The Tapit No one Knows

Handicapping the Belmont Stakes has become a piece of cake. Just pick a son of Tapit, as we witnessed yet again with the victory by Essential Quality. Regarded by many as the most dominant sire America has seen in a number of years, Tapit has become one of the great success stories in the history of the bluegrass. But that is not the only story. His brief career as a racehorse is not known by many, but needs to be told to complete the saga of this very special horse. ~ Steve Haskin

The Tapit No One Knows

By Steve Haskin

As you walk into the Belmont Park clubhouse entrance, directly to your left is “Woody’s Corner,” a collection of trophies and other memorabilia celebrating trainer Woody Stephens’ remarkable feat of winning five consecutive runnings of the Belmont Stakes.

It’s just about time to start an equine version with “Tapit’s Corner,” celebrating the Gainesway Farm stallion’s accomplishment of siring four Belmont Stakes winners in seven years. We are excluding the 2020 edition because that race bore no resemblance to the Test of the Champion, being run as the first leg of the Triple Crown at a one-turn mile and an eighth due to the pandemic that dramatically altered the schedule of racing’s most prestigious triad.

If not for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah defeating Frosted in 2015, Tapit’s son Tapwrit, winner of the 2017 Belmont, would have been the stallion’s fourth consecutive Belmont Stakes winner, an achievement that would have put him right up there with Stephens. As it is, Tapit has earned his place in Belmont lore with his remarkable feat, which continued this year with the impressive victory of 2-year-old champion Essential Quality. In addition, not only did Tapit’s son Creator win the 2016 Belmont, another of his sons, Lani, finished a fast-closing third, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. So, from 2014 to 2017, Tapit’s sons had three wins, a second, and a third in the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Although Tapit’s first Belmont winner Tonalist was regarded as one of the best horses in the country, adding two victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup as well as the Cigar Mile, Essential Quality at this point in his career arguably is the most talented and accomplished of his sons, with a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes victory and a near unbeaten record. He also became the first BC Juvenile winner to capture the Belmont Stakes.

Essential Quality’s pedigree is an interesting one, with 14 sires in his first five generations contributing to his inbreeding. In addition to being inbred to Fappiano and In Reality, he is inbred four times to Mr. Prospector and three times to Northern Dancer. But what stands out the most is being inbred to Secretariat through all three of his daughters who have dominated American breeding – Weekend Surprise (dam of A.P. Indy), Terlingua (dam of Storm Cat), and Secrettame (dam of Gone West).

To demonstrate just how influential Tapit is in a horse’s pedigree and how much stamina he infuses in their blood, Conrad Bandoroff, son of Denali Stud owner Craig Bandoroff, who consigned Tapwrit to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, where he sold for a whopping $1.2 million, was skeptical how far Tapwrit wanted to go because of his immediate female family – his dam, grandsire, and great-grandsire were all sprinters or milers who produced sprinters or milers.

“I was surprised honestly,” he said several years ago. “I thought that, in the Derby, the distance seemed to get to him a bit. Those concerns were there with his dam Appealing Zophie running her best races over seven furlongs to a mile, but I think that’s what makes Tapit such an unbelievable stallion, that he can inject stamina.”

So, when we think of Tapit we think of his outstanding career as a stallion and as a sire of Belmont Stakes winners. But what most people don’t think about is Tapit the racehorse. Perhaps that is because his racing career was brief and ended with poor finishes in the Kentucky Derby and then the Pennsylvania Derby four months later. But there was a great deal more to his career and his adventures with his enigmatic and colorful trainer Michael Dickinson.

Michael Hernon, former director of sales at Gainesway Farm, recalled, “I remember watching him win the Laurel Futurity and going straight to the books to look up his pedigree. That really impressed me.  Then you see names like Relaunch and Foggy Note and Mahmoud. Once a horse shows that kind of brilliance and acceleration you know he has it. He had that smooth as silk acceleration, and he’s also got the pedigree and the physical attributes, and he’s got a great libido. His fertility rate is very high.”

