By Sid Fernando
Constitution, by Tapit from Baffled, by Distorted Humor, is the new rising star in the WinStar stallion barn. As of Thursday, Constitution was ranked second behind American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) on the first-crop sire list with less than $25,000 separating the two as the high-dollar and game-changing Breeders' Cup races loom in a few weeks, but he leads the list with three graded winners, one of which is Gl Champagne S. winner Tiz the Law, a leading juvenile colt this year. Constitution stood his first season at stud in 2016 for $25,000 and was down to $15,000 by 2019, but will cover mares at a $40,000 fee for next year based on the success he's shown so far. WinStar has had “over 100 applications without soliciting,” said Elliott Walden, the farm's president, CEO, and racing manager by phone on Thursday. Nothing speaks of success like demand.
Bred by the partnership of Grapestock LLC and Fox Hill Farms in Kentucky and campaigned by Twin Creeks and WinStar, 'TDN Rising Star' Constitution was unraced at two, won the Gl Besilu Florida Derby at three and the Gl Donn H. at four, and went to stud with a record of four wins from eight starts and $1,031,596 in earnings. At 16.1 hands, he's a tall and leggy bay Tapit who'd cost Twin Creeks and WinStar $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale in 2012, and he's that rare well-bred yearling purchase that more than made back his auction price on the racetrack. Syndicated upon retirement with both WinStar and Twin Creeks retaining sizeable interests, the horse was popular at stud from the beginning, and now with a successful first crop of 2-year-olds behind him, his connections are set to reap even more rewards next year.
Constitution was trained by Todd Pletcher, who, by the way, should be anointed as a stallion maker, not just at WinStar, where he trained the farm's More Than Ready (Southern Halo), Speightstown (Gone West), Always Dreaming (Bodemeister), Audible (Into Mischief), Commissioner (A.P. Indy), Daredevil (More Than Ready), Outwork (Uncle Mo), Overanalyze (Dixie Union) and Super Saver (Maria's Mon), but for his incredible mark on this year's first-crop list alone. In addition to No. 2 Constitution, he trained No. 3 Competitive Edge (Super Saver), No. 4 Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), No. 5 Khozan (Distorted Humor), No. 6 Palace Malice (Curlin), and No. 10 Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway)–who's also at WinStar.
WinStar appears as if it can do no wrong these days. It was just last year that the entity raced Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) as the majority owner and cashed out on his windfall sale to Coolmore, and without skipping a beat the farm has developed Constitution as a potential heir to leading sire Tapit and also bred perhaps the most impressive 2-year-old colt of the year, 'Rising Star' Eight Rings (Empire Maker), a $520,000 Keeneland September yearling trained by Bob Baffert for an ownership group that includes some of WinStar's old partners in Justify, SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing, and Madaket. Eight Rings enters the Gl Breeders' Cup Juvenile off a terrifically impressive six-length win in the Gl American Pharoah S. at Santa Anita, and a win in the Breeders' Cup will have some important and strategic implications for WinStar. For one, it would likely give a WinStar-bred colt an Eclipse Award, but perhaps as importantly, it could keep some of the other first-crop sires from grabbing first-place money in a race that Constitution's best colt Tiz the Law, who was bred by Twin Creeks, is expected to bypass.
Team Valor's promising Todd Pletcher-trained Constitution colt Gouverneur Morris, in which WinStar purchased a leg before the colt's winning nine-length debut at Saratoga on Sept. 2 that earned 'Rising Star'-dom, is also out of consideration for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after a distant second-place finish in the Gl Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland–run on the same day as Tiz the Law's Champagne triumph at Belmont.
“We've laid him up and are just going to give him a bit of a freshening, getting ready for his 3-year-old campaign,” Walden said. “Barry [Irwin of Team Valor] did the same thing with [future Gl Kentucky Derby winner] Animal Kingdom. You know, he wanted to do it, and I agreed with it. I liked his race in the Breeders' Futurity, but I felt like, give him a little break now, he's had two runs, and get him ready for the Classics was the way to go.”
Tiz the Law is a New York-bred colt owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, the same connections that were behind Distorted Humor's first-crop Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, so there's some dé jà vu surrounding the colt, especially as Constitution was produced from a daughter of WinStar's elder statesman–who, incidentally, was trained by Walden. Tagg, a conservative horseman, didn't race Funny Cide in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he's already been bolder with Tiz the Law, sending him to the Champagne off a New York-bred maiden special weight win, whereas Funny Cide was kept to two New York-bred black-type races following his winning debut. Tagg has said he will run Tiz the Law next in the Gll Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill instead of the Breeders' Cup, and a win there will allow his sire to pick up additional funds with a month remaining to decide the freshman sire championship.
“We might lose [the first-crop sire championship] because of it,” Walden said of the colt missing the Breeders' Cup, but he was sanguine about the possibility. “I think, in the long run, we're going to have better 3-year-olds,” he said, noting that Constitution was unraced at two and was a spring 3-year-old Grade l winner who came back at four to win another race at the highest level.
