In putting the final touches on his preparation for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, Tax worked a half-mile over the Belmont Park training track Thursday morning in Elmont, N.Y., in a torrid 47.80 seconds – the swiftest of 48 recorded works at the four-furlong distance.
Owned by R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, the 3-year-old gelded son of Arch impressed trainer Danny Gargan in his last work before shipping to Churchill Downs, breezing in company at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday with assistant trainer Rolando Quevedo aboard for the journey.
“I thought he worked really tremendous,” Gargan said following the work. “We put a target in front of him because he likes to run at something and 47 and change is fast today. I worked a few horses earlier today and no one worked that fast. Divine Miss Grey went 48 and change and she's a good work horse. The gallop out was impressive and he's training really well. Obviously, he's bred to go longer, and we train our horses to gallop out big. When you're going a mile and a quarter you want to have a fit horse.”
Tax is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Sunday, April 28.
Tax was claimed by Gargan for $50,000 following a second-out maiden claiming victory going 1 1/16 miles over the main track at Keeneland last October. Gargan acquired the horse believing that he had a solid turf router on his hands, but the native of Louisville, Kentucky ended up instead with his first Kentucky Derby starter.
“I watched him run [second] first time out [on Sept. 29] at Churchill,” Gargan recalled. “I was handicapping and we're always looking for young horses. I like to claim young horses and he was in a [$30,000] maiden. He was a real well-bred horse and I was thinking that he's wanting to run long on the grass, so I claimed him thinking that I was getting a grass router.
“We brought him here and the first time that I worked him he went really well, then the second time I worked him he broke off in behind some horses and he breezed [like he did Thursday].”
Impressed with the dirt work, Gargan supplemented Tax to the Grade 2 Remsen, where the gelding ran third.
Tax made his sophomore debut a winning one when taking the Grade 3 Withers on Feb. 2 at the Big A and in his most recent effort was a close runner-up behind Tacitus in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets.
A son of a former jockey, also named Danny, Gargan spoke of what it would be like to win North America's most prestigious horse race.
“My father won the Oaks in 1973 [aboard Bag of Tunes] as a jockey. He never did ride in the Derby, but he rode in the Belmont and the Preakness,” Gargan said. “It's obviously a race that everybody wants to win, especially when you grow up in the south end of Louisville. It's the biggest dance. You want to win it and it's pretty big just to be in it. It's a game changer for your career just to win the Derby.”
On paper, the Kentucky Derby appears to have a lack of early speed. Gargan stated that, while Tax can show some speed, where he will be placed earlier in the race will depend mainly on the post position.
“He has natural speed,” Gargan said. “We'll see what the post is. In the Wood we used him a little bit to get him into the position we wanted. I didn't want him to get stuck in behind horses, so I told the jock to move a little bit early.
“Obviously in the Derby we won't be pumping him at the half-mile pole to make a move around the turn there,” continued Gargan. “When Derby points are involved you have to be more aggressive. I don't think we'll send him as much as we did in the Wood. It all depends on how he comes out of the gate.”
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