06/13/2016 12:50PM

Tapit in familiar spot atop sires list

Barbara D. Livingston
Tapit sired his second Belmont Stakes winner with Creator.

Through the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the stories told were of freshman phenom Uncle Mo, whose scores of stakes performers from his first crop include Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, and of young classic juggernaut Curlin, whose latest top runner is Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator. Suspiciously quiet was Tapit, as North America’s two-time reigning leading sire failed to record a placing with three individual starters in those two races.

But Tapit got the last laugh in the 2016 Triple Crown series. Not only did he sire his second Belmont Stakes winner in Creator, who rallied late to win by a nose over Destin, but he checked in third in the last and longest classic with Lani. He also swept the exacta in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, with Frosted icing the field in stakes-record time, 14 1/4 lengths ahead of Anchor Down.

The successful Saturday has put Tapit in a familiar position – atop the North American general sire list at nearly the halfway point of 2016, with more than a $3 million lead in progeny earnings over Uncle Mo.

“Thank you, Tapit,” laughed Steve Asmussen, who trains Creator for WinStar Farm.

Asmussen has plenty to thank Tapit for, as he has trained some of the stallion’s top runners for the Winchell family, including champion Untapable and multiple graded-stakes-winning millionaire Tapiture. Untapable, the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff, is Tapit’s highest-earning U.S.-based runner. She will try to keep the momentum rolling for her sire when she starts in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on Saturday night at Churchill Downs, where a win would push her past $4 million in earnings.

Asmussen’s success with Tapit’s offspring, who can be flighty, is why WinStar placed Creator in his care.

“Steve’s done extremely well with some Tapits. They can be a little difficult,” WinStar president and chief executive Elliott Walden said. “I know Steve loves me saying this because he wants to train every Tapit in the world. He did extremely well with Untapable. This horse was a little fiery as a 2-year-old.”

Creator was the second Belmont Stakes winner sired by Tapit, joining 2014 victor Tonalist. Tonalist won a half-dozen graded stakes in his career, including two editions of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and one edition of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Tapit, a Grade 1 winner during his own racing career, entered stud at Gainesway Farm in 2005 for a modest fee of $15,000 and quickly began climbing the ladder. He was North America’s leading freshman sire in 2008, when his first crop included Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion Stardom Bound. His bankroll of $2,811,337 was then a record in the category, broken only last year by Uncle Mo.

Tapit climbed his way into the top 10 among general sires for the first time in 2011, finishing third as his son Hansen won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to lock up an Eclipse Award. He finished fourth on the list in 2012 and seventh in 2013. He has dominated that list ever since.

In 2014, Tapit broke through with Untapable and Tonalist, whose signature triumphs powered him to progeny earnings of $16,813,536, breaking Smart Strike’s single-season earnings record for a North American stallion of $14,358,570, established in 2007. There was a second act. In 2015, led by Grade 1-winning millionaire Frosted, and with Untapable and Tonalist both winning additional Grade 1 events, Tapit bankrolled $18,397,691, breaking his own record.

Tapit’s advertised stud fee, which has climbed steadily, was set at $300,000 for 2015 and remained there for 2016, making him North America’s most expensive stallion.

Through Sunday, Tapit’s career progeny earnings stood at $98,721,887 – an average of $128,880 per starter – putting him well on pace to reach the $100 million milestone this season. He has 82 stakes winners, with other top performers including Grade 1-winning millionaires Tapitsfly, Constitution, Joyful Victory, Ring Weekend, and Careless Jewel; Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar; and Grade 1 winners Zazu, Laragh, Dance Card, and Tell a Kelly.