At Tapeta Farm where he was trained by Dickinson for owner Ron Winchell, Tapit had a reputation as being unpredictable and always getting into mischief. One day, Dickinson’s partner in life, Joan Wakefield, heard a racket in Tapit’s stall and went running over to see what was happening. The colt had grabbed the rubber mat in his mouth and was flinging it wildly against the wall of his stall.

“He’s just a flamboyant little horse, who’s always full of life,” said exercise rider Jon “John Boy Ferriday at the time.

And Tapit’s offspring certainly seem full of life as well, regardless of the distance at which they are competing. The aforementioned Frosted, not only was second in the Belmont to American Pharoah, he demonstrated that brilliance Tapit is capable of passing on by winning the following year’s Met Mile by an astounding 14 lengths in a stakes record 1:32 3/5.

As for Tapit’s courage and fortitude as a racehorse, he literally brought Dickinson to tears following his remarkable victory in the Wood Memorial, a race Dickinson was convinced he was going to lose even before he shipped him up to Aqueduct. The colt had missed a lot of time and training due to a shin problem and then getting sick, and also developing a foot abscess, and Dickinson agonized about running him in the Wood in an attempt to make the Kentucky Derby, especially considering the Wood would be only his fourth career start, and no horse had won the Kentucky Derby off as few as four career starts since Exterminator in 1918.

To set the stage for the Wood, you have to go back to Tapit’s brief, but brilliant 2-year-old campaign. After breaking his maiden at Delaware Park by 7 3⁄4 lengths, he then put on a sensational display of class, speed, and courage by winning the Laurel Futurity by 4 3⁄4 lengths with a breathtaking burst of speed, despite a nightmarish trip in which he was bumped early and forced to steady for a good portion of the race.

Five months later he was trying to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby field in a most unconventional manner. But as it turned out, Tapit proved to be as unconventional as his trainer, who has made a habit of accomplishing the seemingly impossible.

Following an inexplicable sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby in his 3-year-old debut, Tapit returned home to Tapeta, located in North East, Maryland, where an ultrasound revealed he had a very significant lung infection. Another ultrasound was taken two weeks later and one lung was 100% and the other was 80%. Dickinson gave him a light five-furlong breeze and said he could blow a house down afterward. It was apparent he was far from being 100 percent fit. Dickinson was going to wheel him back and work him a mile, but told owner Ron Winchell and manager David Fiske, “I’ve got to give him as long as I dare to get him healthy and give the lungs a chance to heal. It takes 28 days for the lung to get a new lining.”

Dickinson gave Tapit several extra days and worked him a mile in 1:47 over the uphill course at Tapeta. On the Wednesday before the Wood, another ultrasound found one lung to be 100% and the other 99.9%. Although the colt finally was healthy, he still had only the one serious work and was about two weeks from being 100 percent fit. But Dickinson had no choice but to send a partially fit Tapit into the Wood, in which he’d face the brilliant Florida Derby runner-up, Value Plus, as well as the top-class Master David and Eddington, who, like Tapit, were in desperate need of graded stakes earnings to assure a place in the Kentucky Derby field. If he didn’t run in the Wood he would have no chance of getting in the Derby. It was decided to try and hope he could at least pick up a piece of the purse.

“We’re just going to be at the back of the pack and pass beaten ones at the end,” Dickinson said after analyzing the race and plotting strategy. “We’re never going to be in the race, we’re just going to come late. “He won’t win; he’s not fit enough. I’ll be over the moon if he can finish third.”

What Dickinson feared going into the Wood was that Tapit, being such a generous and competitive horse, would try too hard and give more than what was expected of him.

“He never knew he was sick,” Dickinson said. “Even when he’s not well he’s always perky. Nothing gets him down.”

Dickinson, as usual, vanned Tapit up to Aqueduct the morning of the race, arriving at around 9 a.m. Value Plus was made the 5-2 favorite, with Eddington at 3-1, Master David 7-2, and Tapit getting played, illness or no illness, at 5-1.

