Tapit and the Derby Trail

It seems as if the name Tapit is everywhere these days, especially on the Derby trail, where promising 3-year-olds such as Coup de Grace, Constitution, Giancarlo, Hartford, Harpoon, Matterhorn, Tap it Rich. Tapiture, Tonalist and others have already graced the winner’s circle, the majority of them in 2014.

There is no doubt that Tapit is one of the hottest stallions in America, but few remember the horse when he was on the Derby trail himself, and a close third choice in the 2004 Run for the Roses following his victory in the Wood Memorial.

Although Tapit won the Wood in a tight three-horse finish, his victory told a great deal about the horse and perhaps why he has been so successful as a sire.

One of the everlasting images of that year’s Derby was Tapit’s arrival at Churchill Downs with trainer Michael Dickinson. It was a sight no one had ever seen before and won’t see again in the foreseeable future.

As everyone is well aware, there is nothing conventional about Dickinson, who has always marched to the beat of his own drum.

When Dickinson shipped Tapit to Churchill Downs on the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby, the conditioner brought a little bit of his farm with him.

"The Mad Genius", as Dickinson is often called, packed the colt's daily treats of Guinness beer and three eggs, along with a long swath of sod and grass from his Tapeta Farm in Maryland for his daily grazing sessions to make the transition from Tapeta to Churchill a littler easier for the son of Pulpit. It was an odd sight watching Dickinson lay his carpet of grass out over the grass outside the receiving barn.

"I want to make my horse as comfortable as possible," Dickinson said. "He gets his one beer and three eggs every day at the farm mixed with his grain. He likes the grass the best. It's part of his natural diet."

Dickinson said he prefers training at his North East, Md., farm as opposed to at a racetrack. "It's tough training at the track and it's very hard for one guy to rise above the rest. If I were at the track I would probably starve," he said.

"At the farm I am free to improvise. I can breeze my horses at 3 p.m. if I so choose. I don't but I could.

He also brought with him several other conveniences, such as a heat lamp, camera etc, which he promptly install in Tapit’s stall.

Pulling off remarkable training feats at Tapeta was nothing out of the ordinary for Dickinson. Certainly everyone remembered Da Hoss. After winning the 1996 Breeders' Cup Mile, Da Hoss was sidelined for nearly two years with a bowed tendon and other maladies. Dickinson nursed him back to health to win the 1998 Breeders' Cup Mile after just one minor prep race at Colonial Downs.

Tapit went into the Derby off only four career starts, and in one of them, the Florida Derby, he was sick and ran poorly.

"My health always reflects my horses health," Dickinson said. "He was sick so I was sick. We're both feeling a lot better now."

Tapit gave Dickinson a pleasant and emotional surprise by winning the Wood Memorial, a race Dickinson was convinced the colt was going to lose, due to all the time and training he missed being sick. But it became apparent that this was no ordinary horse.

Dickinson stood off in a corner of the Aqueduct winner’s circle and tried his best to explain how Tapit managed to win the Wood. But even he couldn’t do it. This was more than just another logic-defying conquest by “The Mad Genius.” Although some perceive Dickinson to be a graduate of the Hogwarts School, performing Harry Potter-like feats of magic, he knew there was nothing wizardly about this latest feat.

This was simply a trainer in awe of a horse. Tapit had overcome one setback after another that winter and spring, and somehow was still in the Kentucky Derby picture, despite missing 19 days of training with shin problems, and coming out of his sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby with a serious lung infection and a foot abscess.

“He won’t win the Wood,” Dickinson said a week before the race. “He’s not fit enough. I’ll be over the moon if he can finish third.”

Now, here he was trying to explain how Tapit could come from dead-last over a speed-biased track, circle the field five wide, and mow down every one of his 10 opponents to win by a half-length. And this with only one race all year and only one serious work since the Florida Derby.

“I was dreading the race, because I knew he wasn’t fit,” Dickinson said. “He’s a very generous horse, and he has such a big heart.”

By now, the words were becoming difficult to get out. Tears were welling up, and his voice began to quaver noticeably. “I felt I was putting him into battle unprepared,” he continued. “And if anything had happened I would have blamed myself. But the horse carried me through, and I’m indebted to him. He’s such a generous horse and we love him dearly.”

Tapit had earned a lofty reputation among the previous year’s 2-year-olds. After breaking his maiden at Delaware Park by 7 3⁄4 lengths, he then put on a sensational display of class, speed, and courage by winning the Laurel Futurity by 4 3⁄4 lengths with a breathtaking burst of speed, despite a nightmarish trip in which he was bumped early and forced to steady for a good portion of the race.

Now, five months later, he was trying to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby field in a most unconventional manner. But as it turned out, Tapit proved to be as unconventional as his trainer, who has made a habit of doing the impossible.

