Ranking the Dynaformers-Number 5: Tax Ruling

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"tax_ruling_2nd_pass_1.jpg"We continue our countdown of the best Dynaformer-sired steeplechase runners with Tax Ruling at number five. Irv Naylor’s charge stepped up to the plate and ran a big third in the Grand National for trainer Desmond Fogarty, which was the best finish by the American contingent in the $250,000 Grade I.

Tax Ruling (Dynaformer-Fantastic Find, Mr. Prospector): If Dynaskill brought us steeplechase tradition, Tax Ruling does her a bit better when it comes to the flat. A homebred hailing from the renowned Phipps Stable, Tax Ruling has a Grade I-pedigree through and through.

The 6-year-old is out of the multiple Grade I-winner mare Fantastic Find, herself a half-sister to Grade I winners Furlough and Dancing Spree. As a broodmare Fantastic Find has produced Tax Ruling’s half-sister Finder’s Fee, a multiple Grade I-winner.

Tax Ruling never made it to the races for Phipps Stable and was sold to Naylor as a 3-year-old hurdle prospect. He made two starts in Bruce Miller’s barn as a sophomore in 2006 but failed to hit the board, passed through Jonathan Sheppard’s stable for a pair of starts in 2007 and made his first start for Fogarty when he ran fifth at Montpelier in November.

Freshened up for 2008, Tax Ruling started at Strawberry Hill and broke his maiden by 3 3 3/4 lengths. He struggled in his next two starts; eighth place runs at Great Meadow and Saratoga, but then got untracked in the fall with a second in a Great Meadow allowance. Fogarty aimed at Callaway’s Grade I AFLAC Championship for novice runners where Tax Ruling closed out his 2008 campaign with a sixth.

Tax Ruling has take his game to the next level in 2009. He again started out his campaign with a win at Strawberry Hill in April and after a fifth in a Charlotte allowance two weeks later headed to Radnor for the National Hunt Cup. Relishing the off-turf, Tax Ruling toyed with a group of novice runners that included Terpsichorean, The Price Of Love and Dictina’s Boy en route to a flag-to-wire 12-length romp. The progression was complete, although Fogarty admits he was a bit surprised at the time.

“There was a time when he was 4 or 5 that I thought maybe he was going to top out as an allowance horse. He was always a half-decent horse but just not something you would think of in terms of a stakes runner,” Fogarty said. “But more than anything he’s just improved with age and maturity. He’s twice the horse right now, physically, than he was as a 4-year-old.”

After a summer freshening, Fogarty shipped Tax Ruling to Saratoga for the September 3 Paul Fout restricted stakes, where he ran fourth in a race he needed. The Fout run set Tax Ruling up perfectly for Far Hills, where he stalked the early pace in third and held well through the stretch to maintain that position under the line in what was his first start against open stakes horses. With the return of Good Night Shirt in doubt for the spring, a more polished and seasoned version of Tax Ruling figures to be a major player in the handicap division.

“All things considered, he ran a good solid race at Far Hills and showed he deserves to be in with that kind of company,” Fogarty said. “We’ll point him to the Carolina Cup knowing that he can compete with the best horses out there and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t return and run a darn good race there too. But looking ahead, if everything goes right of course, we think he can be a really good performer as a 7-year-old. You look to the Iroquois, at 3 miles over maybe some soft ground, that’s the type of style and course that will really suit him. He’ll have every chance to win a big one in the future.”