Tapit Trice and his proud connections in the winner’s circle. (Photo by Ben Baugh)
+ In a Trice, Tapit Colt’s Powerful Turn of Foot in Final Furlong Secures Derby Win
+ Favorite Skippylongstocking gambols to 3 ¼-length victory in the Challenger Stakes
By Ben Baugh
OLDSMAR, FL—A less than propitious start for post time favorite Tapit Trice, put him in less than a favorable position. But if the outcome of Saturday’s 43rd running of the 1 1/16-miles Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (Gr. 3) is redolent of future performances, the son of Tapit’s effort will have him saving the best for last.
“We’re thrilled,” said Antony Beck, CEO Gainesway Farm, who bred the horse. “A lovely colt. A beautiful, intelligent, smart horse. A fighter, he didn’t have the easiest break. He showed an increased level of talent that we’re very proud of.”
The gray colt was making his fourth start for owners Whisper Hill Farm, LLC and Gainesway Stable, and scored a two-length win, giving Todd Pletcher his sixth victory in the race. Luis Saez had the return ride on Tapit Trice, after guiding him to an eight-length win in an allowance contest Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s a cool customer,” said Brian Graves, Gainesway Farm general manager. “He started out as one of the best horses on our farm and we were lucky enough to keep a piece of him with Mandy (Pope). And he’s got us dreaming about possibly bringing him back to the farm as a stallion. I couldn’t possibly imagine a better scenario, if we’re lucky enough for that to play out. We’re Derby dreaming and tickled today.”
The $1.3 million sales purchase seemed to live up to his name, as within a trice, as he passed a swell of rivals, before leaving the competition in his wake. Tapit Trice’s powerful performance in the $400,000 race earned him 50 Road to the Kentucky Derby points.
“He was so fast, I had honestly lost track of him for a minute, and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, there he goes,” said Mandy Pope, Whisper Hill Farm.
The partnership of Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway recognized Tapit Trice’s potential, and the union has been rewarded as the colt has now won three consecutive races at three different tracks. The now graded stakes winner’s evolution progressed rapidly in Ocala. His demeanor, unlike some Tapits, who at times can have an attitude, was far more laid back. His equanimity and intelligence have made him a standout.
“He was a beautiful yearling. I love Tapits, and I’ve bought a whole bunch of Tapits. We got into a little bit of a bidding war, and I said to Antony, ‘If you want half of him or 25%.’ And he said, ‘I’ll stay in for 25 percent.’ So, I bid a little bit more, and we got him. Thank goodness. He went to my farm. My farm has done a great job, Todd Quast at the training center, and I’m so happy with the success that we’re getting at our new training center and from our new program. He’s done everything right…now he just needs to learn that when the gate opens, he can go. He doesn’t have to wait until he hears the bell.”
Favorite Skippylongstocking gambols to 3 ¼-length victory in the Challenger Stakes
Pippi Longstocking was nine years old, and she was incredibly strong, having been blessed with the ability to lift her horse with one hand. Skippylongstocking is a 4-year-old colt, who has demonstrated his prowess as an athlete. The son of Exaggerator won a pair of Grade Three races during his sophomore campaign, with wins in the West Virginia Derby and Harlan’s Holiday.
He showed his resiliency Saturday, after a seventh-place finish in his 4-year-old debut in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Gr. 1), with a rousing 3 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/16-miles $100,000 Michelob Ultra Challenger Stakes (Gr. 3). Skippylongstocking races in the silks of Daniel Alonso and is conditioned by Saffie Joseph Jr. Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was up on the winner.
“We gave him a little time off after the Pennsylvania Derby, he’s really filled out, he’s carrying a lot more weight as a 4-year-old,” said Joseph. “He’s a hard trying horse. He ran in the Pegasus. He ran his race, he was just in with better horses…White Abario came back and won, Stiletto Boy won the Santa Anita Handicap. Every horse that ran in that race, has run lights out. It proved to be a top-class grade one, which it should be. Skippy, stepped back a notch, and we tried to give him an easier race today, hopefully he could get through, and he did it today.”