When speaking of prominent Juddmonte Farms homebreds, the first word that comes to mind for Juddmonte's General Manager Garret O'Rourke is 'legacy.' On Saturday, Tacitus carries five generations of said legacy into the Grade 2 $750,000 Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets.
The Wood Memorial, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, is slated for an approximate post time of 6 p.m. ET and will be part of a live national broadcast on NBCSN from 5:30-7:30 p.m., scheduled to also include the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby from Santa Anita Park.
Prior to the NBCSN broadcast, FOX Sports Saturday At The Races will air the major stakes leading up to the Wood Memorial with national coverage on FS2 beginning at 4 p.m. and regional coverage in the tri-state area on MSG+ starting at 3 p.m.
A gray or roan son of Tapit, Tacitus is out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches whose respective dam, grand dam and great grand dam are Rising Tornado, Silver Star and Monroe – all of which were campaigned by Juddmonte.
In addition, Tacitus is an indirect descendant of prolific Juddmonte broodmare Toussad who produced damsire First Defence's mother Honest Lady as well as prominent stallion and 2003 Wood winner Empire Maker.
“In an operation like this, the word 'legacy' comes out on numerous occasions,” O'Rourke said. “This is one of those pedigrees that I can remember from my youth. Families like this one create that legacy. Obviously, Close Hatches has been one of our greats in recent years and it's nice to see her pass on her abilities to another generation with a great one. This is how it's supposed to happen.
“Top stallions and top mares are supposed to produce good horses like this,” O'Rourke added. “He's a horse that is bred to be a classic racehorse. We're aiming for step one at the moment, which we have to get to before we can go on to step two.”
Tacitus has only recorded a trio of starts, which includes a maiden win at second asking on November 10 over the Big A main track rated good. He emerged from a three-month layoff in style with a win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10, where he picked up 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
When it comes to Tacitus' appearance, O'Rourke said he is reminded of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner and prolific sire Unbridled, who appears twice in his pedigree.
“There's a little inbreeding in the pedigree to Unbridled and when I look at Tacitus I see the beautiful stride that Unbridled had,” O'Rourke said. “I believe that he's a little more along those lines. His dam was one that was more powerfully built. I'd say that maybe the Tapit might be coming out a little stronger. [His temperament] is where his mother comes in. In the past Tapits have been sound but delicate, but Close Hatches had a magnificent temperament. We're delighted to have those genetics.”
O'Rourke said Tacitus has made noticeable conformational improvement.
“I think that mentally, he's been a good horse,” O'Rourke said. “He's taken all of his races in stride. Physically, early on, he was gangly and a bit of a 'Baby Huey', he needed some time to fill his frame. He made a big improvement from December to February. Hopefully he only continues to improve. He really seems to thrive in his work.”
In his Tampa Bay Derby victory, Tacitus sat well off the pace in the early stages and made his winning move at the top of the stretch, notching a 1 ¼-length score.
“He should do his best running in that last half-mile,” O'Rourke said. “With some luck we'll have some speed that will clear up and we'll leave the rest in (jockey) Jose's (Ortiz's) capable hands.”
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