06/13/2014 5:01PM

Sparkman: Pedigree counts in the Belmont

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Barbara D. Livingston
Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist was bred to relish the 1 1/2-mile distance.

After a month of marveling at how a good horse can come from anywhere, the result of the 2014 Belmont Stakes on June 7 reaffirmed a basic truth of Thoroughbred racing. Pedigree counts – especially at 1 1/2 miles.

Tonalist is the first classic winner for his sire, Tapit, but the Gainesway stallion is so well-established as one of the world’s best sires that classic winners are all but inevitable, and Tonalist is unlikely to be his last. The $800,000 Tonalist earned in the Belmont extended Tapit’s lead on the 2014 general sire list to almost $2.7-million nearly halfway through the racing year.

Although Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome failed to become the 12th Triple Crown winner by finishing in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont, Tonalist’s victory completed a sweep of the 2014 Triple Crown races for the Pulpit branch of the A.P. Indy male line. Both Tapit and Lucky Pulpit, sire of California Chrome, are sons of the 1997 Blue Grass Stakes winner who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and never raced again. As shown in the accompanying box, Tonalist is the sixth Triple Crown race winner and third Belmont winner from the A.P. Indy male line dating back to when A.P. Indy himself won the race in 1992.

Tonalist is also the third Belmont winner and fourth American classic winner descending in tail-female line from his fourth dam, foundation mare Missy Baba, by My Babu. Missy Baba is also the fourth dam of A.P. Indy and his Preakness-winning half-brother, Summer Squall, by Storm Bird, and the fourth dam of Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, by Kingmambo. As shown in the accompanying box, Missy Baba is also the fifth dam of 2013 Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World, by Galileo.

Becoming the tail-female ancestress of five international classic winners and at least 14 Grade 1 or Group 1 winners is quite an accomplishment for a well-bred filly who won well in her first start but never placed again in six more starts for Michael G. Phipps. Missy Baba clearly had speed, but made it abundantly clear that she had little interest in using it in races.

By 2000 Guineas winner and English champion juvenile My Babu, Missy Baba was a half-sister to five stakes winners and out of 1941 Irish Oaks winner Uvira II, by Umidwar, and she passed on the class in her pedigree to her offspring, surpassing her dam’s record by producing six stakes winners and two stakes-placed horses from her 14 foals. Her best son, the unsound Sauce Boat, by Key to the Mint, won the Grade 1 Arlington-Washington Futurity in 1977 and was moderately successful as a sire and broodmare sire. Missy Baba’s son by Bold Ruler, Raja Baba, was a relatively minor stakes winner but developed into a first-rate sire at Hermitage Farm, leading the American general sire list in 1980.

Missy Baba’s best daughter, Gay Missile, by Sir Gaylord, won the Ashland in 1970 when it was a six-furlong race and rather less prestigious than the Grade 1 status the 1 1/16-mile race of the same name now carries. Gay Missile proved to be just as good a broodmare as her dam and grandam, producing four stakes winners, including 1979 Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner and French champion older horse Gay Mecene, by Vaguely Noble, and three other stakes winners.

A.P. Indy on the bottom side, too

William S. Kilroy and William S. Farish purchased Gay Missile’s daughter Lassie Dear, by Buckpasser, for $67,000 at the 1975 Keeneland July sale of selected yearlings, and she proved to be the foundation of much of the partnership’s tremendous success as breeders. Winner of the Grade 3 Villager Stakes, Lassie Dear produced four stakes winners, headed by dual Group 1 winner Wolfhound, by Nureyev, and multiple Grade 3 winner Weekend Surprise, by Secretariat.

Weekend Surprise, Broodmare of the Year in 1992, is the dam of both A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, and grandam of Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Court Vision, by Gulch. Her winning half-sister Charming Lassie, by Seattle Slew, is the dam of Lemon Drop Kid, who earned champion older male honors in 2000 in addition to winning the 1999 Belmont. Another half-sister, stakes-placed Lassie’s Lady, by Alydar, is the dam of two stakes winners and the second dam of 2013 Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World as well as 2008 champion European older horse Duke of Marmalade, by Danehill.

Toll Booth, Missy Baba’s winning daughter by Buckpasser, was purchased by John Schiff and is one of the very small number of mares who have produced seven stakes winners, earning her Broodmare of the Year honors in 1991. Her best son, Plugged Nickle, by Key to the Mint, started as the second betting choice for the 1980 Kentucky Derby but failed to stay the trip and earned champion sprinter honors later.

Toll Booth’s stakes-winning daughter Toll Fee, by Topsider, did not produce a stakes winner, but Toll Fee’s graded stakes-placed daughter The Bink, by Seeking the Gold, is the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning turf star Riskaverse, by Dynaformer. Toll Fee’s winning daughter Easter Bunnette, by Carson City, is dam of 2011 Horse of the Year and champion older female Havre de Grace, by Saint Liam.

