The Test of the Champion 2017
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
The right mix of speed and stamina is needed to capture the longest dirt race many Belmont contestants will ever run. Just as we have for the last six years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), we take our annual in-depth look at the pedigree of each contestant.
With both Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing bypassing the Belmont, a mix of familiar foes and fresh upstarts is left to compete for Belmont glory. Thus far, 2017 has been a breakout year for sires with their first crop of 3-year-olds (Bodemeister and Maclean’s Music, respectively) capturing Triple Crown races—what are the chances another can accomplish the feat? Pretty good if you consider which of these Belmont contenders possesses the necessary stamina breeding along with strong damline performers to win the final leg of the Triple Crown.
In alphabetical order, let’s break them down into three groups, beginning with those whose pedigrees strongly suggest they should handle the 1 1/2-miles distance, even if their racing record may not recommend them:
Epicharis – SCRATCHED
(Gold Allure, out of Stapes Mitsuko, by Carnegie)
Runner-up behind Thunder Snow in the 1 3/16-miles Group 2 UAE Derby, Epicharis is an interesting Japanese-bred invader whose connections are undoubtedly inspired by last year’s success of Japanese-owned and -raced Lani, a Kentucky-bred son of Tapit that contested all three Triple Crown races, finishing third in the Belmont. The sire of Epicharis, Gold Allure was a three-time 10-furlong Group 1 winner on dirt; at stud he’s produced (among others) Chrysolite, three-time winner of the 12-furlong listed Diolite Kinen on dirt. Like so many top Japanese horses, Gold Allure is a son of Breeders’ Cup Classic (and near Triple Crown) winner Sunday Silence. If that weren’t enough to recommend Epicharis in terms of stamina breeding, consider that his damsire is 12-furlong Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Carnegie, son of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victress Detroit and top stamina sire Sadler’s Wells. Although Epicharis’ dam Stapes Mitsuko raced solely at sprint distances, she has produced a three-quarter brother to Epicharis named Meisho Naruto, who is a two-time Group 3 turf winner at 10 furlongs and a Group 2 runner-up at 11 furlongs. His three-quarter sister Pearl Future broke her juvenile maiden going 9 furlongs on turf before finishing third going 10 furlongs, while another three-quarter brother Danon Artist broke his maiden going 10 furlongs also on grass. However, this family is just as successful on dirt. All three of Epicharis’ second dam Martin Miyuki’s victories were on dirt, as were those of his third dam Miyuki Kamada.
Tapwrit – WINNER
(Tapit, out of Appealing Zophie, by Successful Appeal)
Freshened up after his sixth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby, in which he endured a rough and bumpy race, Tapwrit certainly has the potential to upset the Belmont. With two 12-furlong Belmont winners (Tonalist and Creator) and a runner-up (Frosted), Tapit has a stamina influence that is unquestionable. Perhaps what’s most appealing about Tapwrit is the combination of sireline stamina and a speedy precocious dam, Grade 1 Spinaway victress Appealing Zophie. She’s produced a half-brother to Tapwrit named Big Timer that didn’t win in nine attempts, but his best finish was a late-closing runner-up effort in an 11-furlong turf maiden special weight event at Delaware Park. Big Timer also finished third in a 12-furlong Saratoga turf maiden special weight race behind subsequent Grade 2 Pan American winner (and Grade 1 Man o’ War third-place finisher) Sadler’s Joy. Another half-brother Daddy in the Dark won a 9-furlong turf claiming race at Delaware Park three months after finishing a close-up second in a 2 1/4-miles hurdle contest at Monmouth. If his immediate family members aren’t evidence enough of stamina, consider that his second damsire is 12-furlong Grade 1 Oak Tree Invitational winner Hawkster, while his third damsire is Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.
