06/16/2017 8:40AM

Tapwrit joins select – and expensive – company with Belmont Stakes win

Debra A. Roma
Tapwrit, sold for $1.2 million at auction, wins the Belmont Stakes.

Achieving a combination of commercial and ontrack success at the level seen from Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit is so difficult to pull off that it can make a $1.2 million auction graduate look like an underdog story.

High-end auction catalogs annually feature examples of breeding the best to the best, and of buyers reaching into the seven-figure stratosphere to secure them. Conventional wisdom might consider this the fast track to the winner’s circle in a Triple Crown race, but only four horses have won a U.S. classic after selling for $1 million or more at auction: Tapwrit, Rags to Riches, Fusaichi Pegasus, and A.P. Indy.

Tapwrit stands alone in that select group as the only horse out of a Grade 1-winning mare to sell for seven figures at public auction and go on to win a U.S. classic. His dam is the Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie, who won the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes in 2006.

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In a sport filled with horses with iron-clad pedigrees and sticker-shock price tags who couldn’t deliver during Triple Crown season, Tapwrit is in many ways a best-case scenario.

That was certainly true for Tapwrit’s breeder, Leonard Riggio of My Meadowview Farm, and Lincoln Collins of Kern Bloodstock.

Collins was in his second year managing Riggio’s bloodstock interests when Appealing Zophie was entered as a racing or broodmare prospect in the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale. Appealing Zophie was at the end of her 3-year-old campaign, with a record of three wins in 12 starts, including a victory in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday Stakes. My Meadowview secured the filly for $1.1 million.

Collins said Appealing Zophie’s speed and stout pedigree, including Hawkster and Seattle Slew on her bottom side, made her attractive.

“She just seemed to fit the profile of the kind of horse that had some speed herself but had a pedigree that entitled her offspring to stay a bit, so we decided to buy her,” he said.

Tapwrit, by perennial leading sire Tapit, was Appealing Zophie’s sixth foal. Her broodmare career had been unremarkable up to that point despite visits to the cream of the North American sire list – names like Distorted Humor, Unbridled’s Song, Speightstown, and Giant’s Causeway.

Aside from Tapwrit, Appealing Zophie’s only foal to win more than a maiden race is her second foal, Daddy in the Dark, by Bernardini, who bounces between flat and jump racing.

Collins knew early on that Appealing Zophie’s Tapit colt could be the one to alter the mare’s trajectory.

“It’s one of those things where you keep trying different things as you get to know a mare,” Collins said. “Just from the physical point of view, sometimes it takes a while breeding around with different stallions and sire lines before you get what you want. She’d always gotten pretty good foals, but from the day he was born, Tapwrit was a lovely horse.”

Appealing Zophie resides at Craig and Holly Bandoroff’s Denali Stud in Paris, Ky. Tapwrit was born there and went through the operation’s sale-prep program ahead of the yearling auction season. Tapwrit was entered in the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale and was quickly pegged by shoppers as a horse of interest.

“We’re always very careful what we take to Saratoga,” Craig Bandoroff said. “It’s like any other sale. It’s just the right sale for the right horse. We felt like he fit the bill.”

After inspecting the colt, Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners formed an alliance with George Isaacs of Bridlewood Farm and later with Robert LaPenta to pool their resources and divide risk to make a run at Tapwrit.

The trio was successful in its venture, making Tapwrit the third-most-expensive offering of the boutique sale at $1.2 million, blowing past the colt’s reserve. A year and 10 months later, they owned a classic winner.

“From a conformation perspective, he was very correct,” Wellman said. “He had very straight front legs. He had a very strong hind leg, good, solid feet, and a really beautiful top line to him that tied in well with a good-sized neck and a beautiful head and eye.”

My Meadowview keeps about 15 broodmares in the “A” division of its band, built toward producing classic-caliber horses. Appealing Zophie is the second member of the roster to produce a classic winner, following 2011 Broodmare of the Year Oatsee, the dam of Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford.

Collins said Appealing Zophie was in foal to first-year stallion Frosted, a son of Tapit, for the 2018 foaling season.

Over the past five months, Tapwrit has helped transform Appealing Zophie from an expensive broodmare with a shaky résumé into a genuine commercial commodity. Broodmares with far less impressive updates have been turned around to bring top dollar during the mixed sale season, and it wouldn’t be hard to picture the mare at least recouping Riggio’s initial investment.

However, Collins was quick to note that the My Meadowview goal is to breed classic runners, and Appealing Zophie is a proverbial bird in the hand in that regard.

“I think we’ll have that discussion, but the most likely thing, all things being equal, is she’ll go back to Tapit next year,” he said. “I don’t think it makes that much sense to sell her at this point, but you never know.”