Settling Mist, by Pleasant Colony, dam of Tonalist, is a half-sister to The Bink and Easter Bunnette. Bred and raced by the Fox Ridge Farm of John Schiff’s son Peter Schiff, Settling Mist lacked speed but showed abundant stamina. Settling Mist won a 1 1/8-mile maiden race on Aqueduct’s inner track by 14 1/4 lengths after running second in her three previous starts at up to 1 3/16 miles.

Schiff bred Settling Mist’s first two foals, minor winners by Smarty Jones and Distorted Humor, before selling her for $800,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November sale to Patrick Lawley-Wakelin as agent for Rene and Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm. Settling for Gold, the Seeking the Gold filly Settling Mist was carrying at purchase, won twice for Woodslane, but was sold for only $18,000 at the 2012 Keeneland January sale. Fancy Strike, Settling Mist’s filly by Smart Strike, failed to place in three starts and sold for only $15,000 at the same sale.

Woodslane consigned Tonalist to the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, but he failed to meet his reserve at a hammer price of $195,000 and was purchased privately after the sale by Robert S. Evans. Evans’s father, Thomas Mellon Evans, bred and owned Settling Mist’s sire, Pleasant Colony, who failed to win the Triple Crown when he finished third in the 1981 Belmont.

Woodslane retained Settling Mist’s 2-year-old filly Settle ’n Speight, by Speightstown, and she has a 2013 colt by Tale of Ekati and a 2014 filly by Jersey Town.

Tapit was a top racehorse

Bred in Kentucky by Oldenburg Farms, Tapit was purchased for $625,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale in the name of David J. Fiske, farm manager for the Winchell family’s Oakwind Farm. Raced by Winchell Thoroughbreds and trained by Michael Dickinson, Tapit won both his starts at 2, overcoming traffic problems to capture the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity in 2003.

Unplaced in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in his first start at 3, he came out of that race with a lung infection and Dickinson considered him only 75 percent fit for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Tapit won anyway, rallying from far back, but that effort may have compromised the rest of his racing career. He finished ninth, beaten 15 3/4 lengths by Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby, and after that raced only once more, finishing ninth again, 17 1/2 lengths behind Love of Money, in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.

Tapit’s flashes of brilliance and gameness in the Wood Memorial and Laurel Futurity were a rather distant memory by the time he retired to Gainesway in 2005. That meant Tapit did not at first attract the most fashionable mares, but it hardly mattered. A filly from his first crop, Stardom Bound (out of My White Corvette, by Tarr Road), earned champion 2-year-old filly honors with a victory in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and Laragh (Rose of Summer, by El Prado) added the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes. Those wins helped Tapit finish as leading freshman sire of 2008, and he was on his way.

Tapit has since sired champion 2-year-old male and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen (Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat), additional Breeders’ Cup winners Tapizar (Winning Call, by Deputy Minister) and Tapitsfly (Flying Marlin, by Marlin), and such Grade/Group 1 winners as Testa Matta (Difficult, by Concern), Joyful Victory (Wild Lucy Black, by Wild Again), Untapable (Fun House, by Prized), Careless Jewel (Sweet and Careless, by Hennessy), Zazu (Rhumb Line, by Mr. Greeley), and Constitution (Baffled, by Distorted Humor).

Tapit’s overall record is beyond reproach. His 50 stakes winners from 646 foals age 3 and up amounts to a strike rate of 7.7 percent, which is bound to improve given the high-quality mares his early and continued success has attracted. The only thing lacking so far in Tapit’s record is success abroad, but, given that he has sired Grade 1 winners on turf as well as dirt, there is every reason to believe that if European buyers give him a chance he will succeed there as well.

Tonalist is mildly inbred 5x4 to Northern Dancer and 6x4 to Buckpasser for a low inbreeding coefficient of 0.64 percent. With A.P. Indy along his top line, he also carries a duplication of Missy Baba herself in the seventh and fourth generations. Tonalist is also a representative of the familiar cross of Seattle Slew male line over Buckpasser along the female line, a cross also represented by A.P. Indy himself, and more than 25 other Grade 1 or Group 1 winners, including Slew o’ Gold, Surfside, To Honor and Serve, Aptitude, Discreetly Mine, Corinthian, Stevie Wonderboy, and Turbulent Descent.

Fairy tales like California Chrome do come true in Thoroughbred racing. Indeed, that is one of its many attractions, but over the long haul, both metaphorically and literally, pedigree matters. Tonalist proved that axiom once again in the 2014 Belmont.