(Creative Cause, out of Tiffany Twisted by Thunder Gulch)
Trainer Chad Brown sends out arguably the best stamina-bred horse in the race, Twisted Tom. Undefeated in three starts this year, including the 9-furlong Federico Tesio last out on April 22, this son of Preakness third-place finisher Creative Cause brings a set of fresh legs to the final Triple Crown race. While Creative Cause was never tested at 12 furlongs, his full brother Destin ran second in last year’s Belmont, losing to Creator by a mere nose. Twisted Tom’s first three damsires are all Belmont winners (Thunder Gulch, Seattle Slew, and Stage Door Johnny), and two of those three have produced Belmont winners themselves (Point Given for Thunder Gulch, Swale and A.P. Indy for Seattle Slew). Twisted Tom’s fourth damsire Exclusive Native sired Triple Crown winner Affirmed and Kentucky Derby winner (and Belmont runner-up) Genuine Risk. Stamina isn’t just limited to his male relatives. His dam Tiffany Twisted broke her maiden (in her 11th attempt) going 11 furlongs on turf. She followed that up with an off-the-turf allowance victory going 10 furlongs (1 1/4 miles) on a Delaware dirt track listed as “wet fast” before finishing fourth of nine in a 12-furlong turf allowance at Keeneland. His second dam Miss Turlington broke her maiden going 10 furlongs over Belmont’s inner turf course, while his third dam Class Play won the 12-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Irish War Cry – PLACE (2nd)
(Curlin, out of Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers)
Breaking from post 17, Irish War Cry initiated all kinds of problems for other Kentucky Derby runners when he bore inward at the break, but, after straightening out and running on pace, he weakened late to finish 10th. Can this New Jersey homebred redeem himself and successfully traverse the 12-furlong distance? It all may rest entirely on the shoulders of his sire. A narrow runner-up to the filly Rags to Riches in the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes, Curlin went on to capture four 10-furlong Grade/Group 1 races, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup (twice), the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He’s already produced a Belmont Stakes winner (Palace Malice) with a much stronger stamina damsire. It’s evident when looking at his damside that Irish War Cry is the product of thoughtful breeding, with his damsire Polish Numbers and his second damsire Beau Genius more notable for infusing profound soundness rather than flashiness in their progeny. Further back in his damline, his third damsire Saint Crespin won the 12-furlong Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, while his fourth damsire Tambourine captured the 12-furlong Irish Derby. This is a sneaky-good stamina pedigree.
Lookin At Lee
(Lookin At Lucky, out of Langara Lass, by Langfuhr)
The innermost post position in the Kentucky Derby didn’t impede Lookin At Lee, as he enjoyed a dream rail ride to finish second behind Always Dreaming. However, an awkward break left him trailing the field in the Preakness, in which he eventually got up to finish in fourth place. His sire Lookin At Lucky skipped the Belmont after his Preakness win and thus was never tested at 12 furlongs. However, as a sire, he’s produced 12-furlong Grade 1 Sword Dancer runner-up Money Multiplier. On his damside, Lookin At Lee also possesses some interesting stamina potential. While his damsire Langfuhr was purely a sprint-miler, as a sire he’s produced 10-furlong Queen’s Plate victor Mobil, two-time Grade 1 winner Jambalaya (who was victorious in stakes company running between 10 and 12 furlongs) and Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando. Lookin At Lee’s second damsire, 9-furlong Grade 1 Arkansas Derby victor Demons Begone, counts 13-furlong Grade 3 Seneca victor Flitch and 16-furlong (2-miles) Venezuela Grade 1 winner Demon’s Cloak among his progeny, while both Lookin At Lee’s third damsire (Conquistador Cielo) and his fourth damsire (Damascus) were 12-furlong Belmont winners. The female members of Lookin At Lee’s family have also demonstrated staying abilities. His dam Langara Lass was Grade 3-placed going 9 furlongs on dirt, while her full sister Madeira Park was a 9-furlong Grade 3 winner.
(Shackleford, out of Livermore Leslie, by Mt. Livermore)
The same day that Twisted Tom won the Federico Tesio, Meantime broke his maiden at Keeneland in devastating wire-to-wire fashion going 9 furlongs. He followed up that 7 1/2-length victory with a game runner-up effort in the 9-furlong Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont, giving him valuable experience over “Big Sandy.” But how likely is he to win at 12 furlongs? His sire, Preakness winner Shackleford, led for much of his Belmont try over a sealed sloppy track before tiring late to finish fifth, nearly eight lengths behind winner Ruler On Ice. Given that Meantime is from Shackleford’s first crop of foals, much is yet to be determined regarding Shackleford’s ability to contribute stamina to his progeny, but there are some positive damside indicators in Meantime’s breeding. His half-sister Sweet Reason, a three-time Grade 1 winner, finished third in the 9-furlong Grade 2 Gazelle behind subsequent Kentucky Oaks runner-up My Miss Sophia, while another half-sister Don’t Forget Gil ran second, just a neck behind Funny Moon, in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Even more intriguing: the grandsire of Shackleford’s half-sister, 10-furlong Grade 1 Alabama winner Lady Joanne, is Meantime’s damsire Mt. Livermore.
