All was well with Tax following his second graded stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, where he broke on top and led the race into the first turn but was passed up by War of Will at the quarter-mile mark.
Around the far turn, Tax was back in command and managed to keep Tacitus at bay at the top of the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.
Owned by R. A. Hill Stable in partnership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, the gelded Arch bay was fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in his prior start. The Jim Dandy gave Tax his second graded stakes win after he won the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct in his 2019 debut.
“He came out well. He walked great, and looks good,” trainer Danny Gargan said Sunday morning. “I'm really happy with how he came out of the race.”
Gargan made notable changes to Tax's training, including using glue-on horseshoes, which proved to be beneficial.
“He's just getting better with age,” said Gargan. “Obviously, we changed some things to try and get him a little bit better and it's worked out on our benefit. We changed his shoes and since that, he's really improved.
“Since we glued his front shoes, he had that bruise in his foot and that's gone away,” Gargan added. “He's a different horse. He showed it yesterday. I think the further they went, the further he was going to win by.”
Gargan said that the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24 will be his likely next start, with the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, a nine-furlong test at Parx on September 21 also under consideration.
“That's what we're shooting for,” Gargan said. “There are other options, but we're trying to get to the Travers and win it. We'll have to figure it out. The Pennsylvania Derby is a big race for a million dollars so that's an option, too.”
The competitive Jim Dandy field included Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will as well as two-time graded stakes winner Tacitus, but Gargan was still highly confident in his horse, who was sent off at odds of 9-2 odds.
“I was pretty confident in him. I told people all week that I thought I was going to win the Jim Dandy,” Gargan said. “His work was tremendous. He's doing better than he's ever done. He likes it up here and likes this track so that plays into our favor a lot.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Tacitus also emerged from the Jim Dandy in good order.
The gray or roan son of Tapit, out of Eclipse Award winning broodmare Close Hatches, stumbled badly coming out of the gate but managed to make up enough ground to be competitive, finishing second.
Three starts back, Tacitus bested Tax by 1 ¼-lengths in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct.
“We got lucky. He's good,” Mott said.
Mott said Tacitus will continue on a path towards the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers.
War of Will, trained by Mark Casse for owner Gary Barber, finished fifth after setting the pace in the Jim Dandy. Assistant trainer Jamie Begg said War of Will came out of the race in good order.
“He came out of the race great. We were a little puzzled because he didn't go crazy fast on the front end. He's never really tried to make a move that early,” said Begg. “He was also down on the rail, which a lot of people thought wasn't a good place to be.”
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