At the start of the Wood, Tapit got shuffled back to last, as Lane’s End Stakes winner Sinister G broke like a shot from the 9 post and engaged Value Plus to his inside. The pair were joined by longshot Cuba on the first term, but managed to get away with an opening quarter in :23 3/5 with Eddington and Master David running side by side. Ramon Dominguez steered Tapit to the outside down the backstretch and let him gradually pick up horses. The pace remained even, with a half in :47 and three-quarters in 1:11 2/5.

Value Plus was still battling with Sinister G nearing the head of the stretch when Eddington and Swingforthefences charged up on the outside, with Alex Solis, on Master David, finding an inviting opening along the rail. By now, Tapit was in full gear without Dominguez even having to ask him. He swung him to the far outside, as the favorites charged down the stretch. Sinister G cracked under the pressure, then Value Plus followed, leaving the four horses in need of earnings to battle it out for the all-important top two spots. Swingforthefences couldn’t sustain his move, and then it was down to three. Dickinson had been expecting a third-place finish at best and then would hope there would be enough withdrawals to allow Tapit to sneak into the Derby field.

In the stretch, Master David slipped through to take a narrow lead over Eddington. Just when it looked like Master David had the race won, Tapit, his head cocked toward the grandstand, came charging up on the outside like a dead-fit horse and spurted in the final yards to win by a half-length, covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 3/5.

Ferriday headed back to the barn area with Tapit, and was amazed what the colt had accomplished. “He’s a brilliant horse to have pulled this off,” he said. To demonstrate how tough a horse Tapit was, he coughed the entire way from the winner’s circle to the test barn.

Dickinson stood off in a corner of the Aqueduct winner’s circle and tried his best to explain how Tapit managed to win the Wood. But even he couldn’t do it. He was too emotional knowing what the colt had gone through. This was more than just another logic-defying conquest by the unorthodox trainer. Although some perceive Dickinson to be a graduate of the Hogwarts School, performing Harry Potter-like feats of magic, he knew there was nothing wizardly about this latest feat.

This was simply a trainer in awe of a horse. Tapit had overcome one setback after another that winter and spring, and somehow was still in the Kentucky Derby picture, despite missing 19 days of training with shin problems, and coming out of his sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby with a serious lung infection and a foot abscess.

Now, here he was trying to explain how Tapit could come from dead-last over a speed-biased track, circle the field five wide, and mow down every one of his 10 opponents to win by a half-length. And this with only one race all year, and a poor performance at that, and only one serious work since the Florida Derby.

“I was dreading the race, because I knew he wasn’t fit,” Dickinson said. “He’s a very generous horse, and he has such a big heart.”

By now, the words were becoming difficult to get out. Tears were welling up, and his voice began to quaver noticeably. “I felt I was putting him into battle unprepared,” he continued. “And if anything had happened I would have blamed myself. But the horse carried me through. I’m indebted to him and we love him dearly.”

What made it even more emotional for him was knowing he would be heading to the Kentucky Derby with a horse owned by the Winchell family, who had supported him for years.

Dickinson previously had trained grade I winner Fleet Renee for longtime owner Verne Winchell. At the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale, Winchell, his son Ron, and Fiske purchased the son of Pulpit-Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled, for $625,000, which was about $100,000 more than Winchell usually would spend for a young horse. He had been recommended by Dr. David Lambert after Lambert performed a heart scan on the colt. Winchell asked Dickinson what he thought of the horse, and when the trainer said he really liked him, Winchell promised him the horse. After being broken in Texas by Keith Asmussen, Tapit was sent to Tapeta Farm in May of 2003.

But Tapit would be the last horse Verne Winchell would purchase. Two months after the sale, Winchell died of a heart attack at age 87.

“He was a star, an absolute star,” Dickinson said. “He was a true gentleman and he loved his horses.”

Ron Winchell added, “Obviously, being the last horse we ever bought together carries some sort of emotional impact.”

For Dickinson, the worrying was far from over following the Wood. “Now, the question is, will he bounce?” he said. “I want to see him scoped, and see how he’s doing tonight and tomorrow. We’ll weigh him tonight and every day. The secret of how quickly a horse gets over a race is how quickly they return to their normal weight.”