Patch – SHOW (3rd)
(Union Rags, out of Windyindy, by A.P. Indy)
Breaking from the far outside post 20, Patch didn’t encounter traffic problems until being severely checked and bumped in the middle of the far turn, finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. After a freshening, he’s ready to take on the challenge of replicating his sire’s feat of capturing the Belmont—and doing so from Union Rags’ first crop of foals. On his damside, there’s plenty of stamina evidence, beginning with his damsire, Belmont winner A.P. Indy. While his second damsire Unbridled managed only a fourth-place finish in the Belmont, as a sire he’s produced Belmont winner Empire Maker, as well as Belmont third-place finisher Unshaded and 12-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks victress Banshee Breeze (the latter being a direct damline descendent of Patch, a full sister to his second dam). Although all three of his dam Windyindy’s victories came at the 8-furlong distance, his dam’s full brother Indy Storm finished fourth behind Afleet Alex in the 12-furlong Belmont.
(Discreetly Mine, out of Plaid by Deputy Commander)
Grade 1 King’s Bishop victor Discreetly Mine excelled as a sprinter-miler, but as a descendent of the potent A.P. Indy–Seattle Slew sireline, out of a mare (Pretty Discreet) that captured the 10-furlong Grade 1 Alabama, he has the potential to instill stamina in his progeny. Senior Investment has already demonstrated that with his game late-closing third-place finish in the Preakness, but is it enough to successfully traverse 1 1/2 miles? His damsire Deputy Commander prevailed by a nose to win the 10-furlong Grade 1 Travers, but was never tested beyond that distance. As a sire, however, he did produce Belmont runner-up Ten Most Wanted. The stamina influence is less evident once you get to Senior Investment’s second damsire (Grade 3-placed sprinter Unreal Zeal) and his third damsire (Jig Time). His stakes-winning dam Plaid was a hard-knocking race horse, running 44 times over her four-year career and excelling at distances between one mile and 1 1/16 miles. She didn’t even appear in a stakes race until age 4 and not with regularity until age 5, with her best graded-stakes effort coming against the likes of Ginger Punch and Ermine in the 9-furlong Grade 1 Go for Wand, in which she finished fourth. While her first two offspring toiled in the claiming ranks, Plaid has also produced a three-quarter brother to Senior Investment, General Downs, who broke his maiden at Saratoga on dirt going 9 furlongs. Plaid’s half-brother Ashmore ran third in the 9-furlong Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby.
Gormley – FOURTH
(Malibu Moon, out of Race to Urga, by Bernstein)
Although Malibu Moon’s racing career ended after just two starts, the son of 12-furlong Belmont winner A.P. Indy has proven successful as a stamina sire with progeny such as 10-furlong Kentucky Derby winner Orb and 12-furlong listed stakes winner Malibu Moonshine. Gormley didn’t exactly impress with his ninth-place finish in Kentucky, but if he can avoid the bumping problems he encountered late in the Derby, his Belmont effort could be big. Up close in his damline, stamina isn’t particularly evident, given that his damsire Bernstein is most noted as a sire of turf milers, such as six-time Grade 1 winner Tepin and fellow Breeders’ Cup Mile victor Karakontie. However, Gormley’s second damsire Kingmambo produced Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, as well as two winners of the 12-furlong Grade 1 Japan Cup, El Condor Pasa and Alkaased. His third damsire, 12-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Strawberry Road, captured Group/Grade 1 events in Australia, Germany and France between 12 and 13 furlongs, while his fourth damsire, 12-furlong Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Vaguely Noble, produced Exceller, who defeated two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, in winning the 12-furlong Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1978. All eight starts for Race to Urga, the dam of Gormley, were on turf, on which she broke her maiden going 1 1/16 miles and ended her career winning the black-type Wait a While Stakes at the same route distance. Her dam Miss Mambo was Group 1-placed in France sprinting on turf, and her second dam Troika won four of eight starts, including a 10-furlong turf allowance race at Belmont. The fourth dam of Gormley, Estrapade won the 1986 Eclipse Award for Champion Grass Mare after defeating males in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Arlington Million and 12-furlong Grade 1 Oak Tree Invitational. Twelve times in her 30-race career she either won or placed in Grade/Group 1 races at distances from 9 to 14 furlongs.