Constitution is represented by 15 winners to date versus 16 for the Triple Crown winner, but with so many of American Pharoah's winners coming on turf and in Europe, Constitution so far has outperformed his rival on the dirt, although he's got an up-and-coming turf colt, too. His other two stakes winners are 'Rising Star' Amalfi Sunrise, winner of the Gll Sorrento S. at Del Mar; and By Your Side, first in the Glll Sanford S. at Saratoga; but he's also represented by WinStar-bred Our Country, a Saratoga maiden winner on turf who came back at Belmont to place third by 1 1/4 lengths in the Glll Pilgrim S. on turf, giving Constitution five stakes horses to date.
“Our Country got troubled trips in his last couple of starts, but he's a very nice horse that we bred, and we're hopeful he'll run in the Breeders' Cup [Juvenile Turf],” Walden said, noting that Our Country is out of a Tiznow mare like Tiz the Law. “It seems like what's coming to the fore, at least initially, is that he's had two good runners out of Tiznow mares and two from the Unbridled line.”
Amalfi Sunrise is from an Empire Maker mare and Gouverneur Morris is out of a mare by Unbridled's Song.
Both Tiznow, whose paternal grandsire Relaunch is a full-brother to Tapit's third dam Moon Glitter (both by In Reality from Foggy Note, by The Axe ll); and Unbridled, Tapit's broodmare sire, have had success with Tapit and some of his first sons at stud, and breeders are duplicating these successful patterns.
Tapit has 11 black-type winners with Relaunch within five generations of a mare's pedigree, and one of them was his exported Grade ll-winning son Concord Point, who was inbred to the siblings Moon Glitter and Relaunch 4×3. In turn, Concord Point's best runner was Grade l winner American Gal, who brought another strain of Relaunch to her pedigree through her dam, creating the inbreeding pattern 5x4x4 to Moon Glitter and Relaunch. In the case of Tapit's Grade l winner and champion Unique Bella, she has both Relaunch and Unbridled's Song–her broodmare sire–in her pedigree, and Unbridled is duplicated 3×3 while Moon Glitter and Relaunch are 4×5.
Tapit has seven black-type winners with Unbridled within five generations of a mare's pedigree, and this list includes Grade I winner Sweet Loretta (3×3 Unbridled) and Grade ll winners West Coast Belle (3×3 Unbridled) and Tacitus (3×4 Unbridled), in addition to Unique Bella.
Walden also noted that Constitution's graded winner By Your Side and the impressive Belmont debut winner and 'Rising Star' Aurelia Garland are from Dixie Union mares, and that's an interesting development because Dixie Union's broodmare sire Capote is by Seattle Slew, who's also in Tiznow's pedigree. Though a Seattle Slew-line sire himself through A.P. Indy, Tapit has enjoyed success with mares that have Seattle Slew or A.P. Indy in their pedigrees, and altogether he has at least 17 black-type winners bred this way, including Grade l winners Tapwrit (4×4 Seattle Slew), Sweet Loretta (3×4 A.P. Indy), Frosted (4×4 Seattle Slew), and Constitution himself (4×5 Seattle Slew). Sons of Tapit that have had success this way include Tapizar, with Grade l winner and champion Monomoy Girl (5×4 Seattle Slew); Constitution, with Tiz the Law (5x6x5 Seattle Slew); Trappe Shot; and Concord Point.
When Constitution went to stud, horses like Concord Point, Trappe Shot, champion Hansen, Tapizar, and Flashback were Tapit's first representatives in Kentucky, but there was a perception at the time that the Tapits weren't clicking as they should as stallions. Aside from the useful Tapizar, Concord Point, Trappe Shot, and Hansen have since been exported and Flashback was sent to Pennsylvania (and belatedly was represented earlier this month by his first Grade l winner, British Idiom), but this year Tapit has several other promising sons on the first-crop list in addition to Constitution. They include Darby Dan's Tapiture at No. 8 with 15 winners, Spendthrift's Race Day at No. 12 with four black-type winners, and Lane's End's Tonalist at No. 15 with nine winners and more expected of his runners next year as a Gl Belmont S. winner.
Constitution is the cream of this group, and Walden attributes some of the horse's success on the track and at stud to broodmare sire Distorted Humor, who he believes has calmed some of the hot blood that Tapit tends to pass on.
“I think he brings the great quality of Distorted Humor to the Tapit line and that gives him a great mind. His horses just seem to have the same grit that Distorted Humor possesses. Plus, physically, he's just such a well-balanced horse, bigger than a lot of Tapits, and very athletic, and he's got a great family underneath him. That [combination] is really what's separating him from the other Tapits that have gone to stud.”
If the early perception becomes hardened reality in the next few years, in Constitution Tapit may have that top-class sire that seems to elude so many excellent stallions.
Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.