Favored Tacitus Hopes for Better Start Saturday in Travers Stakes at Saratoga

Posted on: August 24, 2019, 12:32h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2019, 01:33h.

A field of 12 is set to go to the post late Saturday afternoon in the 150th running of the Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Tax held off Tacitus last month in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. But will Tacitus get a better start Saturday in the Travers Stakes, which is a 1/8th-mile longer? (Image: Jenn March/The Post-Star)

Tacitus starts as the morning line favorite, with the Bill Mott-trained colt earning 5-2 odds. While he hasn’t found the winner’s circle since claiming the Grade II Wood Memorial Stakes back in April, the 3-year-old has finished in the money in each of his last six races. That includes being placed third in the Grade I Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security’s disqualification and finishing second in the Grade I Belmont Stakes.

Last month at Saratoga, in the Grade II Jim Dandy – a warm-up race for the Grade I Travers – Tacitus overcame an utterly disastrous start as he stumbled out of the gate. That kept him in last place in the six-horse field through the first half-mile. But under Jose Ortiz, the colt rallied and was closing in on the winning Tax at the wire, losing by just three-quarters of a length.

The Jim Dandy ran at 1-1/8th miles. Tacitus will get another furlong to run on Saturday as the Travers runs at 1-1/4 miles.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Tacitus will wear blinkers for the first time on Saturday.

Garrett O’Rourke, general manager for Juddmonte Farms, said Tacitus still has room to grow and improve.

He’s gradually getting there, but he’s not a horse that was fully mature in May,” he added. “He’s gradually getting to that point. When he does get there, he’ll be able to work around his bad luck events and get himself in the race early and use that big, long stride effectively.”

On Saturday, Tacitus will break from the sixth gate.

Will Distance be too ‘Tax’ing?

Tax, meanwhile, will break from the outside gate. He comes in winning the Jim Dandy, his second win in five starts this year. However, he’s only finished in the money three times. The two times he’s missed came in the 1-1/4-mile Kentucky Derby and the 1-1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, his two longest races this year. And by breaking from the far post, he’ll likely have to run further than his competitors.

Still, he’s one of three horses listed at the third price in morning line odds at 6-1. Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride the Danny Gargan-trained colt.

Gargan said he’s fine if people are sleeping on his horse.

“Well, I haven’t taught him how to read yet, so he doesn’t know he’s an underdog,” said a joking Gargan. “Nobody wrote about us going into the Jim Dandy and we did just fine, and nobody’s really written about us now. But I think he’s in his best form today.”

Runhappy Travers Stakes
1-1/4 miles, Saratoga Race Course
Post Time: Saturday 5:44 pm ET

Entry, Jockey, Trainer, Odds (in post position order)
1.Owendale, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 6-1
2. Code of Honor, John Velazquez, Shug McGaughey,  4-1
3. Highest Honors, Luis Saez, Chad Brown, 10-1
4. Laughing Fox, Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 30-1
5. Everfast, Martin Chuan, Dale Romans, 30-1
6. Tacitus, Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott, 5-2
7. Mucho Gusto, Joseph Talamo, Bob Baffert, 6-1
8. Chess Chief, Mike Smith, Dallas Stewart, 30-1
9. Looking at Bikinis, Javier Castellano, Chad Brown, 10-1
10. Scars Are Cool, Tyler Gaffalione, Stanley Hough, 30-1
11. Endorsed, Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin, 15-1
12. Tax, Irad Ortiz Jr., Danny Gargan, 6-1

Other Contenders

Code of Honor, who edged out Tacitus by three-quarters of a length at the Derby and ultimately ended up being placed second, is the second choice on the board at 4-1. The Shug McGaughey-trained colt is coming off a three-plus length victory in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park in early July. He lingered in last in the six-horse field, but took the lead at the stretch and pulled away under John Velazquez, even as the jockey lost his whip.

Code of Honor will break from the second gate, just outside of Owendale, another 6-1 entry. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale rallied with Florent Geroux aboard to win the Grade III Ohio Derby two months ago at Thistledown Racino. But this will mark his first time running at 1-1/4 miles.

Trainer Bob Baffert also has an entry in the Travers, although it’s not one of his more heralded 3-year-olds. Still, Mucho Gusto has placed in all eight of his career starts, all but one have been graded stakes races. He last raced a month ago finishing second behind Maximum Security in the Grade I Haskell Invitational. Like Owendale, Mucho Gusto is also a 6-1 morning line choice, but he’s also racing for the first time at this distance.

The race will air on FOX with a scheduled post time of 5:44 pm ET.