“When we came home from Florida, we did an ultrasound, and it showed he had a very significant lung infection,” Dickinson said. “We did another ultrasound two weeks later and one lung was 100% and the other was 80%. We gave him a little five-furlong breeze and he could blow a house down. I was going to wheel him back and work him a mile, but I told (owner Ron Winchell and manager David Fiske) I’ve got to give him as long as I dare to get him healthy and give the lungs a chance to heal. It takes 28 days for the lung to get a new lining.”

Dickinson gave Tapit several extra days and worked him a mile in 1:47 over the uphill course at his Tapeta Farm in North East, Md. On the Wednesday before the Wood, another ultrasound found one lung to be 100% and the other 99.9%. Although the colt finally was healthy, he still had only the one serious work and was about two weeks from being 100% fit. But Dickinson had no choice but to send a partially fit Tapit into the Wood, in which he’d face the brilliant Florida Derby runner-up, Value Plus, and Master David and Eddington, who, like Tapit, were in desperate need of graded stakes earnings to assure a place in the Kentucky Derby field.

“We’re just going to be out the back and pass beaten ones at the end,” Dickinson said after analyzing the race and plotting strategy. “We’re never going to be in the race; we’re just going to come late and easy and hope to get third. I’ve already told the owner he’s not fit, but he will be on May 1.”

What Dickinson feared going into the Wood was that Tapit, being such a generous and competitive horse, would try too hard and give more than what was expected of him.
“He never knew he was sick,” Dickinson said. “Even when he’s not well he’s always perky. Nothing gets him down.”

Tapit has a reputation at Tapeta as being unpredictable and always getting into mischief. One day, Dickinson’s partner in life, Joan Wakefield, heard a racket in Tapit’s stall and went running over to see what was happening. The colt had grabbed the rubber mat in his mouth and was flinging it wildly against the wall of his stall.

“He’s just a flamboyant little horse, who’s always full of life,” said exercise rider Jon “John Boy” Ferriday.

Dickinson previously had trained grade I winner Fleet Renee for California owner Verne Winchell. At the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale, Winchell, his son Ron, and Fiske purchased the son of Pulpit—Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled, for $625,000, which was about $100,000 more than Winchell usually would spend for a young horse. He had been recommended by Dr. David Lambert after Lambert performed a heart scan on the colt. Winchell asked Dickinson what he thought of the horse, who was bred in Kentucky by Oldenburg Farms, and when the trainer said he liked him, Winchell promised him the horse. After being broken in Texas by Keith Asmussen, Tapit was sent to Tapeta Farm in May of 2003.

But Tapit would be the last horse Winchell would purchase. Two months after the sale, Winchell died of a heart attack at age 87. “He was a star, an absolute star,” Dickinson said. “He was a true gentleman and he loved his horses.”

“Obviously, being the last horse we ever bought together carries some sort of emotional impact,” Ron Winchell said.

Dickinson, as usual, vanned Tapit up to Aqueduct the morning of the race, arriving at around 9 a.m. Value Plus was made the 5-2 favorite, with Eddington at 3-1, Master David 7-2, and Tapit getting played, illness or no illness, at 5-1.

At the start of the Wood, Tapit got shuffled back to last, as Lane’s End Stakes winner Sinister G broke like a shot from the nine post and engaged Value Plus to his inside. The pair were joined by longshot Cuba, but managed to get away with an opening quarter in :23.74 over a blazing racetrack. Eddington and Master David were running side by side, with the latter down on the rail. Ramon Dominguez steered Tapit to the outside down the backstretch and let him gradually pick up horses. The pace remained even, with a half in :47.12 and three-quarters in 1:11.40.

Value Plus was still battling with Sinister G when Eddington and Swingforthefences charged up on the outside, with Alex Solis, on Master David, finding an inviting opening along the rail. By now, Tapit was in full gear without Dominguez even having to ask him. He swung him to the far outside, as the favorites charged down the stretch. Sinister G cracked under the pressure, then Value Plus followed, leaving the four horses in need of earnings battling for the all-important top two spots. Swingforthefences couldn’t sustain his move, and then it was down to three.

Master David slipped through to take a narrow lead over Eddington, who, as usual, was having trouble changing leads.

Just when it looked like Master David had the race won, Tapit, his head cocked toward the grandstand, came charging up on the outside like a dead-fit horse and spurted in the final yards to win by a half-length, covering the 1 1⁄8 miles in 1:49.70.

There was a photo for second and third. Eddington had finally changed leads with the help of jockey Jerry Bailey, and he and Master David hit the wire together. One horse would be heading to Kentucky, while the other would have to wait and see how things shaped up over the next three weeks. Soon after, Master David’s number went up. Trainer Bobby Frankel would be returning for another shot at the Derby after coming so close the previous year with Empire Maker.

Ferriday headed back with Tapit, and was amazed what the colt had accomplished. “He’s a brilliant horse to have pulled this off,” he said. To demonstrate how tough a horse Tapit was, he coughed the entire way from the winner's circle to the test barn.

