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Thursday, 18 October, 2018

A tale of two continents for US champion sire Tapit

Martin Stevens looks at the stallion ace's record in Europe

Tapwrit draws clear of Irish War Cry in the final stages of the Belmont Stakes
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North American and European bloodlines regularly mingle, with breeders from both continents tapping into each other's gene pools.

As high-class mares by Galileo and Dubawi head west to add cosmopolitan flair and some needed fortitude to matings with Kentucky sires, so have physically forward horses by the likes of Scat Daddy and War Front travelled in the opposite direction to take the best two-year-old races and sprints in Britain and Ireland by the scruff of the neck.

In the case of Tapit, though, the Atlantic has never seemed so wide.

Onlookers in Europe can only admire the achievements of the Gainesway stallion, who supplied his third winner of the Belmont Stakes in four years on Saturday when Tapwrit followed the victories of Creator last year and Tonalist in 2014.

And none would begrudge the multiple champion North American sire a fee of $300,000, having been represented by 98 stakes winners, 22 of whom have struck at the highest level, and numerous top-sellers at auction.

But, for all his success, Tapit has not gained much traction in Europe nor been given many chances here.

He may have had 19 different runners finish placed in black-type races worldwide already in 2017, but in the same time-frame he has managed only three starters in the whole of Europe (two of whom have won, for the record).

Last year, as Creator claimed Classic glory and another son, Frosted, careered to victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, Tapit had only ten runners in Europe and two winners.

Throughout his career he has had just 16 runners in Britain and Ireland. They have not fared too badly, with nine of them having scored and two achieving Racing Post Ratings in excess of 100, both for John Gosden: the now Hong Kong-based Cloud Nine, who was an impressive winner of the Epsom Derby Trial as Christophermarlowe (although his purchaser Tom Goff said he resembled more his damsire, Galileo), and Tathqeef, a $1.1 million Keeneland purchase by Shadwell who ran with credit in Listed contests last year and is now back home in the care of Kiaran McLaughlin.

Tapit has fared a little better in France, with two Listed-placed runners there demonstrating the faith that Juddmonte has placed in him. South Bank, out of dual Guineas heroine Special Duty, finished second in the Prix Yacowlef on her juvenile debut, while Maquette, a daughter of Prix Jean Romanet winner Announce, took second in the Prix Solitude last November. Formerly with Andre Fabre she has, like Tathqeef, returned to the US to seek further riches with Bill Mott.

The fair performers As De Trebol and Ecureuil have also gained black type in France for the sire.

That Tapit has made only a minor impact on European racing is unsurprising given a cursory glance of his race record and pedigree.

Though trained by Michael Dickinson, a Yorkshireman revered at home for his feat of sending out the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1983, everything else about Tapit shouts dirt, dirt, dirt.

He won the Wood Memorial Stakes on the surface at Aqueduct in his light career and his sire Pulpit was a top-class dirt performer whose progeny were, overwhelmingly, top-class dirt performers too.

One notable outlier was Lucky Pulpit, who handled turf and whose outstanding son California Chrome notched a comfortable success in the Hollywood Derby on his sole start on grass.

Pulpit's sire A.P. Indy was similarly dirt-oriented. His best performer by RPRs, Mineshaft, may have shown a degree of talent for his original trainer John Gosden in Europe but he was a shadow of what he would become when transferred to the US, where he won four Grade 1s on dirt, all by wide margins.

Despite flourishing stateside, hardly any of the many stallions from the A.P. Indy line have captured the imaginations of European breeders as effective turf influences in the way that US-based Danzig or Storm Cat descendants have.

Moreover, Tapit is out of a stakes winning daughter of Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Unbridled – another dirt sire whose legacy is strong in America but who failed to take root in Europe – and a half-sister to Rubiano, a champion sprinter thanks to his efforts on dirt, and to the granddam of Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird.

All of which is not to say Tapit is unable to come up with a top-class turf horse; indeed Ring Weekend and Time And Motion have won at the highest level on grass, and Tapitsfly scored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf before it was accorded Grade 1 status.

Dirt performers are, however, definitely his stock in trade.

Having neither disgraced himself nor dazzled with his European runners, though, it would be fascinating to see if Tapit could come up with a top-class runner on these shores. There is still a chance for that to happen, as Weatherbys lists him as having a few two-year-olds in training in Britain, including Seeing Stars, a colt out of Fillies' Mile and Matron Stakes winner Rainbow View, with John Gosden, and an unnamed colt out of Midnight Thoughts, a Henrythenavigator half-sister to Princess Highway and Royal Diamond, with William Haggas.

As with Cloud Nine and South Bank, those juveniles' turf-oriented maternal pedigrees might mitigate the dirt influence from their sire.

Otherwise, it might be a struggle for Tapit to gain a foothold in Europe now, if only because European agents and owners would have to fight off strong domestic competition to buy his young stock in Kentucky, when there might be less expensive foals and yearlings on offer by sires more proven at home. Similarly, for breeders expecting to sell or race in Europe, his fee is high enough for a horse whose progeny are, first and foremost, built for the dirt.

Like presidents pardoning turkeys or tailgaters at football games, Tapit might just be an American phenomenon that does not cross the Atlantic.

Dirt performers are definitely Tapit's stock in trade

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