Sharp two-year-old debut winner rates as 7-5 morning-line favorite in first stakes attempt – a storyline that sounds fairly routine until you look at the filly in question. Instead of sporting the speedy and precocious pedigree you’d expect, this one is bred to route, and to come into her own with maturity.
That’s why Tijori is such a fascinating character in Thursday’s $150,000 Astoria S. on day one of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. The Southern California shipper may just be too good for them in the historic 5 1/2-furlong dash. But regardless of what happens here, she rates a top prospect over the long term for owner Kaleem Shah and trainer Simon Callaghan.
Tijori has gotten down to business much faster than her parents. She’s the first winner sired by champion Will Take Charge, who peaked in the second half of his three-year-old campaign. Tijori’s dam, Anchorage, was twice stakes-placed at Aqueduct early in her sophomore year. Both parents broke their maidens as fall two-year-olds, Will Take Charge over seven furlongs and Anchorage needing a mile.
Anchorage’s first runner, the Giant’s Causeway gelding Chip Leader, likewise scored in his debut later in his juvenile season and going a mile – in his case, on turf. Chip Leader took until the age of six to earn black type, accomplishing his resume builders with runner-up efforts in the March 17 Kentucky Cup Classic and April 14 Ben Ali (G3).
So how has Tijori come to hand so quickly, and displayed such ready speed? As premature as it is to discuss now, her pedigree pattern may be the key to her talent. Or to put it more broadly, she could be the harbinger of an emerging Will Take Charge-Tapit cross.
That cross offers a fairly new avenue to practice the Rasmussen Factor of inbreeding to superior females. Will Take Charge’s dam, multiple Grade 1 star and Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, is out of a Rubiano mare. Tapit’s dam, Tap Your Heels, is a three-quarter sister to Rubiano. Tap Your Heels is by Unbridled, while Rubiano is by Unbridled’s sire Fappiano. The siblings are out of Ruby Slippers, a Nijinsky II mare out of Moon Glitter, herself a multiple stakes-winning full sister to Relaunch, from a prolific female line.
Moreover, the Will Take Charge-Tapit cross yields a 3×4 duplication of Unbridled, with Will Take Charge being by Unbridled’s Song. That pattern alone could take on greater prominence in the coming years.
To speak of Will Take Charge and Tapit’s respective sire lines more generally, the Mr. Prospector over Seattle Slew angle is long tried and true. Multiple champion Royal Delta is one apposite example in this context, as a daughter of the Unbridled stallion Empire Maker and an A.P. Indy mare.
While only time will tell if the Will Take Charge-Tapit cross itself produces more than its share of notable winners, Tijori’s expression of it is grafted onto the branch of a superb family. Up front one notices the Pin Oak celebrity Broken Vow. Trace further and you find Peaks and Valleys and Alternation; Hall of Famer Open Mind and fellow distaff stars Forever Together and Excellent Meeting; Red Rocks and Hooray in Europe; and you’ll wind up as far afield as Hong Kong with former Horse of the Year Werther.
The genetic backdrop is complemented by her auction history, denoting an attractive individual enhancing her appeal over time. Offered by breeder Rosilyn Polan’s Sunday Morning Thoroughbreds as a weanling at Keeneland November, the chestnut went to Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, for $130,000. She doubled in price as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, selling to Gary Contessa, agent, for $260,000.
Tijori’s value doubled again at OBS March. After zipping a furlong in :10 at the under tack show for consignor de Meric Sales, agent, she was gaveled down to her current connections for $525,000.
Callaghan made no secret of his regard for Tijori once she arrived in his Santa Anita barn. She drilled a bullet three furlongs in :36 on March 28, just her second recorded work at the track, and her overall tab ensured support in her May 11 unveiling. As it turned out, she made 2-1 odds look generous when dominating by 3 1/4 lengths in a time of :52.69 for 4 1/2 furlongs.
“She’d been showing us an awful lot in the mornings,” Callaghan told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. “We thought she was a pretty exceptional two-year-old, so it was nice to see her do it, run a 77 Beyer.”
Tijori’s win was viewed even better by Brisnet, giving her a 90 Speed rating.
A tilt at Royal Ascot was considered, specifically the Queen Mary (G2) over five furlongs. That’s the race for the speediest juvenile fillies won three times by Wesley Ward, most recently with Lady Aurelia (2016).
Hands up if you thought Will Take Charge could sire a Queen Mary candidate, not out of a speed merchant, but out of a Tapit mare.
It’s still possible that Tijori is “just” a two-year-old with a developmental edge at the moment. But her profile is hardly what one would prognosticate from her pedigree, and I take that as a sign of something special. If so, we may only see her full flowering later in the season or even next year.
The bandwagon will get pretty crowded if Tijori wins the Astoria. If she doesn’t, I’m staying on board, in the reasonable hope that much more is to come.