Trice Bred to Beat the Traffic

Tapit Trice | Lauren King


In a horse otherwise so well equipped for the Triple Crown trail, it's a major concern still to be quoting Milton every time the gates open: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

As such, Tapit Trice (Tapit) looks like proving quite a test of the GI Kentucky Derby preparation favored by modern trainers. For all the thrilling power and fluency of his action, he's still all thumbs in terms of his professionalism. The way he got himself out of trouble in the GIII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby last Saturday demonstrated all the necessary caliber, but the challenge now is whether he can harness that raw ability to equivalent craft in time for the first Saturday in May.

Nowadays even the latest developers are kept to a light schedule. A horse like Justify was so brilliant that he could manage perfectly well without the kind of mental and physical conditioning once considered essential by the old school. But every one of these adolescent racehorses is different. Some will have needed time to mature into their frame, others may have been unavoidably detained by setbacks. In either case, it ultimately boils down to how naturally or otherwise they take to their vocation.

While Tapit Trice should have learned plenty last Saturday, and will get one more tutorial, quite a few people seem to have decided that the Derby is going to prove too much, too soon. Some, indeed, are already marking him down for the GI Belmont S. instead.

If he could hear that, Tapit Trice's sire would probably give a snort of irritation. As the only modern stallion with four Belmont winners, Tapit still needs to nail the Derby to complete one of the great resumes of the modern breed. But we discussed all that in Saturday's edition, in looking ahead to the stakes debut of his latest star. So this time we're going to take a look at the other half of his pedigree, and ask how that may be contributing to his evolution into one of the most exciting talents of the crop.

In doing so, we actually find ourselves at once obliged to pay the same compliments to Antony Beck and his Gainesway team as we do for their management of Tapit's stud career. For with a mixture of luck and judgement, they have presided over a fairly spectacular blossoming in a family lately so pedestrian that Danzatrice (Dunkirk), the dam of Tapit Trice, twice changed hands in her youth for a relative pittance.

Bred by Glenn Justiss, she was sold as a weanling at the Keeneland November Sale of 2012 for just $5,500 to Curtis Spencer and her first pinhook cycle proved fairly pointless, sold to Grassroots Training & Sales for $10,000 at Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale. The next one, however, yielded a nice return as Gainesway picked her out for $105,000 after she clocked a :10 1/5 breeze at OBS the following April.

Sent into training with Cathal Lynch, she confirmed that precocity (though an Apr. 26 foal) by winning over 4 1/2 furlongs on debut at Parx that summer, and was beaten a head on her only other juvenile start before resuming with two wins (include the Parx Oaks) that earned a crack at the GI Acorn S., where she ran a creditable fourth. After a flat run next time, she was given a break and resurfaced in the care of Steve Asmussen, for whom she persevered to stakes wins at four and five before rounding off with a graded stakes podium in the GIII Groupie Doll S.

Danzatrice retired with a record of seven-for-15 for over $300,000, showing her best form around a mile on dirt. Her principal service at that stage, however, had probably been to flash enough talent to prompt the Gainesway team to approach her breeders with a private offer for Danzatrice's dam, Lady Pewitt (Orientate). One doubts quite how far their pursuit of the mare, then turning 12, can have been stimulated by the foal she was carrying by the $12,500 Spendthrift rookie Cross Traffic. But that did make Gainesway the breeder of record of a filly they sold to John Servis for $190,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

Racing for a partnership of D.J. Stable LLC and Cash is King LLC, the Cross Traffic filly emulated her dam as a Parx sprint maiden winner–but then progressed to become her sire's breakout star, crowning a championship campaign as winner of the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. For this is none other than Jaywalk, whose kinship would generate a stunning yield for Gainesway at Keeneland the following September when they presented Lady Pewitt's daughter by Empire Maker.

This filly made $2 million from Shawn Dugan, acting for Al Shira'aa. That operation's manager recently explained to colleague Emma Berry that Gainesway retained a stake–and, while she was ultimately unraced, the investment could yet pay off now that Tapit Trice is threatening to turn the family into one of the most dynamic in the land.

Obviously the intervention of Tapit means that anything can happen. But remember that Cross Traffic had already sparked into life a mare who, like her daughter Danzatrice, secured little market interest in her youth.

