04/28/2013 5:38PM

Normandy Invasion gives Tapit solid Derby chance


TapitCourtesy Gainesway FarmTapit

Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion is looking to give Rick Porter his first Kentucky Derby victory after the owner came close twice before, and could give trainer Chad Brown his first win in the classic in his first attempt.

The colt could also achieve a milestone for his sire, popular young commercial stallion Tapit. Already poised for continued success with an outstanding 2013 book that includes a Horse of the Year, Tapit would be represented by his first winner in a Triple Crown event should Normandy Invasion prevail on May 4.

"It's most important to any young stallion if he can come up with a Kentucky Derby winner," said Michael Hernon, director of sales for Gainesway Farm, which stands Tapit in Lexington, Ky.

Grade 2-placed as a juvenile last season, Normandy Invasion earned his way into the Kentucky Derby field with a runner-up effort behind likely morning-line favorite Verrazano in the Wood Memorial April 6 at Aqueduct.

The colt turned in his final work for the Derby the morning of April 27 at Churchill Downs, covering five furlongs in a sharp :58.89 according to Daily Racing Form clocker Mike Welsch, the second-fastest of 52 works at the distance. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.13.

“He worked well,” Brown said. “He worked swift, he worked good, comfortable. I was happy with it. He came back sharp and happy.

"It was more of a maintenance move. He worked quick, but I thought he did it well within himself. He didn’t work with any company and galloped out well. He came back good. All the serious work is done.”

Tapit had a brief but solid career as a racehorse, winning half of his six starts, including the Wood Memorial and Laurel Futurity, for earnings of $557,300. However, the 12-year-old Pulpit horse has gone on to greater success in the breeding shed. Through April 26, Tapit had sired 308 winners from 425 starters—a rate of 72 percent winners from starters—for combined earnings of $42,168,102. His career average earnings per runner is an impressive $99,219.

"In some cases, a stallion can out-sire himself," Hernon said. "We're seeing that with Tapit, who has continually improved his performance at stud. [His progeny are] highly versatile, they can run on all surfaces, they can get a distance."

Tapit got off to an exceptional start when his first crop arrived at the racetrack in 2008. Leading the way was champion juvenile filly Stardom Bound, who capped her campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Also emerging from that first crop were 2008 Hollywood Starlet winner Laragh; the following year's Alabama Stakes winner, Careless Jewel; and Testa Matta, who went on to become a Group 1 winner in Japan as an older horse. Tapit ended the year as North America’s leading freshman sire, with progeny earnings of over $2.8 million.

Tapit proved his freshman season was no fluke by finishing as the third-leading second-crop sire of 2009. He has been near the top of the North American general sire standings for the last two years, checking in third in 2011 and fourth in 2012.

Tapit's 40 stakes winners include champion 2-year-old male Hansen and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar. However, he is to date best known as an outstanding young sire of fillies. In addition to Stardom Bound, Laragh, and Careless Jewel, he is the sire of Grade 1-winning females Joyful Victory, Tapitsfly, Zazu, and Dance Card. Tapit was represented earlier on this year’s Kentucky Derby trail by the Bob Baffert-trained Flashback, winner of the Robert B. Lewis, but the colt was found to have a small bone chip in his left knee after finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby and will be sidelined for two months.

As Tapit's runners have continued to succeed on the track, his offspring have become popular in the sale ring as well. At the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, Tapit finished second in gross receipts with $10,715,000—trailing leader Medaglia d'Oro, who had 62 yearlings sell to Tapit's 48, by just $12,000. At last year's Keeneland September sale, the sire had 44 yearlings sell for a total of $11,577,000 to lead the auction; his average price of $263,114 finished sixth among sires with five or more yearlings sold.

"Of course, Tapit through the years has become very commercial," Hernon said. "I think he'll be highly sought-after this year in the yearling sales. He's got a very high average."

Porter's Fox Hill Farm purchased Normandy Invasion for $230,000 out of Eddie Woods' consignment at the 2012 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training. The colt is one of three winners from five starters out of the winning Boston Harbor mare Boston Lady. It is the family of graded stakes winners Gulls Cry, Gala Regatta, and Derrianne.

Porter sent out Hard Spun and Eight Belles to finish second in the Kentucky Derby in 2007 and 2008, respectively. This is the first Derby starter for Brown, who said his colt has been eager to train this week.

“He’s just feeling good. I’m good with it,” Brown said. “Hopefully he has an uneventful week leading up to the Derby.”

Meanwhile, Tapit continues to cover an outstanding, full book of mares in 2013 at an advertised fee of $125,000. Chief among them is 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, who was recently confirmed in foal. Tapit has now been bred to female Horse of the Year honorees in consecutive years, as 2010 champion Zenyatta delivered a colt by the stallion on April 1.

Havre de Grace, from the only crop of Saint Liam, was purchased for $10 million, a record for a broodmare prospect, by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm at last November's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed sale. Pope boards the mare at Wayne and Cathy Sweezey's Timber Town Stable in Lexington, Ky.

“We did the genetic research on this end, and Tapit is the best cross for her,” Wayne Sweezey said in December. “I’m pumped. We’ve had a number of Tapits born on the farm, so it’s not new to be breeding to Tapit, and to take that kind of mare to that kind of stallion is great.”

Havre de Grace's foal could become another commercial success story for Tapit, as Pope said at the time of purchase that the mare's foals will be sold for the short term to help recoup her investment.

Tapit's book also includes two mares whose foals would be full siblings to Grade 1 winners. Winning Call, the dam of Tapizar, and Rhumb Line, dam of Zazu and Flashback, were booked back to the sire this year.

"Tapit is attracting extraordinarily high-quality mares," Hernon said. "As his fee has appreciated in light of performance on the track, his quality of mares has continued to improve. He's being seriously considered by all major breeders in the U.S. He also attracts patronage from foreign breeders."

Tapit was sired by the late Claiborne Farm Pulpit, one of A.P. Indy's more successful sons at stud. Pulpit, in turn, has produced established Three Chimneys sire Sky Mesa as well Gainesway’s Corinthian.

Continuing the line, Tapit is now represented at stud by young sires Concord Point, whose first foals are yearlings; and Hansen and Tapizar, who entered stud this year. The latter, who was retired following his victory in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, stands alongside his sire at Gainesway.

"We're excited to have him," Hernon said. "He retired sound, and he's in the same barn as his sire."