Six years after American Pharoah opened his Triple Crown campaign by airing in the Rebel (G2), his Tapit half-brother Triple Tap made a hotly anticipated career debut for the same Hall of Fame trainer – Bob Baffert. Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine homebred lived up to his 1-5 favoritism in Saturday’s 2ND race at Santa Anita, dispatching his foes with ease. And as a Triple Crown nominee himself, Triple Tap ramped up speculation about his agenda.
Things will get a lot tougher than this four-runner maiden, but Triple Tap sent all the right signals in his straightforward introduction to racing. Under leading rider Flavien Prat, who won six straight races Friday, the chestnut broke in good order and readily attended pacesetter Eyes Open. A four-year-old filly, Eyes Open clocked splits of :23.31 and :46.63.
By that point, Triple Tap was already poised to breeze past her turning into the stretch. The favorite drew clear as his stablemate, the 3.60-1 Barraza, worked his way into second. Barraza, who had finished fourth in both of his prior starts, actually lost ground to the strong-traveling Triple Tap in the final furlong.
Reaching six furlongs in 1:10.97, Triple Tap increased his margin to 4 1/4 lengths at the wire. Prat had an armchair ride as the well-regarded sophomore finished seven furlongs in 1:23.12. The way he proceeded with gusto on the gallop-out was full of promise for the future.
“He broke well; we were right with the leader, which was good,” Prat told Santa Anita publicity. “It felt like he was just starting to stretch his legs, and he galloped out strong.”
“It went well and he rated kindly,” said Baffert, who also trained Triple Tap’s full sister, 2018 Starlet (G1) heroine Chasing Yesterday, for the same connections.
“When Prat asked him to go, he took off. He looked like he was in control of the race, and Flavien worked him the other day for me and he really loved him. He usually doesn’t say too much.
“When he came back, he said it was nothing for him, he was just getting going here in the end, so that’s a good sign.”
Barraza had 3 1/4 lengths to spare over Eyes Open. There was an 11-length gap back to trailing longshot Ivory Sky. Johan Zoffani was a vet scratch.
Triple Tap opened his account with a $36,600 deposit. But getting his maiden win out of the way in mid-March is worth much more, especially if he harbors ambitions to make the Triple Crown trail.
Baffert poured cold water on talk of running Triple Tap back in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), where he already has early Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Life Is Good set to go:
“It’s going to be a little difficult. The thing is, we don’t (want) to rush him, so we’re not even thinking about that right now…I want to get this race out of the way and then we’re gonna talk about it and figure out what we’re gonna do.
“He won nice. It looks like he can go two turns easily. I just like what I saw today. I really didn’t want to go seven-eighths with him. The further the better with him…I gotta thank track management here for letting us run these great horses in short fields.”
Triple Tap’s dam, Littleprincessemma, was purchased by Summer Wind for $2.1 million at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale. That money was well spent, for American Pharoah, her Zayat Stables homebred by Pioneerof the Nile, soon lifted her to Broodmare of the Year honors after sweeping the 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
The Yankee Gentleman mare also delivered a pair of group/graded-placed American Pharoah siblings – American Cleopatra, runner-up in the 2016 Del Mar Debutante (G1) for Zayat Stables, and St Patrick’s Day, Group 3-placed in Ireland for Aidan O’Brien.
Since taking up residence with Lyon, Littleprincessemma has spent more time consorting with Tapit. Their first union resulted in Chasing Yesterday. After Triple Tap came two more fillies, juvenile Lasting Legacy and yearling Sunrise Service.