All looked well, and it was time to ship to Kentucky to face the unbeaten sensation Smarty Jones.

One of the everlasting images of that year’s Derby was Tapit’s arrival at Churchill Downs. It was a sight no one had ever seen before and won’t see again.

As everyone is well aware, there is nothing conventional about Dickinson, who has always marched to the beat of his own drum.

When Dickinson shipped Tapit to Churchill Downs on the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby, the trainer brought a little bit of his farm with him.

Dickinson packed the colt’s daily treats of Guinness beer and three eggs, along with a long swath of sod and grass from Tapeta Farm for his daily grazing sessions to make the transition from Tapeta to Churchill a little easier for him. It was an odd sight watching Dickinson roll out his carpet of home-grown grass over the grass outside the receiving barn.

“I want to make my horse as comfortable as possible,” Dickinson said. “He gets his one beer and three eggs every day at the farm mixed with his grain. He likes the grass the best. It’s part of his natural diet.”

Dickinson added that he prefers training at his farm as opposed to at a racetrack. “It’s tough training at the track and it’s very hard for one guy to rise above the rest. If I were at the track I would probably starve,” he said. “At the farm I am free to improvise. I can breeze my horses at 3 p.m. if I so choose. I don’t, but I could.”

He also brought with him several other conveniences, such as a heat lamp and a camera, which he promptly installed in Tapit’s stall.

Pulling off remarkable training feats at Tapeta was nothing out of the ordinary for Dickinson, who was known as “The Mad Genius.” Certainly everyone remembered Da Hoss. After winning the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Da Hoss was sidelined for nearly two years with a bowed tendon and other maladies. Dickinson nursed him back to health to win the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile after just one minor prep race at Colonial Downs.

So Tapit went into the Derby off only four career starts, and in one of them, the Florida Derby, he was sick and ran poorly.

“My health always reflects my horses’ health,” Dickinson said. “He was sick so I was sick. We’re both feeling a lot better now.”

In the Derby, whether Tapit bounced or simply couldn’t get hold of the deep sloppy track, he wound up ninth without ever threatening.

Put away and targeted for the Haskell Invitational, he was forced to miss the race due to throat surgery. When he returned in the Pennsylvania Derby and finished ninth again it was decided to retire him to Gainesway Farm for a $15,000 stud fee, which would prove to be one of the great bargains in breeding history considering that his fee eventually would skyrocket to $300,000.

With only six lifetime starts, we’ll never know how good Tapit could have been on the track. But we sure know how good he’s been in the breeding shed. His offspring certainly are giving us a hint of what we might have witnessed had he been healthy and able to continue his racing career.

Regardless of what he accomplishes in future years as a stallion, what I will remember most about Tapit is spending a glorious, relaxing morning at Gainesway Farm the day before the 2014 Kentucky Derby and being captivated by the stallion’s elegant beauty, his near white coat and refined Arabian-like head set against a backdrop of green and bright blue sky. I will also remember that afternoon at Aqueduct when Tapit brought his trainer to tears by winning a race he had no business winning. And, of course, there was his grand and unique entrance at Churchill Downs, where he received a red, or should I say green, carpet welcome.

Now here we are in 2021 with Tapit having celebrated his 20th birthday on February 27. Another Belmont Stakes has come and gone and the legend continues.

Photos courtesy of Gainesway Farm, New York Racing Association, Gulfstream Park, and Steve Haskin


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136 Responses to “The Tapit No one Knows”

  1. Robin Bush says:

    Wow, I never knew any of Tapit’s story! Thank you so much for telling us (again, so beautifully) this incredible history. What an amazing horse! I really appreciate you helping us get to know this gorgeous animal better. 🙂

    • Steve Haskin says:

      What I love doing is helping people to get to know the horses better. Many times we think we know them, but there is always more to learn.