For Dickinson, the worrying was far from over. “Now, the question is, will he bounce? I want to see him scoped, and see how he’s doing tonight and tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll weigh him tonight and every day. The secret of how quickly a horse gets over a race is how quickly they return to their normal weight.”

Dickinson had managed to hold back his tears, and barely was able to get out his words of pride and admiration for Tapit, but when he was asked, “So, what’s up next for this horse?” he couldn’t help but shift gears and break into a little smirk. Trying to keep a straight face, he replied, “Well, there’s a race on the first of May. I’ve forgotten its name.”

Whether Tapit did bounce in the Derby or simply couldn’t get hold of the slick sloppy track, he wound up ninth without ever putting in a run.

Put away and targeted for the Haskell Invitational, he was forced to miss the race due to throat surgery. When he returned in the Pennsylvania Derby and finished ninth again, it was decided, to retire him to Gainesway Farm for a $15,000 stud fee. Although he was perfectly sound, he had had an up and down year, incurring a number of setbacks.

There was no denying the colt’s potential and his natural talent, as well as his ability to bounce back from adversity and do things most horses would find impossible. He had demonstrated a rocket of a move, and the ability to decimate his opponents or mow them down late.

With only six lifetime starts, we’ll never know how good Tapit could have been on the track. But we sure know how good he is in the breeding shed. And now, his offspring are giving us a hint of what we might have witnessed had he continued his racing career.

Tapit at Gainesway Farm - Photos by Steve Haskin

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Leave a Comment:

Johnny D

What a fantastic read!  I love reading stories like this with insight.  I was the 2004 Derby when skies were blue, I looked right and saw this huge black ugly storm coming faster than Usain Bolt.  Huge rain came in sideways for about 30 minutes and I knew that track would compromise Tapit's chances.  I loved this article, thanks Steve...

21 Jan 2014 2:56 PM

Such a beautiful boy. Thank you for sharing the photos, Mr. Haskin.

I enjoyed the informative article too. I really didn't know that much about Tapit's racing career. Now I do. Thank you!

21 Jan 2014 3:34 PM

Great pics and article Steve, reminding us of Tapit's expoits.  Thanks

Let's see if any of these young tap...tap...Tapits have 10 furlongs in them.

21 Jan 2014 5:16 PM
Jean in Chicago

Forget red wine--I'm going to start having a Guinness a day!  From Arkle to Zenyatta, it sure seems to work for horses.  And thank you, Steve, for the beautiful photos.

21 Jan 2014 5:36 PM
Sandy in Lexington

I'm looking forward to a certain colt's campaign in a few years (2016) who's sire is Tapit... 13Zenyatta...

21 Jan 2014 5:37 PM

Thanks for another fine article, Steve. Tapit has seemingly come out of nowhere to become a major stallion, but that Wood Memorial turned out be a real showcase for his brilliance. I just watched the race again for the first time in years, and it really was a compelling performance. Here's a link to the video of the race:


21 Jan 2014 6:14 PM

The average number of mares bred by Tapit in the last 5 years is conservative 150. Giant’s Causeway is probably the only stallion that has a higher average in the same period. It should be noted that average mares covered would be > mares bred. I consider Tapit to be an exceptional stallion that is overbred. Despite the number of talented horses he has on the Derby trail, the prospect of one wining is extremely remote.

Between 2006 and 2010 Tapit had 492 named foals, 423 runners and 326 winners.  His highest number of named foals during this 5 year period was 126 achieved in 2008 and 2010. Why highlight this figure?  The comparison below makes for interesting analysis:

2008: 126 named foals; 110 runners; 92 winners.  

2010: 126 named foals; 99 runners; 57 winners.

There was marginally less runners but significantly less winners. What does this represent? Obviously further analysis is required to pin point the reason for the big decline in # of winners. My views are widely known and without engaging in same, I am of the opinion that overbreeding is the reason. Tapit % of winners to named foals has shown a steady decline since 2007. The biggest decline is reflected between 2009 (61%) and 2010 (45%) It’s no surprise that the biggest decline in winners to runners occurred in the period when he  was covering close to 200 mares.

How many Derby starters have emerged from five 3YO crops?

2006 foal crop; 84 runners; 0 starters 2009 Derby

2007 foal crop; 67 runners; 0 starters 2010 Derby

2008 foal crop; 110 runners; 0 starters 2011 Derby

2009 foal crop; 63 runners; 1 starter 2012 Derby

2010 foal crop; 99 runners; 1 starter 2013 Derby

Tapit had 423 runners in 5 crops from which Derby starters could have emerged. He has been so far represented by two Derby starters. Hansen was unplaced and Normandy Invasion finished a gallant 4th. Subsequent to the Derby he failed to hold weight and was given a long respite.

Coup de Grace, Constitution, Giancarlo, Hartford, Harpoon, Matterhorn, Tap it Rich, Tapiture, Tonalist and others were produced from a book of 169 mares  bred by Tapit in 2010. No stallion with that number of mares bred has ever been associated with a Derby winner. Tapit record of 423 runner and 2 Derby starrers is consistent with Giants Causeway the king of the overbreds.

