juvenile stakes winners Cool Arrow, Let it Ride Mom, Golden Mischief, Party Boat, Miss Sunset, and Dangerfield.

Second on the juvenile sire list by earnings was War Front, who led the category by individual stakes winners. Finishing third by earnings was Pioneerof the Nile, likely to have his second juvenile Eclipse Award winner in three years with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire. His first, of course, was 2014 divisional titlist American Pharoah, who went on to sweep the 2015 Triple Crown.

Leading freshman sire: Dialed In

The 2016 freshman sire race came down to the wire, with Dialed In edging Union Rags with bankrolls of $1,543,136 to $1,466,833. Dialed In also narrowly led by individual winners, 19 to 18; both young sires were represented by three stakes winners.

Dialed In, a son of Mineshaft, scored his own biggest win in the 2011 Florida Derby. Now standing at Darby Dan Farm, his first crop is led by Gunnevera, who took the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and followed up with a win in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot. The latter has a purse of $1 million.

Dialed In also is represented by Ms Locust Point, winner of the Gin Talking Stakes in Maryland, and Ruffenuff, a multiple stakes winner in Canada.

Union Rags, standing at Lane’s End Farm, was represented by a pair of Grade 1 winners from his first crop in Del Mar Debutante winner Union Strike and Alcibiades Stakes winner Dancing Rags. He also is the sire of stakes winner Tequilita and Grade 2-placed No Dozing.

Union Rags was a Grade 1 winner at both 2 and 3, taking the 2011 Champagne Stakes and 2012 Belmont Stakes.

Leading turf sire: Kitten’s Joy

Few of Kentucky’s leading stallions have their respective honors in their grasp as tightly as Kitten’s Joy, as he leads the North American turf sire list for the fourth consecutive year.

A homebred champion for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the son of El Prado stands at their Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville. He again leads stallions by turf earnings ($7,098,572), winners (69), and stakes winners (12).

Kitten’s Joy earned a divisional Eclipse Award for the Ramseys by winning six graded stakes in 2004, including Grade 1 scores in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and Secretariat Stakes. He finished second in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star Park. When the horse entered stud in 2006, the Ramseys strongly supported him, and they have bred and raced the vast majority of his offspring. They have been rewarded, with the likes of champion Big Blue Kitten and two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Stephanie’s Kitten – and their investments again paid dividends in 2016.

Kitten’s Joy’s top earner during his fourth straight outstanding season was Camelot Kitten, who won four graded stakes at three different tracks. The colt won the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs, the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga, and the Pennine Ridge and Hill Prince stakes, both Grade 3 events at Belmont.

Demonstrating the history of the Ramsey breeding program, Camelot Kitten is a full brother to 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Bobby’s Kitten.

Top broodmare sire: Storm Cat

The great sire Storm Cat died in 2013, but his legacy shows no signs of fading, as he once again reigns as the nation’s leading broodmare sire.

Bred and raced by the late W.T. Young, Storm Cat stood his entire career at Overbrook Farm. He has ranked among Kentucky’s leading broodmare sires each year since 2010 and led the list in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.

Standout runners out of Storm Cat’s daughters in 2016 included Grade 1-winning fillies Dancing Rags, who took the Alcibiades, and Weep No More, winner of the Ashland; Japanese-based Real Steel, winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf, and A Shin Hikari, who added a Group 1 win in France; and graded stakes winners Blofeld, Glenville Gardens, Strike Charmer, and Term of Art.

Boding well for Storm Cat’s continued success in the broodmare sire ranks, he also was represented by several standout 2-year-olds out of his daughters, led by European Cartier Award champion Churchill. He also is the broodmare sire of stakes winners Tip Tap Tapizar and Nonna Mela and Grade 1-placed youngsters Irap and Wild Shot.