  2. Jiffy says:

    An excellent column about an outstanding and very appealing horse. I loved Tapit’s race in the Wood Memorial, and he was my pick for the Derby. But that year there was a cloudburst at Churchill Downs an hour and a half before the race. What started out as a fast track turned into a sea of slop in just minutes, and I always blamed that for Tapit’s performance. Someone wrote then that it was the first time he had ever seen people tear up tickets before a race was run, and I suspect Tapit’s were the first to go. But it’s interesting that the winner Smarty Jones went to stud with a fee of something like $85,000 and Tapit started out at $15,000. How things have changed!

    • EddieF says:

      Jiffy, it’s certainly possible that Tapit would have run better on a fast track. But I doubt that any horse would have beaten Smarty that day regardless of the track conditions. Smarty was at the top of his game, being undefeated and then winning the Preakness 2 weeks later by 11.5 lengths.

      • Jiffy says:

        You may be right–Smarty certainly was in good form. But I remember going back to the past performance charts after the rainstorm to see if there was anyone that I thought might like the mud. I found two and one was Smarty Jones. The others I suspected would not be helped, especially Tapit. I remember thinking the gods were smiling on Smarty. maybe helping him to move up and maybe helping the others to move down. As you point out, it’s very possible that he would have won big on a fast track, but I wish we’d had a chance to find out.

        • EddieF says:

          If only every classic race could be run on a dry track. We’ve certainly seen more off tracks for the Derby than most of us would prefer. Smarty had just won the Arkansas Derby in the slop, but Tapit had arguably the best off-track pedigree of all of the Derby runners. Plus there were a number of other horses with excellent off-track pedigrees or had won on the slop. It’s all a big guess, though.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      Yes Jiffy Smarty was supposed to have better results but he is not alone in that department (i.e. Canonero II, Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, Silver Charm, Fusaichi Pegasus never fulfilled expectations).

      Tapit’s first crop was amazing despite him receiving rather modest mares. Among his first 19 black type runners 9 were produced from unraced broodmares and out of 2 non winners. It included the 2-year-old champion, STARDOM BOUND, the Alabama winner CARELESS JEWEL, Hollywood Starlet victor Laragh, the globetrotter As de Trebol (Champion in Spain) and the 4.8 Million and G1 winner TESTA MATTA in Japan.

      Before Tonalist, Tapit was considered a sire of outstanding fillies, superior turf runners, also for precocity and mid distances.
      The legacy of Tapit is ensured as he is emerging as a sire of sires thanks to promising young Stallions like Constitution, Frosted, Tapiture and Tonalist. There are also big hopes with the new ones Tapwrit, Mohaymen and Cupid.

      Tapit is also a promising Broodmare sires with 47 Stakes winners so far.

  3. Donna Hurst says:

    Thanks for another great article Steve. So good to read more about Tapit. 🙂

    I remember the year he ran in the Derby and didn’t do well at all, I turned to my husband and said, “Tapit may not have run well today, but I’d kill to have a mare to breed to him.”

    Oh how I wish.

  4. Ms Black Type says:

    Steve, I’m joining the chorus on this piece, which is delightful. I remember Tapit’s Wood Memorial — I really liked him for the Derby — although it makes sense that he was forgotten in the hoopla over Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid. Smarty never made an impression as a sire, of course. Tapit is a beauty.

  5. Nelson Maan says:

    Thanks Steve for this beautiful reminder of Tapit’s ability as a runner.

    Knowing all the hindrances Tapit suffered we can only consider his Wood Memorial an out of this world performance… no wonder Dickinson shed tears of joy and amazement in Aqueduct.

    Tapit, with only four lifetime starts was the only ”rookie” in the Derby, but he was the third choice of the public at 6 to 1. His outer Post Position did not help him as he was beating only one horse coming out the clubhouse turn. I remember Tom Durkin stirringly spotting Tapit’s “circling horses in the far outside” in the last turn.

    I also wonder what would have happened had Tapit skipped the Derby so as to preserve him to a post Triple Crown campaign … anyways, he had already won a Grade 1 (the Wood was G1 until 2016) and the decision has proven to be a very fruitful one indeed …

    • Ms Black Type says:

      He would have been the perfect candidate for a Belmont win.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        By the way, Tapit is the only Wood Memorial winner who has sired two winners of that emblematic 3-year-old Stakes (Frosted and Tacitus).