(Tapizar, out of Ladyflickerflacker, by Forestry)
Out of the money in both the 9-furlong Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and the 9-furlong Grade 3 Illinois Derby, Hollywood Handsome enters the Belmont off an allowance victory at Churchill Downs going 1 1/16 miles, hardly a solid endorsement for his ability to be competitive at 1 1/2 miles. Another sire whose first crop of foals turned three this year, Tapizar concluded his 14-race career with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, the distance at which he found his greatest success. Much of Tapizar’s stamina potential rests in his sire Tapit, whose sons Tonalist and Creator are recent Belmont winners, while his son Frosted was the runner-up behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and another son Lani finished third behind Creator and Destin last year. In his damside, only Hollywood Handsome’s third damsire Seattle Song demonstrated true staying power, capturing the 12-furlong Grade 1 Washington D.C. International. While the dam of Hollywood Handsome, Ladyflickerflacker, toiled in the claiming ranks, her full sister Lady Lumberjack finished second in the 1 1/16-miles Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks, while her half-sister Aqsaam won an 11 1/2-furlong turf allowance race at Gulfstream before yielding late to finish a narrow runner-up in the 12-furlong Grade 3 Orchid.
J Boys Echo
(Mineshaft, out of Letgomyecho, by Menifee)
Like Tapwrit and several others, J Boys Echo was partially a victim of a roughly-run Kentucky Derby, managing to finish only 15th. That poor effort combined with his disappointing fourth-place performance in the 9-furlong Grade 2 Blue Grass may dissuade horseplayers, but plenty of positive pedigree indicators make him worth a second look here. A son of Belmont winner A.P. Indy and twice a 10-furlong Grade 1 winner (Jockey Club Gold Cup, Suburban), Mineshaft has already proven himself a stamina sire of quality, with progeny including 12-furlong Belmont runner-up Fly Down and 12-furlong listed Greenwood Cup victor A.U. Miner, who also finished third in the 14-furlong Grade 3 Breeders’ Cup Marathon. J Boys Echo’s damsire Menifee was twice a Grade 1 runner-up at 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs), including in the Kentucky Derby, but finished a tiring eighth in the Belmont. His third damsire Sir Ivor counts the 12-furlong Epsom (English) Derby among his top staying performances. The dam of J Boys Echo, 7-furlong Grade 2 Forward Gal victress Letgomyecho, has also produced Grade 3-placed Unbridled Outlaw, who races mostly at sprint distances or one mile. Another immediate family member is 9-furlong Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby runner-up One Lucky Dane, but overall there aren’t actually many distance runners in his damside, thus the lingering question mark.
(The Factor, out of Trippi Street, by Trippi)
Winner of the 9-furlong Grade 3 Illinois Derby, Multiplier finished mid-pack in the Preakness, nearly six lengths back of winner Cloud Computing. From the first crop of two-time Grade 1 sprinter The Factor (a son of two-time Grade 1 sprint runner-up War Front), there’s not a lot to recommend stamina in Multiplier’s sireline. His damline is a somewhat different story, and thus undoubtedly why his connections are taking a gamble on running him here. His damsire Trippi won the 9-furlong Grade 3 Flamingo in wire-to-wire fashion, but he really excelled at sprinting, winning the 7-furlong Grade 1 Vosburgh. Multiplier’s dam Trippi Street was precocious, winning a 6-furlong race at first asking as a juvenile by nine lengths. Second-up, she endured horrific traffic problems and still got up to finish second in the one-mile Grade 3 Pocahontas. Multiplier is by far her most successful offspring, but she possesses quality in her bloodline, with her second dam being multiple stakes winner Halo Dotty and her third dam another multiple stakes winner, Dorothy Glynn. Both of those mares won stakes races at 9 furlongs. The real stamina in Multiplier’s pedigree is found in his second damsire Alleged, who twice won the 12-furlong Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and in his third damsire Halo (winner of the 12-furlong Lawrence Realization), who sired not only Belmont runner-up (and near Triple Crown winner) Sunday Silence, but also 12-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks victress Goodbye Halo. Can that stamina depth further back in his pedigree make up for the lack of it close-up?