05/30/2017 11:12AM

Sparkman: Cupid gets Tapit off to strong second-half start

Shigeki Kikkawa
Cupid, by Tapit, wins the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.

If Arrogate adds the Pacific Classic and Breeders’ Cup Classic to his victories in the Pegasus Gold Cup and Dubai World Cup, his sire, Unbridled’s Song, is assured of a posthumous first North American sire championship. The reigning three-time champion sire Tapit is not going down without a fight, however.

Tapit stands in fifth place on the general sire list, about $10 million behind Unbridled’s Song, and although that is almost certainly an unbridgeable gap, Tapit’s son Cupid set off a warning flare for the second half of the season with his victory in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on Saturday. The following day, Tapit’s 3-year-old son Souper Tapit (out of Zo Impressive, by Hard Spun) became Tapit’s 100th stakes winner with his victory in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes at Woodbine.

Souper Tapit was also Tapit’s 13th stakes winner and eighth graded stakes winner of 2017, putting Tapit once again at the top of the heap in North America by those metrics. The $300,000 that Cupid earned in the Gold Cup is the top purse collected by one of Tapit’s offspring this year, compared with the $13 million earned by Arrogate alone among the late Unbridled’s Song’s three graded stakes winners this year. Cupid is also the 21st Grade 1 winner for Tapit.

Bred in Kentucky by JKG Thoroughbreds LLC, Cupid was purchased for $900,000 by M.V. Magnier at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. That purchase came almost exactly a year after Magnier had purchased Cupid’s full brother Dream Team for $1 million at the same sale. Dream Team has won 4 of 13 starts without picking up any black type.

That is a relative rarity for the offspring of Cupid’s dam, the extraordinary broodmare Pretty ‘n Smart, by Beau Genius. Bred in Kentucky by Gregory Hawkins, Pretty ‘n Smart, won the first and last of her seven starts, all for Carolyn Chapman and Theresa McArthur, who purchased her for $72,000 at the 2000 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. That was the third appearance in a sales ring for Pretty ‘n Smart, who had been purchased for $40,000 by Welcome Gate Farm as a weanling at the 1998 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, and listed as sold for $47,000 to Bryan Rice at the 1999 OBS August yearling sale.

Pretty ‘n Smart showed enough ability to run third in the Grade 2 Railbird and listed Manhattan Beach stakes at 3 in 2001 for trainer Jim Chapman, and was purchased at the 2001 Keeneland November sale for $75,000 by agent John Moynihan. Her second foal, Ashley’s Kitty, by Tale of the Cat, outdid her mother by winning the Railbird in 2007, and added two other stakes wins. Pretty ‘n Smart’s fourth foal, Heart Ashley, by Lion Heart, captured the Grade 3 Cicada and two other stakes, and her seventh, the Medaglia d’Oro colt Indianapolis, won the San Pedro Stakes.

Cupid is Pretty ‘n Smart’s fourth stakes winner from her first nine foals, and she has since produced an unraced 3-year-old full sister to Cupid named Sweet Assassin, a yearling full sister, and a 2017 filly by American Pharoah.

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Fourth in his only start at 2, Cupid won 4 of 8 starts last year at 3, including Grade 2 victories in the Rebel, West Virginia Derby, and Indiana Derby. The Gold Cup was his first start since his eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby last September.

Pretty ‘n Smart is half-sister to Grade 3 Orchid and Glens Falls stakes winner Hostess, by Chester House, out of the Vice Regent mare Charge d’Affaires. The next dam, Office Affair, by Secretariat, produced nothing of note, but is half-sister to stakes winners Wander Kind, by Hold Your Peace, and Lovin’ Lass, by Cutlass, from the outstanding family founded by the Hall of Fame racemare Gallorette, by Challenger.

The Gold Cup could not be considered one of the stronger Grade 1’s of the year, and the field certainly did not include anything resembling the quality of Arrogate, but even if Tapit cannot do the impossible and overhaul Unbridled’s Song this year, he remains our most successful living sire. With stakes-winning 3-year-olds like Sweet Loretta, Souper Tapit, Tapwrit, and Bellavais, and the brilliant Unique Bella expected to return to the races later this year, Tapit’s year is far from over.