        Quadrangle, Bold Forbes, Unbridled’s Song and Bellamy Road sired only one Wood winner over 96 years of its history.

        So, he needs two more Wood Memorial wins by his progeny to equal his Belmont Stakes record…

        • EddieF says:

          Very interesting! However…

          “So, he needs two more Wood Memorial wins by his progeny to equal his Belmont Stakes record…”

          True, unless one or both of the Wood winners go on to win the Belmont Stakes (or a Tapit horse that didn’t win the Wood extends the record to 5). 😉

          • Nelson Maan says:

            Elementary, My Dear Watson !

            Thanks for establishing the boundary conditions for this statistics…!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That’s an excellent point abut skipping the Derby, but its hard to do with a Wood Memorial winner who was just getting fit. In hindsight , he might have a had a different career had he not run.

  6. Nio Corzo says:

    Great Article as usual Steve…Everybody always talk about Tapit the Stallion but never as a racehorse. I love these stories. Hopefully one day I can get to visit him at Gainesway.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you, Nio. I really hope you do get to visit him. And make sure you see Afleet Alex while youre there.

      • arlingtonfan says:

        I second that. He was the other stallion I got to see at Gainesway. It was a thrill to meet my Preakness hero!

  7. Fernando says:

    Muy buena historia, tengo muchos años con los caballos y nunca escuche que comian huevos y tomaban cerveza..!! le dire a mi entrenador esa dieta..!!, abrazo Steve, tus historias me emocionan..!!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Muchas gracias Fernando. Si huevos y cerveza. Es decir Michael Dickinson.

    • Nelson Maan says:

      ¡Hola Fernando!

      Pregunta bien sobre eso; no vaya a ser que a tu caballo no le guste esa “malteada” para nada.

      Que vas a hacer si se vuelve alcohólico tu caballo o le dé una diarrea por el huevo crudo…

      Dejando el chiste de lado, el huevo aporta una gran dosis de vitamina B12 y cantidades importantes de otras vitaminas y minerales vitales para los atletas. ¡Yo he visto a fisicoculturistas “tragando” docenas de huevo crudo…!

      La libido de Tapit se considera superior… puede ser que eso sea resultado de la dieta especial que le dio su entrenador… quien sabe?

      Vale la pena probar… cierto?

  8. arlingtonfan says:

    Thanks for this wonderful backstory on Tapit, Steve! I knew he’d won the Wood but had no idea what a monumental victory it was.

    I was lucky enough to see Tapit at Gainesway in 2019. What a character! Every time I raised my phone to take a picture, he’d strike a beautiful pose.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you. He did that with me too. e was one of the easiest horses to photograph Ive ever been around. No matter what he was doing he was in a perfect pose. And that gorgeous Arabian head…Wow!

  9. 100 lengths says:

    Steve – A wonderful account of the influence of Tapit on modern pedigrees, with Essential Quality notably the last and perhaps the best example. It should be noted that both Tapit and Essential Quality are a testimonial to the continuing powerful pedigree presence of the incomparable Man o’ War. The original Big Red has 20 pedigree ties to Tapit, and 35 pedigree ties to Essential Quality, the highest I’ve ever charted and far more than any other thoroughbred in these lineages. It can also be argued that the courage and stamina displayed by Tapit and his son are chips off the old Man o’ War block! Dave

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Dave, The more Man o’ War the better. Essential Quality has so much speed in his female family. he sure needed it.

  10. Mary Darden McLeod says:

    Excellent article, Steve. One of my favorite Lexington-area restaurants is the Windy Corner. After eating dinner there, I always go the back way hoping to catch a glimpse of the mighty Tapit. When I met him in person at Gainesway, he physically took my breath away. I have always wondered if he glows under the light of a Blue Moon of Kentucky!!! Thank you, and take care, Mary in Boone

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you Mary. Tapit is one of the most pleasing to the eye horses I’ve ever seen. So elegant and striking looking.

