R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable's graded-stakes winner Tax remains on target to make his return in Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets, exiting a sharp final work in good shape.
Working in company, Tax blazed four furlongs over the main track in 47.09 seconds Saturday, the fastest of 70 horses at the distance. It was his second work at Saratoga, following a half in 49.95 on July 13, and third since his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets June 8.
Trainer Danny Gargan said Sunday morning that the gelded 3-year-old son of Arch is doing better than ever heading into the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, Saratoga's traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, to be run for the 150th time Saturday, August 24.
“He looks great. He's doing phenomenal. I couldn't be happier. He's training great,” Gargan said. “It was a big-time breeze. We worked him easy last week, so I planned on working him in company. When he works in company, he tends to have fast works.
“I was really pleased with him. We put a workmate three or four lengths in front of him and he just went right on by. That was the planned way to do it, just in case,” he added. “He showed he can sit second and pass horses; he's done it. Obviously, we want to be forwardly placed. If there's no speed, we'll be on the lead. If someone wants to be stupid, we'll sit second, but I'm not taking far back.”
The Jim Dandy will be the eighth career start and sixth straight in graded company, all since being claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden triumph last fall at Keeneland. He has a win, a second and a third at the Jim Dandy distance, taking the Grade 3 Withers by a head despite stumbling at the start February 2 at Aqueduct in his sophomore debut.
In the 1 ½-mile Belmont, Tax pressed a moderate pace set by Joevia and made a bid at the quarter pole before falling back to fourth behind Sir Winston, 1 ¾ lengths behind runner-up Tacitus, with Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will checking in ninth.
War of Will and Tacitus are also being pointed to the Jim Dandy, along with Grade 3 Peter Pan winner Global Campaign, Oaklawn Park Invitational winner and Preakness fifth-place finisher Laughing Fox, and maiden winner Highest Honors.
“He's doing really well. His hair coat looks better than it's ever looked. He's eating better. Ever since we glued his front shoes, he's really come around a lot. I definitely think he's better now than he's ever been. I expect him to move forward three or four lengths,” Gargan said. “He came out of the Belmont better than he went in it. Ever since that, we've kind of been pointing to this race. He's never gone backwards at all.”
Gargan said he was impressed with the energy Tax showed following his most recent work, a sign that the trainer feels has him sitting on a big race.
“After we gave him a bath and he cooled out we had to put a lip shank on him to walk him. He was squealing and rearing,” Gargan said. “Obviously, [Tacitus] is a special horse. [War of Will] can run big races, too, and [Global Campaign] is a really good horse. It's going to be a horse race. If I could win it, it'd be great. I just want to run big in it. If he keeps going forward, he's a gelding, he's got a big future. And, we still have the turf that we've played around with trying but it's hard to put him on it right now because he's doing so well on the dirt. He's definitely getting better with age.”
Gargan said he is looking at putting six-time stakes winner Divine Miss Grey back on the turf in the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for fillies and mares 4 and up going one mile Saturday, August 3 at Saratoga, part of the three-day Fasig-Tipton Racing Festival August 2-4.
Winner of the Grade 2 Chilukki last fall at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old Divine Park mare was eighth last out in the Grade 1 La Troienne May 3, exiting the race with a slight illness. She remains with Gargan's string at Belmont Park.
“She stays at Belmont. It's too hectic up here for her, but she's doing good down there. She'll get one more breeze if everything goes as planned. She'll come here a couple days before the race,” Gargan said. “I ran her on the grass once, but it was a yielding turf and she was second. But I really think she'll like this turf course going a mile. She can slingshot that turn and they'd have a hard time catching her.”
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