Saturday Sires: Tapit

Tapit and Pedro Venegas at Gainesway | Sarah Andrew


While Ashford young gun Justify was busy making waves over the pond this weekend, it was Gainesway's time-tested sire royalty who quietly added to his legacy on American shores.

No matter how you slice it, one stallion in North America–and only one–leads all active lifetime sires by every major category, be it earnings, black-type winners, graded winners, Grade I winners, and even lifetime starters and winners. Unmatched among living active sires, Tapit hasn't had bigger crops than the other stallions on the list (he ranks third among the top 10 by named foals). Nor has he had more crops, as two of the other stallions in the top 10 are also sending their 17th crop to the races this year and most of the rest aren't far behind.

What Tapit does have is sustained excellence. From his first crop to his current runners and through both his sons and his daughters in the breeding shed, Tapit's influence is felt in all corners. To illustrate, one needs to simply take a look at the 10 graded races run in North America this past Saturday. He sired the winner of one (Scylla, GIII Shawnee S.) and was the broodmare sire of two more (Happy Jack, GII Triple Bend S.; and Circle of Trust, GIII Honeymoon S.), while a son sired the winner of another one (Pin Up Betty, by Constitution, GIII Regret S.), and he had two more hit the board, one as sire (Tyson, second in the GII Eclipse S.) and another as broodmare sire (Dreamlike, third in the GIII Blame S.).

“There have been great stallions that have stood at the historic grounds here at Gainesway Farm,” said Ryan Norton, stallion director at the storied farm on Paris Pike. “There have been the likes of Bold Bidder, Lyphard, Riverman, Sharpen Up, Unbridled, and Empire Maker, but I don't believe that any have had the success or have shaped the breed as much as Tapit has. People will talk about this horse for years to come like they do with Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector.”

How right he is.

Winchell Thoroughbreds–the same Winchell entity heavily involved with another sire sensation in Gun Runner–purchased Tapit for $625,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September sale and sent him to Michael Dickinson, who trained him to an undefeated two-for-two juvenile campaign and a game GI Wood Memorial S. win at three. The latter was despite the horse having just recovered from a lung infection at the time.

The son of Pulpit had the race record and he had the right female family–his dam was a half to champion and sire Rubiano from the same family as excellent stallion Relaunch–but Tapit himself would turn out to be the most significant notch in the family's belt.

“Mr. [Antony] Beck and the Gainesway team were obviously very excited about that female family having come from the same family as Relaunch and Rubiano,” said Norton. “The fact that he was out of an Unbridled mare and is line bred to Nijinsky also did not hurt.”

Tapit was retired to Gainesway for the 2005 season for an advertised $15,000, which later dropped to $12,500 until his first runners emerged. Much has been made of the vintage sire crop of 2005: four sires who entered stud that year remain in the top 50 sires of 2024: Medaglia d'Oro, the late Speightstown, Candy Ride (Arg), and Tapit. All four have been stellar sires, but there's only one Tapit.

Tapit right now is the king,” said Norton. “He is the No. 1 active sire by lifetime stakes winners, graded stakes winners, and Grade I winners. In 2023, he achieved the milestone of having his 100th graded stakes winner and his 200th graded stakes win with 31 Grade I winners.

“He is 23 and comes into the shed every day acting like he is 13. He very much is still very excited to do his job and continues to be successful in getting mares pregnant.”


TDN Stallions: Tapit from Thoroughbred Daily News on Vimeo.


Tapit kicked off his career and his first crop with his first champion, Stardom Bound–who won the 2008 Eclipse for top 2-year-old filly, won the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and captured four other Grade I races–but he didn't stop there. His initial crop contained 14 stakes winners, half of them graded winners, and four Grade I winners.

Ink wells would go dry if we listed all of Tapit's accomplishments, so we'll simply focus on a few of the most dizzying heights: six U.S. champions, 164 black-type winners, 103 graded winners, 31 Grade I winners, and over $208 million in progeny earnings, the later a North American record. He's had 53 'TDN Rising Stars', an all-time TDN record. He's had group winners in Australia, Japan, and Dubai, as well as seven individual Breeders' Cup winners.

Tapit is an industry unto himself with his yearlings having sold for a staggering combined total of more than $255 million. And just when it seems Tapit couldn't possibly top himself, he sets the bar higher.

His four GI Belmont S. winners are a record, tied only with the legendary sire of yesteryear, Lexington. In addition, one son has already sired a Belmont winner and a daughter has produced one. It's possible Tapit could add to the list this week. While he doesn't have an entrant this year, his son, Constitution, does (Mindframe).

In 2016, two of his daughters dead heated in the GI Spinaway S. A dead heat in a Grade I race is rare enough, but to have both winners by the same sire? Unprecedented.

After all that, when it couldn't be imagined what else Tapit could possibly do, his 2018 crop emerged. It contained four Grade I winners, career defining for many stallions but nothing new for him. This group was extra special, however. One member was champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old Essential Quality, while another was undefeated 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline, who is widely considered the best and most exciting horse of modern times.

But there's more: “In 2023, he added another feather to his cap when he became leading broodmare sire in North America,” said Norton.

Tapit's daughters have already produced 105 black-type winners, including 53 graded winners. For a glimpse of his daunting prowess through his daughters, one needs only look at the 2023 Eclipse champions: Horse of the Year and repeat Breeders' Cup winner Cody's Wish, champion 3-year-old and Belmont winner Arcangelo, and champion 3-year-old filly and GI Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous.

There's a long list of his sons at stud, but perhaps the best indicator of his exploits is this: of a dozen stallions standing in Kentucky for six figures, Tapit and two of his sons (Constitution and Flightline) are three of them. That makes Tapit responsible for a mind-boggling 25% of the six-figure stallions in North America.

Tapit's entire stud career has been a prolonged fairy tale and it's a long way from the end. A Winchell homebred filly named Tapit First was his first juvenile winner of 2024 in April at Keeneland. The crop includes four seven-figure sales yearlings and a seven-figure OBS March 2-year-old. There's also a crop of Tapit yearlings waiting in the wings, as well a crop of current foals. Tapit covered another book this spring.

“Due to his age, we limit him to 85 mares per year,” said Norton. “In 2024, it looks like he will breed a book in the neighborhood of 80 mares.”

If the only concession made to his age is a slightly limited book, what delights still await us? Tapit is not one to rest on his laurels. He shows no signs of relinquishing his chokehold on the sire lists, nor of ruling the roost as the pride of Gainesway.

“He is the old hand here at the farm. He has his daily routine memorized and, trust me, he knows when you are five minutes late with his feed and will let you know it,” said Norton. “At this point he could probably turn himself out into his paddock and know when it was time to come back in, but he definitely likes to have things done his way.”

Clearly the whole package, the gray Tapit even looks like a classic horse from a fairy tale. His enchanted story is one which will continue to influence the sport for generations to come and in which we all get to enjoy witnessing a 'happily ever after.'

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