TAPIT ON TOP
Since the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s American Graded Stakes Committee requires certain purse levels for races to qualify for graded stakes designation, accumulating graded stakes victors goes hand in hand with high rank on the general sire list. Thus no one will be surprised that Tapit ranks as the leading sire of North American graded stakes winners for 2015 with 16, well ahead of the 11 individual graded stakes winners sired by Medaglia d’Oro, who also finished second on the sire list, $4.6 million behind Tapit’s record $17.6 million.
The tables here summarize the basic pedigree parameters of 357 North American graded stakes winners of 2015 from Academic to Yahilwa. These 357 horses accounted for all 495 graded stakes races run in the United States and Canada in 2015. The 357 graded stakes winners were sired by 172 different sires who stand or stood in all parts of the globe.
That amounts to slightly more than two graded stakes winners among sires with graded stakes winners, and there were only 11 stallions, as shown in the accompanying table, who sired six or more in 2015. Former leading sires Giant’s Causeway (9) and Kitten’s Joy (7) continue to rank highly
by number of graded stakes winners. The most notable new appearance on this list is dual Horse of the Year Curlin, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2015 with seven graded stakes winners.
Occasionally one prolific money winner can push a sire with only a few graded stakes winners to the top of the sire list, as Cigar did for his sire, Palace Music, on some lists in 1996, but the record $8,288,800 earned by 2015’s leading earner, American Pharoah, left his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, in third place on the American sire list, $6.1 million behind leading sire Tapit. Pioneerof the Nile sired only one other graded stakes winner in 2015, Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap winner Midnight Storm.
Tapit is a representative of the fastest growing male line in North America, descending from his grandsire, A.P. Indy. As shown in the accompanying table of 2015 graded stakes winners by sire line and branch, male-line descendants of A.P. Indy account for 46 individual 2015 graded stakes winners, 24 of them from the branch founded by Tapit’s sire, Pulpit.
That amounts to 12.9 percent of the total number of 2015 graded stakes winners, well short of the 40.3 percent (144 graded stakes winners) from the Northern Dancer male line and the 30 percent (107) accounted for by male-line descendants of Mr. Prospector. For most of the first decade of the 21st century, Mr. Prospector had been gaining on Northern Dancer, but in the last few years, that trend has stalled or even reversed. That is primarily due to the American expansion of the Sadler’s Wells branch of Northern Dancer through the exploits of El Prado’s sons Kitten’s Joy and Medaglia d’Oro.
Both the Sadler’s Wells (29) and Danzig (29) branches of Northern Dancer, however, pale in significance compared with the branch founded by dual leading sire Storm Cat, whose descendants accounted for 67 graded stakes winners in 2015. Three of Storm Cat’s descendants, Giant’s Cause-
way (9), Scat Daddy (8), and Harlan’s Holiday (7), rank among the top 11 sires of 2015 graded stakes winners.
The Fappiano branch of Mr. Prospector (which includes American Pharoah) continues to be the most prolific branch with 29 graded stakes winners. The most interesting new development is the emergence of the Machiavellian branch, entirely through Machiavellian’s son Street Cry, who sired three graded stakes winners, while his sons Street Boss, Street Hero, and Street Sense (5) all sired graded stakes winners as well.
The relationship between graded stakes wins and earnings is also evident on broodmare sire lists, although honors are always more widespread among broodmare sires of graded stakes winners. A.P. Indy led the American broodmare sire list for the first time in 2015, and also stands at the top of the list of broodmare sires of graded stakes winners with six, but that number was matched by three other stallions. One of those is fellow Lane’s End stallion Lemon Drop Kid, who enjoyed a remarkable year, ranking in a tie for fourth on the list of sires of graded stakes winners as well as in a tie for first on the list of broodmare sires of graded stakes winners.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Mr. Prospector male line finished in a virtual dead heat with the Northern Dancer male line on the list of graded stakes winners by broodmare sire line with 114 and 115, respectively. Although the Damascus male line is effectively dead as a producer of graded stakes winners by male line, his descendants still were broodmare sires of nine 2015 graded stakes winners, led by Gilded Time’s four.
Stallions, of course, sire 100 or more foals per year, while broodmares produce only one. Therefore, the 357 2015 graded stakes winners were produced by 353 different broodmares. Only four broodmares produced two GSWs of 2015. Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes winner Graeme Six, by Graeme Hall, is the dam of Cali Star, by Street Cry, and Delightful Joy, by Tapit; Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, by Lemon Drop Kid, is the dam of Unbridled Forever and Forever Unbridled, both by Unbridled’s Song; stakes-placed Noble Fire, by Hook and Ladder, is the dam of champion female sprinter La Verdad, by Yes It’s True, and Grade 3 winner Hot City Girl, by City Zip; and Grade 3 Tempted Stakes winner Summer Raven, by Summer Squall, is the dam of 2015 graded winners Misconnect, by Unbridled’s Song, and Lewis Bay, by Bernardini.
Bruce Lowe family No. 1 has long been the most numerous in the broodmare population, and that numerical superiority is reflected in the accompanying table of graded stakes winners by female line. The La Troienne branch of the No. 1 family produced 12 2015 graded stakes winners, the most tracing to a single 20th-century broodmare.
Of the 357 North American graded stakes winners of 2015, only four do not carry at least one cross of Northern Dancer in their pedigrees. In other words, almost 99 percent of North American graded stakes winners of 2015 carry Northern Dancer somewhere in their pedigrees. Since Northern Dancer was born in 1961 and went to stud in 1965, he has achieved this remarkable feat of virtually complete saturation of the genome of the American Thoroughbred in only 50 years. It is an absolute certainty that within the next five years or so, all North American graded stakes winners will carry at least one cross of Northern Dancer, and the American Thoroughbred as a whole is likely to follow within a decade.
Even that does not adequately describe Northern Dancer’s influence. Although his sire line accounts for about 40 percent of 2015 graded stakes winners, 292 of the 357 (81.8 percent) carry at least two crosses of Northern Dancer in their pedigrees.
Historically the American Thorough- bred has carried an average inbreeding coefficient of around 1 percent, but inbreeding coefficient of the average graded stakes winner of 2015 was 1.52 percent.
Because of their prestige and value, and the ability required to win them, the pedigrees of graded stakes winners normally serve as a window into the future of the pedigrees of the breed as a whole. With the current dominance of Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, the rise of A.P. Indy, the continuing shrinkage of the number of stallions at stud, and the rise in the average number of mares covered per stallion, the inbreeding coefficient of the American Thoroughbred is certain to continue to rise over the next decade.
Gainesway Farm’s Tapit was a runaway leader by 2015 graded stakes winners.