Hope springs eternal - It is human nature to always find fresh cause for optimism.

21 Jan 2014 7:35 PM
Linda in Texas

Just sending along a well wishes and hope you all are okay message to my friends along the Eastern Shore and westward. Goodness, weather man said this could go on a while with cold temps well below normal. Hard to keep the horses fed watered and warm in this weather. Hang in there. Hope this passes by quickly so it will be 'Sunshine Forever' for all. Now i will read about Tapit. Thanks Steve hope you all are hunkered down and toasty.   Linda

21 Jan 2014 7:42 PM
Bloodline Bob

***Today is Jan. 21, 2014 and I'm routing for either the Farish family to be the owner of their 1st Ky. Derby horse in the 140th Ky. Derby or Corey Nakatani to ride his 1st Ky. Derby winner in 2014.***

21 Jan 2014 7:53 PM
Paula Higgins

He is a handsome boy and he looks like a total character too. Yes, it will be interesting to see Zenyatta's Tapit boy in action. Here's hoping. Nice article Steve.

21 Jan 2014 9:00 PM
Pedigree Ann

If the 6f mark of the Wood Memorial was in 1:11.40 as you write, then that trio covered the final 3 furlongs in 38.30 sec, since the final time for the race was 1:49.70. Those must have been tired horses. It may have been a close, thrilling finish, but none of them was running all that fast. It boded ill for all those horses going forward to the Derby.

IMHO, Tapit performed badly in the Kentucky Derby because he didn't get the distance. The sloppy track may have played a role in the debacle, but it was not the cause; he came from a good mud family, in that his dam's siblings, by a variety of sires, showed good mudding ability - she never tried the surface herself. The second dam was a mud winner and others of her siblings did well on the surface; another sibling, top sprinter/miler Glitterman, sired some good off-track horses, too, if my memory serves.

21 Jan 2014 10:02 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

MORE of this type of story, please.  And write a book once in a while with all these in them, will ya'?  

22 Jan 2014 12:27 AM

Jean in Chicago,

I am not sure if you have ever consumed Guinness but if not, you might have the reaction I had when I first tasted the brew. “This thing is not fit for human consumption” It is now one of my favorite brews despite its bitterness.

If you are incapable of handling the bitterness, pour a pint or two into blender and add a ½ can of sweetened condensed milk and blend. The combination makes for a very nice punch.

22 Jan 2014 7:50 AM

Jean in Chicago,

The combination of Guinness and sweetened condensed milk makes very nice milkshake.

22 Jan 2014 7:54 AM

Pedigree Ann

“IMHO, Tapit performed badly in the Kentucky Derby because he didn't get the distance”

I always take note your opinions based on your wealth of knowledge. No one can be certain that Tapit didn't get the Derby distance. Your opinion could be supported with the fact that he also ran poorly in the Florida and PA Derbies over 9F. However, there could be something more pertinent than a lack of ability to get 10F.

Tapit had repeated bouts with Lung infection and that could have adversely affected his respiratory system thus compromising his ability to be fully competitive in races over extended distances.

Finishing 2nd and 3rd to Tapit in the Wood were Master David and Eddington. Master David again finished behind him in the Derby and Eddington did not make the field. While Master David did not win any major races either at 9F or beyond, Eddington went on to win the Gulfstream Handicap, Pimlico Special and finished 3rd in the Preakness contested at 1 3/16M.

Tapit was sired by Pulpit a son of A P Indy and was out of an Unbridled mare. His 2nd dam was sired by 1970 British TC winner Nijinsky. There is certainly enough in his pedigree to be effective at 10F.

Ice Box was sired by Pulpit as well. He won the FL Derby in 1:49 plus and got several stops while en route to 2nd place in the Derby. His dam was sires by Tabasco Cat.

Dennis Of Cork closed from last to finish 3rd in the Derby won by Big Brown. His dam was sired by Unbridled. Was Dennis Of Cork a better 10F horse than Tapit?

Shackleford who was sired by Forestry led the 2011 Derby to the furlong pole and finished a gallant 4th. His dam was sired by Unbridled. Tapit finished 9th in the Derby. Was Shackleford a better 10F horse than Tapit?

Orb was sired by Malibu Moon a son of A P Indy and was out of an Unbridled mare. He did not record impressive time in any of his 9F victories. He won the Derby on a muddy track.

Tapit had repeated bouts with lung infections and that prevented the racing public seeing the full measure of the big grey. I do not believe it was beyond his capability to win at 10F.

22 Jan 2014 8:54 AM

Below is a list of horses extracted from the list of betting interest comprising the  1st KDFP. The list also contained he # of mare bred by their respective stallions in 2010.

