Thirty years ago the world thoroughbred breeding industry was rocked by the news that a little known investor beyond the shores of his own domestic economy had bought Gainesway Farm, then the pre-eminent rival for the number one spot as the leading stallion station in the firmament. Gainesway at the time was home to the breeding giants Blushing Groom, Lyphard, Riverman, Vaguely Noble and seemed to become home to the founder of yet another dynasty, Unbridled. Across the way at the Hancock's celebrated Claiborne Farm stood Mr Prospector, Nijinsky and the youthful Danzig, the bedrock between them of America's supremacy of the world of breeding.
Of course, those who knew Graham Beck, knew that it wouldn't be long before he became Kentucky's favourite dinner guest, with the acquisition next door of the fabled properties formerly belonging to America's "first family" the Whitneys, and the farm that had brought such fame to Idle Hour and to the operations of Colonel Bradley in a former era. If you've never been to Gainesway, you may never have seen one of the most spectacular farms in Kentucky, if not in the whole of America, straddling as it does the North Elkhorn Creek. Those who've followed these columns over many years may recall the solace which Mick Goss gained from the fact that he was a house guest of the family at the passing of his mother some 5 or 6 years ago; he has always maintained the balm he gleaned from being among his own in an environment so conducive to dealing with these things.
Of course the Beck family were no strangers to stallion success. Under the successive leaderships of Graham and Antony they enjoyed the unique largesse of a stream of champion sires going back to the peerless Persian Wonder, Elevation, Harry Hotspur, Jungle Cove, Golden Thatch, National Assembly, Badger Land and latterly, arguably the most influential of all, Dynasty. Even by the standards of the dominant stallion hegemony of the Birch Bros, whose reign at the top of our champion breeders' log endured decades, these are unprecedented.
While Gainesway under the stewardship of the late Graham's son, Antony, has not quite enjoyed the ascendency in stallion terms which it and Claiborne once enjoyed, they have at least uncovered one of the richest veins of genetic prowess since those days, it's an arguable proposition that in Tapit, they may well have reached into the richest vein of all.
Just this morning, Summerhill's old friend Andrew Caulfield has reminded us of the meteoric rise of their new gem from the time he first went to stud with relatively modest credentials; what a journey, and the best illustration of the thin red line that separates so many stallions that go to the wall and the very few that get to make a name for themselves.
Memories being as short as they are, it is easy to forget that two-time champion sire Tapit has not always been America's highest-priced stallion. Far from it, the Gainesway star initially made his name with crops sired at either $15,000 or $12,500 and it was only as recently as 2012, in his eighth year as a stallion, that his fee reached six figures. To be precise, it stood at $125,000, which placed him third on the list behind Bernardini and Street Cry, who were priced at $150,000.
Of course, his 2012 efforts in the breeding shed have resulted in an exciting crop of 3-year-olds which surely represents his best chance of siring his first Kentucky Derby (Gr.1) winner. The unbeaten Mohaymen still has the most Derby points (70), but last Saturday's Rebel Stakes (Gr.2) provided an opportunity for Tapit to strengthen his hand for Churchill Downs. With four sons among the 14 contenders at Oaklawn Park, Tapit supplied first, third, sixth and 12th, with victory going to the progressive Cupid. Cupid's success boosted him to fourth on the points table, with 50, while third-placed Creator gained a foot on the ladder with 10 points. Needless to say, this 2013 crop also made a considerable impact in the sales ring, with Tapit topping the sires' tables with an average price of $611,125 and a median of $527,500.
Tapit's Kentucky Derby hopefuls played a considerable part in this story, with Mohaymen supplying the top price of $2.2 million, while Cupid cost M.V. Magnier $900,000, making him the seventh highest-priced Tapit of 2014. I thought it might be interesting to track the other high-priced Tapits. Magnier also splashed out $1.2 million for the Dream Rush colt. Named Adios Reality, he has been unplaced in two starts. Next in order, at $1.15 million, was Propositioned, the She Be Wild filly which has yet to race. Mohaymen's buyers, Shadwell Estate Co., also paid $1.1 million for a colt out of Foxy Danseur and chose to send this youngster to Europe. Named Tathqeef, this colt made his debut over Wolverhampton's all-weather track last October, recording a comfortable victory over 1 3/16 miles. He has been given some Classic entries.
Of the two fillies which sold for $1 million, the one out of Rote has won two of her three starts, as 'TDN Rising Star' Royal Obsession, while Espresso Time, the daughter of Super Espresso, has yet to win in four attempts. The Rote filly was also one of the Tapit youngsters which were in great demand at the 2-year-old sales. The others were Inheritance, a record-setting $1.9-million filly who hasn't raced since she earned 'TDN Rising Star' status with a 16-length triumph at Belmont last October. M.V. Magnier also signed for another Tapit colt for $900,000. Named Kismet's Heels, he showed sufficient promise when second on his first two starts to be allowed to take his chance in the Palm Beach Stakes (Gr.3) last month. It is going to be interesting to review this bunch in a year's time, as there could be a few slow-burners here. But even if there are no other graded winners among them, Mohaymen and Cupid have done enough to justify buyers' enthusiasm.
The Coolmore team clearly have plenty of faith in Tapit's ability to establish a flourishing male line. They also paid $1 million for Dream Team, a year-older brother to Cupid. Dream Team proved less precocious than his younger brother, not making it to the races until the August of his sophomore season, but he was a MSW winner over a mile at Del Mar last November on the third of his five starts. A few of the Tapits seem to combine the odd quirk with their considerable talent and Cupid reminds me a little of Frosted, a creditable fourth in last year's Kentucky Derby. Frosted was also second in the Belmont, so can be included in the limited number of Tapits which have flourished over a mile and a quarter or more.
Thanks to his Belmont Stakes success, Tonalist has the distinction of being Tapit's only graded winner over a mile and a half. This small selection of stayers also includes the turf mare White Rose (Glens Falls Stakes (Gr.3) over 1 3/8 miles), Careless Jewel (Alabama Stakes (Gr.1) over a mile and a quarter) and Headache (Hawthorne Gold Cup (Gr.2) over a mile and a quarter). There's also Closing Bell (Dueling Grounds Derby) and Tedsta Matta (Japan Dirt Derby). So what are Cupid's chances of shining over a mile and a quarter? He certainly didn't look to be stopping at the end of the Rebel Stakes, so he definitely can't be ruled out at this stage. There have to be a few worries, though, about his potential stamina.
At first glance it seems helpful that his broodmare sire is that tough and versatile performer Beau Genius, winner of the Arlington Challenge Cup over a mile and a quarter. However, that success came as a 5-year-old (when Beau Genius remarkably collected nine stakes victories from 14 starts). Prior to that year, the son of Bold Ruckus had done all his winning at up to 1 1/16 miles and six of his wins as a 5-year-old came at around seven furlongs, so he possessed plenty of speed.
As a stallion Beau Genius enjoyed Grade 1 success with the American sprinter Big Macher and the Irish 2-year-old seven furlong winner Belle Genius. As a broodmare sire, he owes much of his success to Cupid's dam Pretty 'n Smart, who now has four stakes winners to her credit. Pretty 'n Smart finished third in a couple of stakes as a 3-year-old, firstly over seven furlongs and then over five and a half.
Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News