When handicappers glance over the field for this year’s Belmont Stakes one horse will play a big part in their picks: Tacitus.
Is it because he placed third in the Kentucky Derby? Perhaps. Is it because he will have had five weeks off before the long 1 1/2 mile race? Maybe.
Is it because he’s a Tapit colt? More than likely.
Few sires have dominated the Belmont Stakes as much as the 18-year-old son of Pulpit. Not since Man o’ War has a horse sired so many Belmont winners as Tapit: Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016, and Tapwrit in 2018. (Frosted would have won the 2015 Belmont had he not run into the juggernaut that was American Pharoah.) The three wins ties Tapit with Man o’ War, Fair Play (Man o’ War’s sire), and Australian with three sons winning the Belmont.
You could call Tapit the Woody Stephens of sires. (Stephens won five Belmont Stakes, almost twice as many wins as his Derby and Preakness wins combined.)
With Tacitus, Tapit will be looking to tie the all-time record for siring Belmont winners with the great sire Lexington, who sired four winners in the 1870s.
Tapit’s Belmont success is unusual in that he has had no Derby or Preakness winners. The stallion’s progeny are a combined 0 for 10 in the Derby – Tacitus’ 3rd place finish being the closest he has come to a winner – and 0 for 3 in the Preakness (Divining Rod, 3rd in 2015). In the Belmont, he is 3 for 7 in the Belmont, with one second and two thirds.
Why the success in the Belmont?
It didn’t show in his racing career. Once a promising 2-year-old, Tapit suffered from shin problems and a lung infection which marred his 3-year-old season. He finished ninth in the Derby and had to be scratched from the Belmont Stakes. He ended his career with three wins in six races.
But distance is all over his pedigree. Pulpit’s sire was A.P. Indy, who won the 1992 Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths. A.P. Indy’s sire was 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Tapit’s dam, Tap Your Heels, has such champions in her blood as Unbridled, who sired 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker, and Nijinsky, who won the British Triple Crown and won races of up to 14 furlongs.
Michael Hernon, Director of Sales at Gainesway Farm (where Tapit stands at stud), said that Tapit’s success at the Belmont can be attributed to a combination of the horse’s character, determination and will to win, which he seems to pass on to many of his progeny.
“Many of those Belmont wins have been closely run contests,” he said. Indeed, Tonalist won by a head, and Creator by a nose.
“His stock seems to succeed in in the real heat of battle, and when it’s a close call they’re very mentally strong.”
Hernon also points out that as Tapit’s stock rose early on, the quality of mares he bred with increased, resulting in horses with deep pedigrees. “[Tacitus is] a big, rugged horse, and has plenty of size and scope to him,” says Hernon, who will be pulling for the colt on Saturday. “I give him a very strong chance to win the Belmont.”
Tapit was the U.S. champion sire in 2014, 2015, and 2016. He stands for $225,000.
Tapit’s progeny in Triple Crown races
- Hansen (9th, 2012)
- Normandy Invasion (4th, 2013)
- Tapiture (15th, 2014)
- Frosted (4th, 2015)
- Mohaymen (4th, 2016)
- Lani (9th, 2016)
- Creator (13th, 2016)
- Tapwrit (6th, 2017)
- Hofburg (7th, 2018)
- Tacitus (3rd, 2019)
- Ring Weekend (5th, 2014)
- Divining Rod (3rd, 2015)
- Lani (5th, 2016)
- Matterhorn (8th, 2014)
- Tonalist (1st, 2014)
- Frosted (2nd, 2015)
- Lani (3rd, 2016)
- Creator (1st, 2016)
- Tapwrit (1st, 2017)
- Hofburg (3rd, 2018)
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