Before looking at their background, let's remind ourselves about Danzatrice's sire Dunkirk, who was quickly discarded to Japan after starting his stud career at Ashford. Dunkirk's physique and pedigree (by Unbridled's Song out of GI Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status {A.P. Indy}) were such that he made $3.7 million as a yearling at Keeneland, and he offered to justify even that outlay when romping in his first two starts as a sophomore at Gulfstream. He made a laudable attempt to reel in Quality Road in the GI Florida Derby, but never emerged from the slop at Churchill after stumbling at the gate. He then ran second in the Belmont, running through a fracture, and that was the last we saw of him.

Though leading freshman by earnings in 2013, thanks notably to the GI Champagne S. success of Havana, Dunkirk was sold to Japan as early as the following summer. And while we have become accustomed to the Japanese having rather the better of such transactions, Dunkirk was not a case in point and has since been moved on again to Chile.

The bottom line is that if Tapit Trice does become a champion, he will join the long list of those to have done so with some pretty exotic seeding to his maternal line. For Danzatrice's dam Lady Pewitt was a $13,000 yearling by Orientate out of an unraced Spinning World mare.

Besides Jaywalk herself, Orientate does have another outstanding hit as a broodmare sire in that another daughter produced juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby (Harlan's Holiday). Orientate and his sire Mt. Livermore very much comprised a speed brand within the diverse portfolio put together by Blushing Groom (Fr), who of course contributed a chapter of his own to the earlier history of Gainesway.

Lady Pewitt managed only one start, fourth of seven in a Woodbine sprint, but she has now produced an Eclipse Award winner and the dam of Tapit Trice. So what kind of genetic embers might have been stoked up here?

Well, the first clue is that her dam Spin Room made as much as $450,000 as a weanling. Okay, so she was from the debut crop of a stallion who then still clung to his racetrack stardust, in Spinning World. But more pertinent was the fact that her half-brother Forest Camp (Deputy Minister) had recently won the GII Del Mar Futurity and indeed, albeit rather disappointing, just started hot favorite for the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Later siblings, moreover, would confirm that there must be useful blood in the vicinity, most significantly GII Louisiana Derby winner and millionaire Mission Impazible (Unbridled's Song). He was bred by Summer Wind Farm from La Paz (Hold Your Peace), acquired as a foundation mare for $1.6 million following the emergence of her son Forest Camp. La Paz also gave Summer Wind the stakes-winning filly Kiddari (Smarty Jones) to keep that branch of the family going.

Though it has since receded from view for those who think that pedigrees fall off the edge of the world once leaving a catalogue page, La Paz channelled some highly aristocratic blood. Her granddam was a half-sister to several elite runners: champion sophomore filly Tempest Queen (Graustark); five-time graded stakes winner Love You By Heart (Nijinsky); and Steal A Kiss (Graustark), who was placed six times at Grade I level. Behind these, you'll find three generations of Greentree mares culminating in the Bimlette–bred by Colonel Bradley, and sister to the second dam of Never Bend and Bold Reason.

So while this branch of the family had cooled off by the time Lady Pewitt and Danzatrice were offered as yearlings, that was largely the work of some pretty unhelpful sires through the previous generation or two. There had always lurked a bedrock of quality.

That, no doubt, is ancient papyrus to some of you. A more recent genetic credit, in that case, may be offered to Unbridled's Song. Lady Pewitt's vendors had noticed how he had clicked with the family to produce Mission Impazible and how Danzatrice had now done well for his son Dunkirk. Their strategy in sending the mare to another son, Cross Traffic, was certainly vindicated by Jaywalk–albeit presumably in fairly bittersweet fashion, by that stage!

In mating Danzatrice with their champion sire, meanwhile, the Gainesway team conspicuously doubled down on two Classic dirt brands: Dunkirk is by a son of Unbridled out of an A.P. Indy mare; while Tapit himself is by a son of A.P. Indy out of an Unbridled mare. Since Dunkirk's third dam was by Alydar and his fourth by a son of Ribot (GB), you can see why Tapit Trice might only be hitting top gear as late as he did last weekend.

So while Orientate and Spinning World may be somewhat typical of the sires that had briefly dulled this family, they may yet have a say in the fulfilment of Tapit Trice. He is plainly going to have no trouble finishing a race, but perhaps their relative speed will help as he sharpens up his start.

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