By Alan Carasso
At almost no point during the opening 6 1/2 furlongs of Saturday's GIII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby did things look particularly promising for Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable's heavily favored Tapit Trice (Tapit).
But in a stretch rally befitting his status as a 'TDN Rising Star', the $1.3-million Keeneland September graduate went through his gears and whistled home to–somewhat unbelievably–post an open-lengths victory over Classic Car Wash (Noble Bird) and Classic Legacy (Into Mischief), the third- and fourth-place finishers, respectively, in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. four weeks back.
One of the last to take up his spot in stall six, Tapit Trice was sluggishly into stride, was clearly last through the opening exchanges and was niggled along by Luis Saez before the field had entered the clubhouse turn. Longshot Dreaming of Kona (Fast Anna) took them into the backstretch, but as the half-mile went up in :46.96, Tapit Trice was under even heavier urging three off the fence and Saez even had to resort to a right-handed slap of the crop down the neck of his mount to keep his mind on the increasingly tall task at hand.
Still scrubbed along vigorously at the three-eighths marker and racing with just three rivals behind him at that stage, Tapit Trice was wheeled out about seven wide into the stretch, with plenty of work to do. Classic Car Wash, four wide the trip, came calling for the lead outside of Dreaming of Kona just inside the eighth pole, but Tapit Trice finally hit top gear, wrested command with 70 yards to race and remarkably put a margin on the competition.
“It took him a while to get on track but I was very impressed down the lane,” said Pletcher, winning the race for a record-extending sixth time. “He finished up the way we expected him to. He certainly seems like the farther he goes, the stronger he gets. He's got a big, long stride. Once he got clear down the lane, he really extended himself and I loved the way he finished up. He relished the two turns and the longer he goes, the better he'll get.
Pletcher continued, “Luis fits him well. He understands the way he needs to be ridden and he knows he's not going to come out of the gate quickly. He gave him plenty of time to get going. I feel like he is still learning, though he got a good education today. But he's a horse that I think still needs a little more racing experience to completely put everything together.”
Pletcher indicated that Tapit Trice's final Kentucky Derby prep could come in the GI Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland Apr. 8.
Tapit Trice becomes the 100th worldwide graded/group winner for his Gainesway-based stallion. He is the fourth son of Tapit to win this particular Derby, joining Ring Weekend (2014), the Pletcher-conditioned future GI Belmont S. hero and now fellow Gainesway sire Tapwrit (2017) and Tacitus (2019).
“Thanks to Mandy Pope for letting me stay in on this lovely colt,” said Tapit Trice's breeder, Gainesway's Antony Beck. “We knew he is a very talented colt and we thought he had a very good chance today.”
Added Pope: “It was awesome–just the whole team from Whisper Hill Farm, Gainesway, Todd Pletcher–it takes a mountain of people to be in this position, but the horse is the one who did it. I lost track of him in the race and thought he was never going to make it up, but once he got free he ate up the ground.”
A useful third on his one-mile debut at Aqueduct the day after the Breeders' Cup Nov. 6, Tapit Trice defeated next-out winner and recent GIII Gotham S. runner-up Slip Mahoney (Arrogate) in a muddy mile event in South Ozone Park Dec. 17. Despite earning a lofty 87 Beyer for that effort, Tapit Trice was the somewhat surprising 13-10 second choice behind 9-10 stable companion Shesterkin (Violence) in a Feb. 4 allowance at Gulfstream, in which he turned on the afterburners in the lane to score by eight lengths.
Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner Tapit Trice as a #KeeSept yearling! https://t.co/qOScSyoh2E
— Keeneland Sales (@keenelandsales) March 12, 2023
Also a 159th black-type winner for his sire, Tapit Trice is bred on the exact same cross as two-time Eclipse Award and three-time Grade I winner Unique Bella, Grade II winner West Coast Belle and Grade III victor Capensis. Additional graded winners by Tapit out of Unbridled-line mares include Valiance and the aforementioned Tacitus.
The winner's now 11-year-old dam, a $5,500 Keeneland November weanling and $10,000 Fasig-Tipton October Yearling, was knocked down to Gainesway for $105,000 at the 2014 OBS April Sale and went on to be a three-time stakes and Grade III-placed winner of better than $312,000 while under the care of Steve Asmussen. She visited Union Rags in her first year at stud in 2018 and saw her and her family's value appreciate when her three-quarter sister Jaywalk (Cross Traffic) earned an Eclipse Award with her victory in that year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Jaywalk's first foal, a now 2-year-old colt by the late Duramente (Jpn), was sold for ¥300 million (US$2,205,927) at last year's JRHA Select Sale.
Hailing from the female family of the capable graded winners Mission Impazible and Forest Camp, Tapit Trice has 2-year-old and yearling full-sisters and Danzatrice was unsurprisingly bred back to Tapit.
Saturday, Tampa Bay Downs
LAMBHOLM SOUTH TAMPA BAY DERBY-GIII, $360,000,
Tampa Bay Downs, 3-11, 3yo, 1 1/16m, 1:43.37, ft.
1–TAPIT TRICE, 120, c, 3, by Tapit
1st Dam: Danzatrice (MSW & GSP, $312,145), by Dunkirk
2nd Dam: Lady Pewitt, by Orientate
3rd Dam: Spin Room, by Spinning World
'TDN Rising Star' 1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($1,300,000
Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-Whisper Hill Farm, LLC and Gainesway
Stable (Antony Beck); B-Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY);
T-Todd A. Pletcher; J-Luis Saez. $210,000. Lifetime Record:
4-3-0-1, $310,150. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus* Click
for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free
Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Classic Car Wash, 120, g, 3, Noble Bird–East Lake Classic, by
Orientate. ($105,000 2yo '22 OBSMAR). O-Gary Barber;
B-Sherry R. Mansfield & Kenneth H. Davis (FL); T-Mark E.
3–Classic Legacy, 120, c, 3, Into Mischief–Distorted Legacy, by
Distorted Humor. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE.
O/B-W. Bruce Lunsford (KY); T-William I. Mott. $35,000.
Margins: 2, 1 1/4, 1HF. Odds: 0.50, 13.10, 6.00.
Also Ran: Prairie Hawk, Lord Miles, Dreaming of Kona,
Shesterkin, Groveland, Zydeceaux, Mikey Bananas,
Champions Dream, Freedom Road.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO,
sponsored by TVG.
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