Morning-line favorite Tacitus is his principal hope, but Tapit has two more chances with Intrepid Heart and Bourbon War. That’s 30 percent of the field right there.
Tapit, a scion of 1977 Triple Crown legend Seattle Slew, has sired three of the last five Belmont winners – Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), and Tapwrit (2017) – as well as three who placed in the past four years. Frosted (second in 2015) and Hofburg (third in 2018) were chasing Triple Crown champions American Pharaoh and Justify, respectively, while Lani was third to fellow Tapit Creator.
Already in an exclusive club with three Belmont winners, Tapit ranks alongside the immortal Man o’ War, himself the 1920 Belmont romper who sired American Flag (1925), Crusader (1926), and Triple Crown champion War Admiral (1937); Man o’ War’s own sire, Fair Play, who was also responsible for Mad Play (1924) and Chance Shot (1927); and their male-line ancestor Australian, the sire of Joe Daniels (1872), Springbok (1873), and Spendthrift (1879), grandsire of Fair Play.
If Tapit registers number four on Saturday, he would match the legendary Lexington as the most successful sire in Belmont history. The preeminent American patriarch sired General Duke (1868), Kingfisher (1870), Harry Bassett (1871), and Duke of Magenta (1878).
Tapit’s trio in the 151st Belmont are all out of terrific mares.
Intrepid Heart is a half-brother to Commissioner, the near-misser to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont, and they are bred along similar lines. Commissioner is by A.P. Indy, the 1992 Belmont star and paternal grandsire of Tapit. Intrepid Heart and Commissioner’s dam, multiple stakes winner Flaming Heart, is herself by 1997 Belmont scorer Touch Gold, who famously denied Silver Charm’s Triple Crown. Flaming Heart is also ancestress of Vino Rosso, last year’s Belmont fourth who just captured the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) on Memorial Day. Like Vino Rosso and Commissioner, Intrepid Heart is trained by Todd Pletcher, so you could say he knows the family well.
The same point applies to Hall of Famer Bill Mott, trainer of Tacitus and his dam, champion Close Hatches. The sire of Close Hatches, First Defence, is related to 2003 Belmont hero Empire Maker (grandsire of American Pharoah). Tacitus is inbred 4×4 to Seattle Slew and sports an even closer duplication of Unbridled (3×4).
Bourbon War is inbred 3×4 to A.P. Indy himself, between Tapit on top and Malibu Moon factoring on the maternal side. Interestingly, Tapit’s sire, Pulpit, and Malibu Moon were bred on the same cross – by A.P. Indy out of Mr. Prospector mares. Bourbon War’s dam, My Conquestadory, captured the 2013 Alcibiades (G1) and the Summer (G2) over the boys in her career debut. The maternal line traces to Marguery, a full sister to 1930 Triple Crown sweeper Gallant Fox.
A.P. Indy appears in the maternal ancestry of Tax, whose sire Arch is a scion of the Roberto line via Kris S. Tax is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Toll, a half-sister to the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Elate. Second dam Yell, by A.P. Indy, is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed granddaughter of Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute, dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Travers (G1) star Sea Hero among others. This is the tribe of blue hen *La Troienne, who produced 1940 Belmont winner Bimelech and also boasts 1989 Belmont conqueror Easy Goer as a descendant.
Everfast is from the A.P. Indy sire line as a son of Take Charge Indy. He’s out of the well-named Awesome Again mare Awesome Surprise, a full sister to 2004 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) upsetter Wilko. Thus Everfast is inbred 4×3 to Deputy Minister, sire of Awesome Again and also grandsire of Take Charge Indy’s dam, Take Charge Lady.
Sir Winston is himself by the Northern Dancer-line Awesome Again and out of Grade 3 vixen La Gran Bailadora, third in the 2011 Spinster (G1). A daughter of 2005 Preakness (G1) and Belmont champion Afleet Alex (ironically beaten by Wilko in that Breeders’ Cup), La Gran Bailadora emulated her dam, Affirmed Dancer, by winning the My Charmer at Turfway Park. As her name implies, Affirmed Dancer is by 1978 Triple Crown legend Affirmed. Sir Winston’s third dam, Woolloomooloo, garnered two Sovereign Awards as Canada’s champion older mare and turf mare of 1997.
Deputy Minister is the broodmare sire of Japanese contender Master Fencer, who fittingly represents the Sunday Silence dynasty. Paternal grandsire Heart’s Cry upended the great Deep Impact in the 2005 Arima Kinen (G1), and sire Just a Way was the world’s highest-rated horse of 2014. Master Fencer traces to the deep female line of European Horse of the Year St. Jovite; handicap warriors L’Carriere, Lac Ouimet, and Salem Drive; and champion Farda Amiga.
Two contenders descend from Danzig’s branch of the Northern Dancer sire line, War of Will (by War Front) and Spinoff (by Hard Spun).
War of Will is closely inbred (3×3) to Northern Dancer, being out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Visions of Clarity. He’s a half-brother to stakes winners of markedly different distance capacities – Irish highweight juvenile Pathfork, whose wins came at seven furlongs, and marathoner Tacticus (not to be confused with Tacitus), successful in the 2015 Birdstone over 1 3/4 miles and the 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill Invitational. They were by different sires, Pathfork by Distorted Humor and Tacticus by A.P. Indy.
War of Will’s dam, who earned her stakes victory in the one-mile Prix de Bagatelle, is in turn a half-sister to 1997 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) hero Spinning World. But she’s also closely related to French highweight Sagara, who placed in the 2007 Grand Prix de Paris (G1) and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and such two-mile events as the 2008 Goodwood Cup (G2).
War Front figures prominently in the pedigree of Joevia, in his case as the broodmare sire. Joevia likewise hails from the Northern Dancer sire line, by way of Storm Cat’s descendant Shanghai Bobby, the champion two-year-old male of 2012.
Spinoff is the only contender sired by a past Belmont participant, Hard Spun having finished fourth in 2007. The Wertheimer et Frere homebred is out of the Gone West mare Zaftig, the 2008 Acorn (G1) winner and a half-sister to Zo Impressive, heroine of the 2012 Mother Goose (G1) and runner-up in the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Because Zo Impressive is herself by Hard Spun, Spinoff counts as her three-quarter sibling.
Further back, Spinoff comes from the extended family of 1984 Belmont champion Swale. Rival Sir Winston traces to the same tap root mare, Popinjay (foaled in 1905) of the 1-n Family, but through her daughter Pompadour. Spinoff and Swale are among the major winners descending from a more prominent Popinjay daughter, Popingaol.
Even more interesting, Tacitus and War of Will likewise share a common ancestress but much nearer in time – 1982 Broodmare of the Year Best in Show, as described in the Kentucky Derby pedigree fun facts. Best in Show is also ancestress of the half-sibling Belmont winners Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007). The further 8-f Family from which she springs can count two more, Birdstone (2004) and Blue Larkspur (1929).
The fastest Belmont winner of them all, 1973 Triple Crown record-setter Secretariat, factors in the ancestry of eight of the 10 runners. A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, and Gone West – all out of Secretariat mares –are his chief vectors. Secretariat appears twice in the first five generations in the pedigrees of Tacitus, Tax, and Everfast, while the two without Secretariat are War of Will and Sir Winston.
The Belmont Stakes trophy (c) Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com