Bobby’s Kitten – Kittens Joy - bred 173 mares

Coup de Grace – Tapit bred 169 mares

Havana – Dunkirk bred 186 mares

New Year’s Day – Street Cry bred 159 mares

Noble Moon – Malibu Moon bred 172 mares

Pablo Del Monte – Giants Causeway bred 217 mares

Ride On Curlin – Curlin bred 150 mares

Shared Belief  - Candy Ride bred 172 mares

Tap It Rich  - Tapit bred 169 mares

New Year's Day is already gone. Tapit It Rich must be a source of major concern as to whether he can provide a suitable return on his $500K purchase price due to   roughish behavior displayed in his last two starts. Bobby's Kitten really be on listed as he is unlikely to be directed to the Derby.

I am prepare to eat a health serving of crow if one the above progeny of of overbred stallions wins the Derby.

22 Jan 2014 10:52 AM
Fran Loszynski

What fantastic pics of Tapit! Love my Gainesway, the best thoroughbred farm. Hope you got to say Hi to Afleet Alex also Steve. Hope to see Alex this summer. I'll share my pics with you.  You are such a great photographer along with great stories. Tapit nibbling at his stall love it.  

22 Jan 2014 11:56 AM
Margaret Ann

I was a Tapit Fan in 2004.  I remember watching him fan wide. (He will NEVER get there.) Catch the front running horses. (O my GOD !) Pass them. (Yes, YES, Y-E-S !!!)  Win !  I think I grabbed my husband and dragged him off to the ... Jim thinks I am nuts anyhow, so jumping up and down, watching horseracing on T.V. does not bother him too much.  But he did wonder about me that day, as I was in tears when Tapit won.  I am so thrilled that Tapit has become an outstanding stallion as well as the unreal racehorse I always thought he was.

22 Jan 2014 12:44 PM
lunar spook

We can discuss the reasoning behind TAPITS poor derby performance being the weather , the distance ,breeding  , or whatever blah blah blah ! bottom line: NO ONE was gonna touch SMARTY JONES that day !

22 Jan 2014 12:52 PM

I am sure I am in the minority but I think that Tapit is an over rated sire - he (like his sire) only ran 6 times and retired (like his sire) due to injury - he produces offspring that sell for a lot and win early but seem to disappear early too - lots of retirements due to injury. I don't understand why so many breeders do look for sounder options.

22 Jan 2014 1:40 PM


Thank you for the link to Tapit's Wood Memorial. Great race! Tapit seemed to be looking around a bit as he ran, but he got the job done.

22 Jan 2014 2:25 PM

judging from those photos--do we need better horse

friendly barn construction?

22 Jan 2014 2:38 PM

Pedigree Ann, you may be right or you may be wrong about Tapit being able to get 10f. but if truth be told, unless they run clean you never really know.

Steve, have been waiting, and waiting for you to write about Tapit - he is the sire par excellence. His runners can be very quirky, especially the grays, but can the good ones run!! Georgious pictures of a beautiful horse.

22 Jan 2014 3:32 PM
Three D Invitation

What a great article and pictures. Tapit looks very well. Thank you.

Always considered Tapit underrated in his racing days.

Nice to see him doing well in the breeding shed.

22 Jan 2014 3:45 PM
lunar spook

MARGARET ANN - TAPITS career record was 3-0-0 in 6 starts , this is not what I would classify as an "unreal" racehorse

22 Jan 2014 4:25 PM


You do have a valid point regarding Tapit's progenies. They are good but lacking in durability. Horses sired by Giant's Causeway and the late Unbridles Song fall into this category as well.

Giant's Causeway and Medaglia D' Oro each bred 185 mares in 2009. They were not represented by a Derby starter in 2013.  

22 Jan 2014 5:18 PM
El Kabong

This is really warming things up Steve. No better way to start things off then by remembering the roads of Derbies past. I have a soft spot for Tapit. I remember Tapit's Derby run well. He was my pick that year when Rock Hard Ten was DQ'd in the Santa Anita Derby and failed to qualify. I remember Tapit's Wood effort too, because I had him singled in a pick 4. Forest Danger clubbed everyone in the Bayshore and my ringer Pico Central came through(it was his first race back east and as usual, he was ignored). The 4th leg was a claimer and I had half the field but it paid over a grand for a $12 dollar ticket. I had to root for Tapit after that effort and paycheck he gave me. Sure is nice to see his kids doing so well. Those pictures are great reminders of his character. A real treat seeing him again and thanks for sharing this insight on his journey. Always a pleasure to read these stories.

22 Jan 2014 5:18 PM
Tiz Herself

Awesome read as always Steve! Tapit is absolutely gorgeous and each year look forward to following his kids - my fav of his will always be Stardom Bound, however he has a few talented three year olds that should wreck havoc on the races this year! Of course there is Tapiture, Tap It Rich and Coup De Grace, but there is also:

Ontology - out of the King of Kings (by Sadler's Wells) mare Shytoe Lafeet, Ontology was runner up in the 6F Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Stakes. His last start he was 3rd in the Sham behind Midnight Hawk and Kristo.

