Pedigrees still matter, especially when you are talking about going a mile and a half at Belmont Park, and doing it in the first 12 months of your racing career. On Saturday, Justify and nine other young colts will try to excel at the trip in the Belmont Stakes. It will likely be the longest race each will ever run, so it only makes sense to check the bloodlines. While the female side of their pedigrees certainly matter, a lot can be learned by looking at what they get from dear old dad. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the sires of the Belmont Stakes.
Tapit (Hofburg) – America’s top sire in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the Gainesway stallion stands for a whopping $300,000 stud fee, and with good reason, having already sired 24 Grade 1 winners. In his own racing career, he won the Wood Memorial and Laurel Futurity while making only six career races. Sons and daughters of Tapit not only win, but they can do it at any distance. In fact, he’s been the dominant sire of the Belmont Stakes in recent years. He’s sired the winner of three of the last four editions of the Belmont with Tonalist, Creator, and Tapwrit. He also added a second and a third in that time period with Frosted and Lani. Among his top offspring include stars like Frosted, Untapable, Tonalist, and Unique Bella.
Curlin (Vino Rosso & Tenfold) – The top runner on this list was beaten by the filly Rags to Riches in an excellent battle in the 2007 Belmont Stakes. He excelled in classic distances counting the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and the Preakness among his many wins. As a sire, the two-time Horse of the Year has also proven to be a big success. His top offspring include; Palace Malice, Stellar Wind, Exaggerator, and Good Magic. The only sire with two runners in this year’s Belmont, Curlin has already sired a Belmont winner in Palace Malice, as well as a runner up in Irish War Cry.
Scat Daddy (Justify) – Unfortunately we lost this one way too soon when he passed away at the age of 11 in December of 2015, but his legacy lives on. As a runner, Scat Daddy was a four-time graded stakes winner, including the Florida Derby, before coming out of the Kentucky Derby with a tendon injury. At stud, the son of Johannesburg has produced a good mix of quality runners on turf and dirt, and both sprinting and around two-turns. The sire of champion Lady Aurelia was perhaps better known as a turf sire before this year, when he set a record with four horses in the Kentucky Derby, in Justify, Mendelssohn, Flameaway, and Combatant. Justify is his first Grade 1 winner in America around two-turns on the dirt.
Awesome Again (Bravazo) – The winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Queen’s Plate, both at ten furlongs, has proven to be every bit the sire that he was the runner. Among his many millionaire sons and daughters include; Ghostzapper, Game On Dude, Ginger Punch, Round Pond, and Oxbow. The latter gave him a Preakness winner, and was one of two sons to run second the Belmont Stakes. The other came even closer, when Paynter was just passed late by Union Rags in 2012.
Lonhro (Gronkowski) – A multiple champion and Horse of the Year in Australia, Lonhro won 26 of 35 lifetime races at distances up to 1 1/4 miles. He’s carried his class over to the breeding shed, as a champion sire in Australia. Shuttled to America to breed in recent years, he’s had a few stakes winners on the turf here, but nothing of major significance on the dirt. His top runners, and there are many in Australia, have been best generally at distances of a mile and under.
Proud Citizen (Blended Citizen) – He gave each leg of the Triple Crown a run back in 2002, running second in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness, and fifth in the Belmont. A son of top sire Gone West, Proud Citizen proved to be a solid sire before his passing in 2016. His most successful runners have been best at distances at nine furlongs and under, and are highlighted by a pair of Kentucky Oaks winners in Proud Spell and Believe You Can.
Take Charge Indy (Noble Indy) – A winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby by stalwart sire A.P. Indy out of the exceptional broodmare, Take Charge Lady, you would think that Take Charge Indy would be a go to sire here in the United States, but he was sold to South Korea before his first crop hit the track. Now three, that first crop is showing signs of quality with the emergence of Noble Indy and Take Charge Paula. The former gives his young sire a chance to continue the classic success of grandfather Seattle Slew, and sire A.P. Indy.
Union Rags (Free Drop Billy) – The only sire in the field to have won the Belmont Stakes himself, Union Rags was all class on the racetrack, winning the Saratoga Special, Champagne, Fountain of Youth, and Belmont before his early retirement after only eight lifetime races. Represented by Belmont starter and Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy in his second crop, the young stallion also has Paradise Woods, Union Strike, and Patch among his first two crops. A son of Dixie Union, it looks like his offspring have the ability to win at both one-turn and two-turns, and seeing them run long would come as no surprise.
Giant’s Causeway (Restoring Hope) – We lost one of the world’s top sires with the passing of this one in April. A champion on turf, he never finished outside the top two, and came very close to winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in his only career race on dirt. He may have been even better at stud. Successful on both turf and dirt and at any distances, he’s sired 104 graded stakes winners. Eight of those were champions. A consistent sire of horses who could get a distance, Giant’s Causeway just missed winning his first Belmont when his son Destin was nipped on the wire by Creator in 2016.
Photo of Creator courtesy of NYRA