Normandy Invasion Ready for May 4

Normandy Invasion Ready for May 4
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Adam Mooshian
Normandy Invasion (left) finished 2nd to Verrazano in the Wood Memorial.
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Tapit   is about as hot as any stallion in North America right now. Currently fifth on the general sire list, the Gainesway stallion has four graded stakes winners so far this year, led by Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) winner Joyful Victory.

One accomplishment Tapit does not have yet this year is a grade I-winning son. Many thought that Flashback would remedy that deficiency April 6 in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), but he was unable to run down Goldencents in the stretch and had to settle for second. On the same day, however, another Tapit son caught many eyes while running in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail. Like Flashback, Fox Hill Farms' Normandy Invasion had to settle for second, but his performance was probably the more impressive. Not only did he close well into a slow pace, but he was facing two undefeated rivals with high reputations and split the pair, falling short of catching Verrazano   by three-quarters of a length but beating Vyjack for the place by a neck.

Normandy Invasion has a running style that suggests the Derby distance will be no problem, but like many of the other runners in this year's classic consideration, he has a pedigree that is ambiguous when it comes to stretching out to 10 furlongs. Bred in Kentucky by a consortium that includes Gainesway, the colt is the fifth named foal out of the Boston Harbor mare Boston Lady, who herself failed to win in five starts. Normandy Invasion’s older half sister Princess Ash (by Indian Charlie) became Boston Lady’s third winner April 7 in her 4-year-old debut.

Boston Harbor, the champion juvenile male of 1996, ran well as far as he was asked to go, capping his championship season by winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). But after a fourth-place finish in the Santa Catalina Stakes in early February as a sophomore, he never raced again, and his pedigree did not really suggest that classic distances would have been his forte anyway. His sire, Capote, was also a juvenile champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner but failed to reproduce that form at 3. He tended to transmit the brilliant speed that had characterized his sire Seattle Slew and his dam Too Bald without transmitting the stamina that made Slew a Triple Crown winner. Boston Harbor's dam, Harbor Springs, was a Vice Regent half sister to champion sprinter Groovy (by Norcliffe) and was a stakes-winning sprinter on her own account.

Gay Senorita, the dam of Boston Lady, raced six times, scoring her lone win at a mile. A half sister to graded stakes winners Gulls Cry (by Sea-Bird) and Gala Regatta (by Hoist the Flag), she was by Raise a Native out of multiple stakes winner Gay Serenade, by the high-class sprinter Royal Serenade. The next dam in the tail-female line, Gay Fairy, started twice and was unplaced both times but was a full sister to the good stakes winner Gaffery, being by 1943 Lawrence Realization Stakes winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Fairy Manhurst out of Galtown, by Jamestown. The family traces back to Etoile Filante, also the ancestress of champions Parlo and Arts and Letters and of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone. But the question is whether that stamina has made it through to Normandy Invasion past repeated crosses with more speed-oriented types. Normandy Invasion is inbred 4x4 to Seattle Slew, 5x3 to Raise a Native, and 5x5 to Northern Dancer, all fairly commonplace in modern American pedigrees.

As a son of Pulpit out of an Unbridled mare, Tapit has a pedigree suggesting that 10 furlongs should have been within his scope. His performance in the 2004 Wood Memorial was in line with that pedigree, as he won impressively despite being compromised by a recent lung infection that had cost him training time. But the effort may have cost him his future career, as he failed to hit the board three weeks later in the Kentucky Derby.

A recurrence of his lung infection and other physical woes followed, and after the colt's attempted comeback in the September Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) failed, Tapit was retired. Thus, his own true aptitude was something of a question mark, and most of his best runners have scored their major successes in the range of eight to nine furlongs. Nonetheless, he is the sire of 2009 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) Careless Jewel, so he has proven his ability to get a 10-furlong winner at the highest level. And with the right trip, it is just possible that Normandy Invasion could fill in the one remaining hole in Tapit's resume—a winner in an American Triple Crown race.

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