R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable's Tax had been touting himself in his morning workouts for the past month, including a recent 47.09-second half-mile as the bullet Saratoga work from 71 at the distance last Saturday. This weekend, the 3-year-old gelding delivered on that promise to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes by three-quarters of a length over 8-5 favorite Tacitus. Trained by Danny Gargan and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Tax ran nine furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:49.28. The son of Arch, claimed for $50,000 out of his second career start, was sent off at odds of 9-2.
“Hopefully if he comes out of this well, we're in the Travers,” said Gargan. “I think he likes this track and he likes it here, so that's something we're pushing towards and hoping we make. It's a wide-open division, he was unfortunate a couple of times. The Derby was a throw-out race because of the way the break went and the way the track was. If you take the Derby out, he's run as good as anyone all year. With the right trip and the right situation, he can be right there.”
Favorite Tacitus stumbled badly coming out of the starting gate, leaving him last of the six-sophomore field entering the clubhouse turn while Tax took the lead along the rail. War of Will, placed to his outside early on, rushed up to take the lead in the first quarter mile and set fractions of :24.89 and :48.80 under a tight hold. Tax was content to sit second behind that rival, with Global Campaign third.
“When the speed horse [Global Campaign] didn't break that sharp, I changed my plan,” Irad Ortiz said. “I just decided to go. I told myself, 'I don't want to be down on the rail.' When I got outside in the clear, I held it. That was my plan. I didn't want to be inside. I thought I was going to have the other horse as a target, but he didn't break, so I decided to go. We never expected War of Will to be in front.”
Laughing Fox and Mihos were paired up in fourth position, but mid-way down the backstretch Jose Ortiz allowed Tacitus to move up the inside and take over the fourth position. The entire field covered just three lengths in the far turn as Tacitus bid to move toward the leaders.
Meanwhile, Tax ranged up alongside the leading War of Will and quickly turned away that rival, taking command at the head of the lane. Tacitus made his way between Tax and War of Will to challenge for that lead, but Tax was game all the way through to the wire and pulled away in the final 100 yards to win by three-quarters of a length. Tacitus had to settle for second, while Global Campaign checked in third. Laughing Fox just out-finished War of Will for fourth.
“I wanted to break good and make everybody use a little bit at the first sixteenth of a mile,” said Jose Ortiz, aboard favored Tacitus.
“Unfortunately, he stumbled and after that, I used him a little bit just to bring him up to the field and when we passed the five-eighths pole, I saw an opening on the inside with War of Will at the front. I decided to let him go and let him catch up with the leaders a little bit by the half mile. The rail opened for me by the three-eighths pole. I felt like it was too early to take that chance. I think the stumble cost me a lot, for sure.”
Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Tax ran second for a tag of $30,000 in his debut and was claimed for $50,000 when breaking his maiden at Keeneland in his second start. From there, the gelding ran third in the G2 Remsen, then won the G3 Withers to kick of his 2019 campaign. Second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial, Tax faded to 14th in the Run for the Roses but rebounded well to finish fourth in the Belmont Stakes. The Jim Dandy is his second graded stakes win, and improves his overall record to 3-2-1 from eight starts for earnings of over $750,000.
“We glued his shoes and changed a few things that we were doing with him and he just looks bigger, stronger and training more aggressive,” Gargan continued. “He's four-or-five lengths better than he was going into any of his races, and it worked out today.
“He's a gelding, so he will get better with age. When a horse like this just matures and gets bigger and stronger, he can be any kind of horse at the end of the year. I'm really, really happy with him.”
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