  11. Seth says:

    Pulpit, the great sire of a super sire. RIP Pulpit.

  12. Mike B. says:

    Essential Quality is a terminator. Easily ran the best of any horse in the derby. Should be undefeated, with a Juvenile champ, Derby, and Belmont under his belt. Don’t feel like he’s getting quite the recognition he deserves.

  13. richard gross says:

    As a lover of Godolphin and Dubai racing, of Tapit and his kids, particularly crazy Lani and Essential Quality, thanks so much for this look back. I expect to see EQ added to the names of Dubai World Cup winners. Reading this quote, I wish I could have met Dickinson:

    “He gets his one beer and three eggs every day at the farm mixed with his grain. He likes the grass the best. It’s part of his natural diet.”

    Some people get horses; most think they’re just animals.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      You would love Michael. Wait until I rework the column I did on Da Hoss years ago. You’ll love him even more. EQ moved way up in my book. I have to devote a column just on him. Maybe later this week.

      • Robin Bush says:

        Steve, do you know that Hoss is currently in a huge, beautiful pasture with another 29-year-old (non-TB) gelding? He’s happily spent every winter there since Nov. ’16 with three other horses, The old boy’s staying in the pasture this year with his new buddy, because he’s really thriving out there! It brings me so much joy to see him so happy and having so much space. He has a great run-in, too, and still gets daily special attention!

        • Steve Haskin says:

          I remember when they had him in the Breeds barn representing the Thoroughbred and he was so unhappy there. Even Dickinson could see he was miserable and was upset he was in there.

          • Robin Bush says:

            I wasn’t around for much of Hoss’s time in the Breeds Barn to know firsthand, but he’s always been so happy at the Hall of Champions. That’s been the last 18 years, so a great outcome ultimately! 🙂

  14. Matthew W says:

    I was taken aback by Tapit’s Wood Memorial, his wide run to victory …he became my Derby horse, alas, another wise run, and this time he couldn’t get there…beautiful gray….

  15. Lynda B King says:

    Thanks Steve for the background on Tapit’s racing career.

  16. EddieF says:

    I just watched a video of the Laurel futurity. Wow…..”breathtaking burst of speed” is an apt description. And to overcome all of that trouble after just a single career race is astounding.

  17. Bill Glavin says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article about Tapit. I was in the press box that day at Laurel when he made that incredible move to win the Futurity. I’ve been enamoured of him ever since. Thanks for bringing him to life in this article, and the back story on the Wood!

  18. Sheila L says:

    Always loved Tapit but I’m a sucker for grays. My first MyRacehorse purchase, Solar Strike, was because he was by Tapit. Too bad he also inherited the “head case” mentality of many Tapits. If he ever makes it to the track let’s hope he also inherited some of Tapits talent.

    • Lanham Laura says:

      Just got here to read Steve’s article which was great as always. You are the first to mention the “head case” trait he often passed on. It was the one thing that struck me about Essential Quality as he doesn’t have it. Selective breeding or just luck of the draw, not sure. Can’t recall the name of the Zenyatta colt that had the same problem. They tried hard to train him to race but in the end I believe they did geld him and let him move on to something besides racing.

  19. Dewey Hebert says:

    Great job, as usual, Steve. I remember Tapit’s win in the Wood, but I had forgotten that Michael Dickinson was his trainer.
    I had to smile when Dickinson said “my health always reflects my horses health”. Now I know why he ran a small operation, as he was so in sync with his horses. His training job with Da Hoss was amazing. Thanks for giving us the scoop on Tapit. Thank God he’s still around to give a dose of stamina to his progeny.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Dewey. He really does transmit that stamina considering Essential Quality’s dam and broodmare sire were both pure sprinters.

  20. Rita Pierce says:

    Love this story about Tapit. Never knew his race record and I think everyone knows his stud record. Tapit is one of the most beautiful horses there are. He has aged beautifully and seems to only get better with age as far as throwing the great and beautiful winning horses. Wish Tapit a long and healthy life because when he is gone it will just be I think one of the worse tragedies ever. Thanks Steve for this great story about one of the greatest!!