Divine Energy - a roan colt out of the Storm Cat Mare Pure Symmetry (daughter of Serena's song) bred by The Robert & Beverly Lewis Trust and owned by winStar Farm. Eagerly waiting for this guy to break his maiden.

Juba - out of the Danzig Connection mare Adoradancer owned by Centennial Farms, a $250k KEESEP12 purchase

Areed - 1/2 brother to Kodiak Kowboy, unable to find race record on him thus far but he was a $450k FTAUG12 purchase

Matterhorn - owned by Coolmore connections and out of the Roy mare Winter Garden- broke his maiden at first asking on November 16, 2013 going a mile at Aqueduct

Constitution - out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, Constitution was a 7FL maiden winner at Gulfstream Park on January 11/14

Hartford - owned by Stonestreet Stables, out of the Editor's Note mare Tempting Note - broke maiden Jan 16/14 at Gulfstream Park.

And he has lots of promising fillies as well

Untapable, Cassatt, Dancing House, Playful Love, Walk Close, Riviera Romper (out of the mare Swap Fliparoo - whom I loved!), Let It Snow, etc. am sure there are others - cannot wait!

Thanks again Steve for taking me back to 2004 - who could forget that crop of three year olds? Along with Tapit, there was Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, Castledale (miss him!), Birdstone, Pro Prado, Rock Hard Ten, Quinton's Gold Rush, Read the Footnotes, Action This Day, Borrego, The Cliff's Edge, and the ladies Ashado, Madcap Escapade, Island Sand, Hollywood Story, Halfbridled, Stellar Jayne, etc.

Always rooting for Tapit!

- the year of Smarty Jones, Ghostzapper, Ouija Board (whom I hope to see her son Australia win some Euro classics this year!), Sweet Catomine, Ashado, Better Talk Now,  

22 Jan 2014 6:50 PM

Always nice, and very informative to read a trainer's account of his horse's "history". It's particularly compelling when it's a horse such as Tapit, an elite sire...Now let's try to put to rest some of this silly nonsense about his number of Derby starters or, for that matter, what should be expected from stallions with very large books. Those stallions, Tapit included, have little better than one chance in nine or ten of having an entrant in the Derby for any individual year. Stallions with smaller books have even lesser chance. It boils down to simple mathematics when one factors in N. American foal crop size, the Derby being nearly exclusively for colts, and an approx. 20 horse field. So, no matter how you slice it (even granting that some stallions are afforded far greater "opportunity" re larger books, etc.) the odds are still very much against any individual stallion having a Derby entrant for any given year.  

22 Jan 2014 7:48 PM

There is no doubt that Tapit is an elite sire. The information below was extracted from a popular publication:-

America’s leading yearling sire with 49 yearlings sold for $19.5M and average of $404K

Sire of twelve G1 winners, four champions, and four Breeder Cup winners.

11 Current Stakes winners; 32 stakes horses in 2013 & nearly $50M in progeny earnings.

2014 Stud Fee $150,000

Wow! This guy is very good as the numbers do not lie. If the above numbers are published to highlight certain categories of his success than those that highlight other categories no so favorable should not be deem either silly or irrelevant.

Despite Tapit’s large books and the resulting success of his progenies, his record of starters in the Derby is particular and Triple Crown in general is very poor. His record of starter in the TC series of races was highlighted based on the fact that nine of his progenies were cited as being on the Derby Trail. He certainly has the most on the Derby trail. What is the protect of any making the Derby based on past record? Remote!

Some of the points raised by the learned contributor are very valid. However, it must be assumed that when yearlings sired by an elite stallion are purchased for an average price of $400K, there are likely to be Derby and Triple Crown expectations.

Who would disagree that larger books provide greater opportunities for at least one Derby starter each year. This does not necessarily mean that will be the reality. Tapit seem to be going in the direction of his fellow overbred counterpart Giant’s Causeway who has only 4 Derby starters from nine 3YO crops to race with none hitting the board.

A stallion that appears to pass on unsoundness to its progenies should not be overbred as this will only make them even more fragile.

23 Jan 2014 10:40 AM

A couple of notes:

1. While it's true that Tapit has so far not shown much in the Triple Crown races, it's also true that most of his best runners have been fillies and most have done their best running at around a mile.  Nothing wrong with a sire who consistently produces graded stakes winners at 8-9f.

2. In terms of soundness, he has more than 20 stakes class horses with at least 20 career starts, and another 20+ with at least a dozen, which in this day and age of limited campaigns and early retirement is probably about as good as any.

23 Jan 2014 2:47 PM


Pure hogwash, as usual. You are attempting to refute what is, essentially, irrefutable. The numbers don't lie, nor do the probabilities. You may prefer it were otherwise, but it isn't. 1 + 1 is still 2, not 3... With that in mind, Giant's Causeway (to use one of your examples) actually did rather well to have (as you say)four Derby starters in nine 3 yr. old crops. This is especially true when one considers that GC is primarily a turf sire...And lastly, your anecdotal observations notwithstanding; "overbreeding" does not, and can not, cause unsoundness in the stallions' offspring. There is absolutely no scientific logic or evidence to support such a statement.  

