- Tapit's Potential Reason to "Dough" Nuts
When identifying potential Derby winners, we always like to look for "Mrs. Genter". You know, Carl Nafzger describing to Unbridled's dowager owner, "Mrs. Genter, you've won the Kentucky Derby!" The story... The hook. There's always a great backstory to the winner of the rose blanket, and in 1990 it was the 80-something Francis finally finding Derby glory after 6 decades in the game. Last year it was our NY-bred gelding and his "regular guy" owners and crusty trainer. Next year, it may very well be a horse that was bought with the proceeds of 10 million doughnuts.
The late Verne Winchell, California's "Donut King", spent $625,000 on Tapit, an exquisitely bred son of Pulpit (A.P. Indy) and Tap Your Heels, she herself a daughter of Francis Genter's great star. Tapit was to be the last horse ever procured by the longtime West Coast racing stalwart who passed on two months later from a heart attack. Winchell's lifelong racing ambition included a Derby triumph, and three times the fried dough impresario came close.
In 1962, Winchell's Donut King arrived in Louisville prepared to don the glaze of Derby favorite before being scratched late in the week. He had won the Champagne the previous fall over Jaipur and Sir Gaylord and earlier in the campaign had jellied eventual Derby winner Decidedly twice. From there, it took Winchell and training partner Ron McAnally another three decades to get back to the Run for the Roses. In 1991 Winchell sent Sea Cadet off to an 8th place Derby finish under Chris McCarron. Three years later, his Valiant Nature, a Hollywood Futurity winner over Brocco and Blue Grass runner up to Holy Bull, lost all chance the first Saturday in May when he checked hard in the first turn under Laffit Pincay and finished 13th.
Tapit, now under the direction of Winchell's son Ron and legendary trainer Michael Dickinson, established himself as the top juvenile of his class 2 weeks ago with a visually stunning win in the Laurel Futurity. Blocked for half the race along the rail under Ramon Dominguez, Tapit exploded once clear winning his Stake debut by open lengths over a nice field. He had won his maiden, a route, by nearly a pole as well. Tapit earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort, the top number yet this year for a juvenile in a journey past 8 panels. Dickinson, thrilled with Tapit's soundness and education to date, will take time off with the colt having poured a foundation for the arduous trip that lies ahead. He will head to Palm Meadows in January and begin his Derby quest in earnest in January.
A Futurity triumph at Laurel may not be a Futurity triumph at Belmont, but it does bode well for Tapit from a historical perspective. From its inception in 1921, the Laurel test for juvenile colts has produced exceptional runners including eight Derby winners, four of them Triple Crown champions. In addition to Count Fleet's, Citation's, Secretariat's and Affirmed's Futurity heroics, Burgoo King (3rd behind Top Flight), Jet Pilot, Riva Ridge and Spectacular Bid all made the Maryland countryside a fall stop on their 2 year old schedules. Equipoise beat Twenty Grand and Mate in the 1930 Futurity, and Challedon started his career as a Chesapeake legend there. Bimelech, Capot, In Reality, Deputy Minister, Devil's Bag, Bet Twice, Go and Go, Captain Bodgit and Toccet all have Laurel Futurity trophys on their resumes.
It isn't surprising to see In Reality on the above list, as Tapit's dam is inbred 4x3 to the great sire. Tapit's heritage and family tree adds to the credentials for high expectations next spring. Hailing from Bruce Lowe Family 3-o (Dam of 2 True Blues), Tapit's Classic-winning antecedents include Zev, Relaunch, Caveat, Theatrical, Wild Again, Summer Squall and topline grandsire A.P. Indy. His dosage profile is Triple Crown Trail ideal (9-3-12-2-2 (28), DI 1.80, CD .54), crowned by 3x4 inbreeding to R-A-N progenetor Mr. Prospector. Stamina will not be a remote concern for Tapit, as he also enjoys a double helping (5x3) of Nijinsky through both grand dam's: Pulpit's Frizette winning mom Preach and Tap Your Heels' dam Ruby Slippers. If Ruby Slippers rings a bell, it may be as the dam of the great Rubiano! Clearly Tapit has what is required from a pedigree standpoint to excell at highest level on the sophomore scene.
The final element in the equation in creating a legacy for the Winchell family (who are also campaigning Cuvee) will be Dickinson. Never known for experience or prowess with juveniles, or sophs for that matter, the "Mad Genius" will be moving into the spring toward Louisville for the first time in his career. While well regarded for his handling of damaged older horses, Dickinson will have to manage a Derby Trail plan for Tapit, as well as Paddington, another well regarded 3 year old to be. It shouldn't be a problem for him.
While we have to wait another 6 weeks for the Derby Trail to begin in earnest, our eyes are focused on "wholly" on Tapit for now.