  21. Teri Shelton says:

    Steve, thanks a again for a great piece. I didn’t know much about Tapit. Always thought he was a beautiful horse.

  22. Melissa P says:

    I obviously have a very soft spot for grandsons of A.P. Indy. I have one of my own. What Tapit has accomplished as a sire has been nothing short of amazing. It also appears as though he’s well on his way to being an influential sire of sires.

  23. Linda Mann says:

    Thanks so much for this, Steve. It explains why I didn’t remember much about Tapit as a racehorse, only his offspring. I loved watching Frosted – such a delight to see him have his great performance. I’ve read/heard comments to the effect that Tapit babies can be quirky and high strung and occasionally slightly crazy, but no idea whether that’s really true. Sounds like they might be just smart and in search of entertainment 😉

    On a totally different story line, other than my thinking about it after watching the races, what is it with Mikey and those fillies? Does he really handle them a lot better than other jockeys or do we have that impression from several of the fairly recent high profile fillies and mares he’s ridden? It seemed unusual that a top jockey would travel all the way across the country just to ride one horse, a filly,

    It would be fun to read about the specialties of the different famous jockeys over the years. Every now and then, a jockey will be described as aggressive, well suited to a particular temperament horse, and some are described as having more accurate ‘internal clocks’. But I don’t know what the range of traits of jockeys are – can’t look them up in a table somewhere, tho I’m sure all the trainers know what they are.

    anyway, thanks again for the great article about Tapit and his kids.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Somew jockeys do seem to gt along with fillies better. Perhaps its in the touch

      • Lanham Laura says:

        Horses are very intituitive to the rider. That of course goes as well for all the people that surround them from birth. When you go back and look at Ruffian Jucinto got to ride her as well as Foolish Pleasure. Mike has also been priveleged to ride great colts and fillies as well. I do believe the trainers notice how the horse be it filly or colt gets along with the jockey riding it. People like Mike are just born horsemen. They have the touch

    • Lynda B King says:

      Old saying: “Ask a Stallion, Tell a Gelding, Negotiate With a Mare”. Mares seems to be happiest when they are just left alone by the rider (jockey) to get done what needs to be done. Perhaps Mike is a “mare horse whisperer” and just instinctively knows the best way to ride a mare.

  24. EddieF says:

    Steve, I had been wondering what would come next from the master racing writer. I narrowed the possibilities to a story on the emergence of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a significant TC prep and a story on the remarkable achievement of the sire Tapit. I settled on the latter, and the result was a super payoff. By comparison, no stallion has sired more than three Kentucky Derby winners, and the last was in 1957 — Iron Liege by Bull Lea. And Tapit ain’t done yet! Thanks so much for a fascinating article.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks so much, Eddie. There wasn’t too much to write about the winner other than the usual praises for a true professional who I will get to in a later column. But I felt not much was known about Tapit the racehorse. Great bit of info (as always) on the Derby sires.

  25. 7.5 Furlongs says:

    Steve Haskin-

    Nice article about Tapit. Horse had a short, but interesting racing career, trained by Michael Dickinson. Seems to have made his mark on horse racing more as a stallion, especially as a sire of Belmont Stakes runners. Pedigree shows many strong sire and dam influences. But, my favorite shows up in the fourth generation, the maternal great-great grand dam, Foggy Note. She was a gray and helped pass on that hue to her great-great grand son. Foggy Note is the dam of Relaunch, who was a race horse and sire owned by Glen Hill Farm in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Due to these pedigree links, Foggy Note appears in the bloodlines of a fair number of thoroughbreds. I believe she had a fairly impressive race record as well in the late 1960’s.

    Anyway, she gets my vote as great-great grand dam of sires of Belmont Stakes runners. LOL.

    7.5 Furlongs

    • Davids says:

      As you probably know, Foggy Note is in both sides of Mohaymen’s pedigree through Moon Glitter and Relaunch (both by In Reality). Mohaymen has a winner already, so, hopefully, the good fortune will continue.