23 Jan 2014 3:34 PM
Greg R

Is Tapit still as playful?

Someone mentioned Tapit's Stardom Bound, which Mike Smith called his Little Zenyatta.  She excelled on synthetic tracks, including the turf horse-friendly ProRide, which they had at the time.  Others mentioned that Tapit's progeny have not been very durable.  These facts together make me think that perhaps more Tapits should be running on the grass, which would be easier on them, physically, and they could probably go longer on the grass, as well.  I know that he has had some good grass horses, but maybe more of them should be pointed to turf races early in their careers.  After they have built up more strength and condition, they can try dirt and handle it better as more mature horses, instead of pounding their way down the Triple Crown trail as talented, but light and frail, horses.

24 Jan 2014 12:07 AM


“Nothing wrong with a sire who consistently produces graded stakes winners at 8-9f.”

I cannot disagree with the above. However, the Blog mentioned Tapit progenies that are on the Derby trail and not stakes winner. As you are aware the Derby is contested over 10F and is opened to fillies.

“In terms of soundness, he has more than 20 stakes class horses with at least 20 career starts, and another 20+ with at least a dozen.”

I am in no position to dispute your facts. However, I am viewing soundness in the contest of the TC races. In 2013 Tapit had 15 progenies comprising early nomination for the Derby. He had one starter in Normandy Invasion. That colt has not race since. His other Derby starter Hansen was injured after the Derby and retired. Tapit progenies are comparable to those of the late Unbridled Song i.e., fragile.

A contributor provided a list of 13 that have raced and I suspect there are more to come. The 3YO scene is loaded with Tapit progenies and I guess time will tell if my assessment is unfounded.

24 Jan 2014 12:40 AM

Thank you so much for your insight and photos of Tapit.  What a handsome fellow.  Love to watch his offspring and  of course, Zenyatta/Tapit baby will be one to watch.   You take great pictures.

24 Jan 2014 12:47 AM

“Pure hogwash, as usual.”

Hogwash: Nonsense as usual. That’s not very nice. Kindly display some decorum and apologize!

“You are attempting to refute what is, essentially, irrefutable. The numbers don't lie, nor do the probabilities”

Wow! You are certainly fired up with anger. What numbers are you referring to? If you have worked out probabilities for Derby starter based on large and small books and they are consistent with Tapit’s record of starters, then I accept your figures.  Are you aware the he had 15 of the 300 plus early Derby nominations in 2013 and only one starter?

“Your anecdotal observations notwithstanding; "overbreeding" does not, and cannot, cause unsoundness in the stallions' offspring.”

My English is nowhere near as good as yours.  Let’s examine the section of my post that relates to your quote above.

“A stallion that appears to pass on unsoundness to its progenies should not be overbred as this will only make them even more fragile.”

I have never equated unsoundness to overbreeding. What I have equated to overbreeding is fragility. You will note I did not state that overbreeding would make them more unsound but rather more fragile. Tapit’s horses are very soft and injury prone. Breeding him to almost 200 mares per year will not make them more durable.

NB: How starters sired by Giant’s Causeway contest the major turf races in the USA each year? BTW he is non-existent on European scene. He remains the king of the overbreds.

24 Jan 2014 1:14 AM
lunar spook

SCEPTRE , COLDFACTS: Not trying to butt in to u guys discussion , but do u think we are seeing an overall trend in fragility and unsoundness in horses because they are mainly being bred for speed over shorter distances ? we have no where near the classic 1 1/4 mile horses we had in the seventies because soundness and stamina are being bred out of them , that is to me the single biggest reason we have not had a triple crown in 35 yrs ! just this persons humble opinion , WHAT U SAY ?

24 Jan 2014 3:57 PM

Coldfacts, everyone is entitled to their theories but to some, your argument on Tapit's progeny tending to be 'fragile' because many have not run in the Kentucky Derby is specious, as has been pointed out.

Your argument could easily be applied to Malibu Moon's progeny with probably 'worse fragile' figures than Tapits based on your criteria of passing on 'fragility' because of the lack of numbers that have run in the Kentucky Derby.

Yet, Malibu Moon may have the best figures of any of the 'popular' commercial stallions because Orb won last year. You can extrapolate figures to argue any kind of 'rubbery solution' - economics, as an example.

24 Jan 2014 4:51 PM
Roxanne Yearout

When interviewed after Tapit's disappointing Derby run, I believe Dickinson said "I taught my horse to run, not swim." Classic.

24 Jan 2014 8:49 PM
Pedigree Ann

"America’s leading yearling sire with 49 yearlings sold for $19.5M and average of $404K" Yeah, and The Green Monkey sold for $15 million and was well beaten in all 4 races. High-priced weanlings/yearlings/2yos-in-training may make money for their breeders and/or pinhookers, but don't necessarily make it for their racing owners.

