Tacitus heads a field of 12 in the Travers
NY Hot List Staff
The big day is at hand at Saratoga Race Course.
Twelve 3-year-olds, each of them with an eye on the summer’s biggest prize, will square off Saturday in the famed Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at the Spa with $1.25 million on the line and a chance to take over leadership of the division.
The Travers may have lost some of its sparkle with the defections of Maximum Security, the disqualified Kentucky Derby winner, and 2-year-old champ Game Winer, but it still boasts a quality field topped by the horse who stands an excellent chance of emerging as the year’s 3-year-old champion.
Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus was tabbed as the 5-2 and he’s a highly deserving choice based on a string of solid and consistent efforts.
After winning the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial, the son of Tapit finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, but was elevated to third after the disqualification of Maximum Security from first to 17th.
Given five weeks rest for the Belmont Stakes, he was burdened with a wide trip and finished second.
After that, he had a miserable journey in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga when he stumbled at the start and did quite well to finish second.
Now, breaking from post six in the Travers with regular rider Jose Ortiz, Tacitus will get his chance to resume his winning ways at a highly opportune time and quite possibly give Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first Travers victory.
“You can get a good trip from that post or a bad trip from that post, so we’re hoping for a good trip. His training has been good. I think we’re just looking for that breakout race and for him to have his day in the sun,” Mott said.
The 4-1 second choice is Code of Honor, who was moved up to second in the Kentucky Derby. Since then, he won his only start, taking the one-mile Dwyer at Belmont Park for trainer Shug McGaughey.
“Naturally, everybody’s going to say real good things (abut training), but he has been training very well. I thought he was a little bit lazy coming out of the Dwyer for three or four days, but we got him up here and he’s done everything I’ve asked of him. He had a good blowout yesterday and I think he’s enjoyed his time up here. We’ll just see what happens Saturday,” McGaughey said. “I really don’t (have any questions about the 1 ¼ mile distance). He’s by Noble Mission, who ran long on the grass in Europe. I think he’ll get (the distance). He needs to be ridden right, and he will be ridden right. He’s a one-run horse, and you’ve just got to be patient with him and get him a trip. In the Derby, I’m not trying to stand here and say he might have won but he was compromised a little bit when (Maximum Security) back over. I think he flinched a little bit from that and it took away from his run just a little bit. He was third-best, and we got lucky and moved up to second.”
Luck was not with the connections of Tax at the draw. The final two posts and horses were posts 2 and 12 for Code of Honor and Tax.
Tax, the Jim Dandy winner, wound up on the outside and will need to use his early speed to avoid a wide trip around the first turn.
“From the 12-hole, we have no choice, so we’ve got to go. I don’t know what’s done it, but he’s just gotten better with time. He’s getting stronger,” said trainer Danny Gargan, whose gelding was fourth in the Belmont Stakes. “It’ll be a strong pace, so if we just run them off their feet he’ll win. I think it’s a strong crop. It’s a bunch of good horses and they’re all about the same horse. I think whoever gets the best trip and controls the race wins it. I think whoever has the lead at the eighth pole wins it. I think if I have the lead at the eighth pole, I’ll win the race. So, my goal is to have the lead at the eighth pole.”
Tax was one of three horses listed at 6-1 in the morning line, joining Mucho Gusto, the Bob Baffert-trained Haskell runner-up, and Owendale, who was third in the Preakness.
The rest of the field includes Chess Chief (30-1), Endorsed (15-1), Everfast (30-1), Highest Honors (10-1), Looking At Bikinis (10-1), Laughing Fox (30-1) and Scars Are Cool (30-1).
The Travers can be seen on FOX with post time at 5:45 p.m.