It’s difficult to characterize the rise to greatness for a horse like Tale of Ekati, who was born already virtually flawless, according to John Phillips, managing partner of Darby Dan near Lexington, where the colt was foaled.
The son of Tale of the Cat out of Silence Beauty, by international sire of sires Sunday Silence, was often referred to as “a horse with raw talent" before his respectable fourth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
It’s not surprising the colt is now steadily working toward the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in hopes of adding a classic victory to his already impressive resume.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tale of Ekati, who most recently turned in a bullet work at Belmont Park May 20, covering four furlongs in :46.84, stamped himself as an impressive runner early in his career.
After making a strong first impression in winning his debut by 8 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park at 2, he finished a good second in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
Tale of Ekati’s performance in the seven-furlong Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont, however, was said to have been one of the most impressive acts by a 2-year-old last year, as he rallied from last to take the race by a length in 1:22.33.
Things did not look so good, however, when the colt finished fourth and sixth respectively in his next two races, the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Monmouth Park in the slop, and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), which marked his 2008 debut.
Tale of Ekati’s auspicious victory in the April 5 Wood Memorial (gr. I) over the now-sidelined champion War Pass put him back on the radar screen as a viable Derby contender, however, in spite of having only two starts as a 3-year-old leading up to the big race.
After finishing fourth in the Run for the Roses May 3, Tale of Ekati proved he was still worthy of taking things to the next level when Tagg pointed him for the third leg of the Triple Crown.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Tale of Ekati, who is owned by his breeder, Charles Fipke, is the meaning behind his name.
With his partner Stewart Blusson, Fipke, a geologist, discovered a vast diamond field in Canada’s Northwest Territories in 1991. Eventually opening a mine named Ekati, an ancient term referring to the quartz rock found in the area, Fipke has kept a 10% ownership in the business enterprise, which accounts for 4% of the world’s diamond production. He appropriately named Tale of Ekati after his greatest life venture.
A native of Alberta Canada, Fipke is a 27-year veteran of the Thoroughbred industry and keeps the majority of his broodmares at Darby Dan, including Tale of Ekati’s dam Silence Beauty. The 11-year-old mare is carrying a filly by Perfect Soul on a Feb. 18 cover.
“(Tale of Ekati) is just one of those horses that should be what he is,” said Phillips, adding that the Belmont’s 1 1/2-mile distance shouldn’t be a problem for the colt with superstars Halo, Nijinsky II, Sunday Silence, and Maplejinsky in his female family.
“He’s a very talented, well put together, competitive race horse,” said Phillips. “He is the poster child for hope. He’s with a great trainer who’s been (to the Belmont) before, and an owner that’s dedicated to racing and pedigrees. (Fipke) is sort of the classic, quintessential sportsman in the old sense of the word. He’s a character, but he’s on a mission to produce great racehorses.”