"Sire of twelve G1 winners, four champions, and four Breeder Cup winners.

11 Current Stakes winners; 32 stakes horses in 2013 & nearly $50M in progeny earnings."

Raw numbers can be very misleading. Suppose two stallions have 15 graded winners (in approximately even proportions of grades and purses) each on a year - which one is doing better? Which one will be higher on the leading sires list? If one stallion has only 50 horses racing, while the other has 300, the answer is that the 50-foal sire is doing better (30% graded SWs!), while 400-foal sire will undoubtedly be higher on sires list, because he has many more horses running and adding to his total. Isn't interesting that all of Tapit's BC winners did so at 1-1 1/16? And three did it at age 2? And none of those three were classic stars at 3?  

As to number of stakes horses, how many other Tapits were running during that same periods of time? 100? 200? 300? 500? It does make a difference to someone who understands how numbers work. Now if Tapit were getting 32% stakes horses from foals, like Hoist the Flag did in his day, that would be something, but I very much doubt that is the case.

Love Tapit all you like, but always be realistic when evaluating a stud career.  

24 Jan 2014 9:50 PM

Speaking of evaluating stud careers, I always remember a famous speech by the leading veterinarian of the time stating that "of the 3 leading sires he would have cut 2 of them." The one he would have left entire was A. P. Indy.

I remember when a stallion servicing 50 mares a year was considered high.

25 Jan 2014 3:15 AM

lunar spook:

Right on! Well said!

25 Jan 2014 6:53 AM

Lunar Spook,

You do have some valid points that merit the provision of some colt facts.

The winners of Triple Crown races have had moderate success as sires in the Derby and Preakness in the last 30 years. However, they have a 33.33% win record in the Belmont over the same period.

During this period only four Derby winners have been sired by the winners of TC races i.e., Swale, Grindstone, Mine That Bird and Charismatic.

These sires performed marginally better in the Preakness during the same period with five winners i.e., Risen Star, Charismatic, Red Bullet, Point Given and Bernardini.

They have dominated the Belmont with ten winners in the same period i.e., Swale, Risen Star, A P Indy, Colonial Affair, Point Given, Empire Maker, Birdstone, Rags To Riches, Summer Bird and Palace Malice.

Are the winners of TC races amongst the leaders with mares bred each year? No! In fact Belmont winners always have difficulties finding farm to stand them. Despite the fact that their Stud Fees are historically  low in comparison to those of brilliant millers, they are always underutilized.

Whilst in some circles speed kills, it is a major selling point in thoroughbreds breeding and racing circles. This is due to good old Beyers.  Like war, what are Beyes good for? Absolutely nothing!

The hope that an exceptionally fast horse will carry its speed will trump its stamina capability any and every time.

Speed will always dominate breeding and stamina will always be a distance second as horses can be given a series of exercises to carry their most important asset over a distance of ground.

25 Jan 2014 9:07 AM

 Steve, thanks for the interesting read on Tapit. I found this to be very useful information. In particular you wrote,"He had been recommended by Dr. David Lambert after Lambert performed a heart scan on the colt. "

How important is a heart scan in knowing the racing potential and breeding future for a horse? We as mere horseplayers would love to have this kind of information, early on in a horse's career. Did Tapit's scan show an extra large heart? Judging by the price paid, we could probably assume this to be the case.

On the topic of overbreeding a stallion, I was wondering if it is the frequency required for a large booking in a year or just the large number itself, as this could be important to know; because at the beginning of the bookings, what could make a difference in a stallion that breeds  50 times and is done for the year and a stallion that also has been bred 50 times, but still has another 100 to go for the year. The stallion certainly doesn't have any idea how many times he has been bred to, or how many he has to go. I disagree with those here who don't believe that environment(and by environment, we would definitely have to include the number of breedings in a year)can have an effect on the offspring. The latest studies in genetics have shown that environment does affect the genetics of offspring. Anyway, what conclusion can  be drawn on this topic without actually comparing the actual number or sequence of the offspring beig tracked. At what point does the frequency start to interfer? At the number 50 or when? There are still a lot of questions to be answere here.

26 Jan 2014 7:47 PM

I was at the 2004 Derby also; Tapit was my choice before the skies opened up.  No come-from-behind horse had a chance in that slop. Smart-*ss Jones only had to beat a few front runners. On a dry track, the outcome would have been very different.

30 Jan 2014 12:01 PM
lunar spook

BILLyRF - OH WHERE TO BEGIN ? TAPIT had a career record of 3-0-0 from 6 starts , I guess it rained every race ? sounds to me like you lost your a** at the race and want to blame it on a great horse like SMARTY JONES ! I raked up that day , too bad for you sport ! maybe you should try your luck at sunday bingo !

30 Jan 2014 1:12 PM

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