Dual classic winner Justify will not be the only horse aiming for history in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) June 9 at Belmont Park. A victory by Hofburg would add another page to the 1 1/2-mile classic's record books for his sire, Tapit .
Tapit's dominance as a sire in the final and longest leg of the Triple Crown is unmatched in recent years. He has sired three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners. Tonalist kicked off the run in 2014 with his victory over Commissioner where California Chrome 's Triple Crown efforts ended. Tapit added to his Belmont success in 2016 with Creator and last year with Tapwrit.
The only other sire to manage three Belmont Stakes winners in four years was Lexington, starting with General Duke in 1868, then Kingfisher in 1870, and Harry Basset in 1871. Lexington also sired a fourth Belmont winner: Duke of Magenta in 1879.
Tapit's success in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont has helped him finish as leading sire of 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Tapit did not compete in the Belmont. In 2004, he skipped the race because of a recurrence of a lung infection. The illness had cropped up earlier that season, lingering in the days before the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1). Even so, Tapit won that 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep at Aqueduct Racetrack with a thrilling stretch drive, surprising even his trainer, Michael Dickinson, who said at the time a third-place finish would have been solid for the recovering colt. In the Kentucky Derby, Tapit finished ninth before being retired that year.
The horse's determination in the Wood Memorial, though, is one of the traits apparent in his progeny.
"If you have a photo finish and a Tapit horse is in the finish, they nearly always win," said Michael Hernon, director of sales at Gainesway in Lexington, where Tapit stands for $300,000.
On Saturday with Juddmonte Farms' Hofburg, Tapit has a chance to send a Belmont runner to the winner's circle for the fourth time in five years and become the first sire to have three winners in a row.
The 2018 Belmont Stakes also has the potential to deepen Tapit's influence through his female families. Two entrants—Tenfold, by Curlin , and Restoring Hope, by Giant's Causeway —are out of Tapit mares.
As Tapit's progeny have succeeded, the quality of mares sent to him has also improved. The fillies produced in those matings are starting to achieve their own breeding successes. "Many of his daughters are daughters of royally bred broodmares," Hernon said.
Tapit's status as a sire of sires also figures to be on display this weekend. Monomoy Girl, who won the 2018 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), is a daughter of Tapizar , a Tapit son who won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and entered stud duty in 2013. Monomoy Girl is entered in the Acorn Stakes (G1) Saturday.
Trained by Brad Cox, Monomoy Girl's record is an impressive six wins in seven races, two of which were grade 1. Her only loss was a second-place finish by a neck as a 2-year-old in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Hofburg, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, finished seventh in the 2018 Kentucky Derby after some traffic trouble. But Hernon said the "ultra-competitive spirit" embedded in the line is a key, as well as a tendency toward blooming later: "They improve with age."
"He has a lot of natural speed," Mott told BloodHorse, after Hofburg's final pre-Belmont workout of five furlongs at the Oklahoma track at Saratoga Race Course.
Mott noted that Hofburg has the key Tapit trait: stamina. "You know it seems like that's been his forte. He keeps coming," Mott said.
If Hofburg wins, it will be a breeding achievement for Tapit—and a positive narrative to balance the 2018 Triple Crown that would have been.