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TAMPA, FL – Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Tacitus rallied the length of the stretch to pull off the upset and score big in Saturday’s Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Breaking from post 10 under Jose Ortiz at 8/1 odds, Tacitus soon settled three-wide in midpack while Zenden blitzed like a quarter horse from the far outside 11 post and crossed over to take the early lead. With Well Defined giving close chase from the two-path, Zenden posted quick opening fractions of :22.79, :45.85, and 1:09.57. Exiting the far turn, Well Defined gave way, but Outshined, Dunph, Admire, and Tacitus led the quickly-closing field. Hitting the top of the stretch, Outshine went the outside route to chase down the pacesetter, but Ortiz steered Tacitus between Dunph and Admire and then through the hole that appeared along Zenden’s inside. Finding his best footing inside the final furlong, Tacitus shot past the early pacesetter and drew off late under steady urging to win the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track by 1 1/4 lengths. The Bill Mott trainee crossed in a stakes-record time of 1:41.90 that was just 0.15 seconds off of the overall track record that Stanford set in the 2017 Challenger Stakes.
“He broke very well and gave me a lot of choices by the first turn,” Ortiz said. “When the 9 horse (Dunph) went out, I decided to go in and follow the 1 (Admire) because I thought he had a good chance to win. I took a lot (of dirt), but the dirt doesn’t stick as much here as some other tracks, so I think it was good for my horse. He’s a little green still, but we got a rail trip and it opened up for us. He’s a big horse, and when he made the lead, he didn’t keep going; he kind of waited a little bit. He does everything so easy and I don’t know if he’s given me 100% yet – I don’t think so.”
The wide trip may have been his undoing, but Outshine fought gamely to secure second by 1 1/4 lengths. The 7/5 favorite Win Win Win rallied late to take third by a 1/2-length over Zenden, who dug in gamely and did not disappoint in his first attempt going two turns. Sir Winston made a belated rally to take fifth by a head and neck over Dunph and Admire, respectively. Well Defined weakened steadily in the lane to take eighth, while The Right Path, Dream Maker, and Lord Dragon completed the order of finish.
The Tampa Bay Derby is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Tacitus earned 50 points for the win, with Outshine receiving 20 for second, Win Win Win 10 for third, and Zenden 5 for fourth.
Tacitus’ win, coming in his stakes debut and in his first start since breaking his maiden on November 10, improved his overall record to 3-2-0-0 with $253,000 earned. No plans were immediately announced for the 3-year-old son of Tapit, whose stablemate and training partner Hidden Scroll is likely heading to the Florida Derby (G1) on March 30 at Gulfstream Park.
“We’ve always liked this horse and thought he could be a horse that would be on the (Kentucky) Derby trail,” Mott said. “I liked him a lot better today at the 3/8 pole than I did at the 5/8 pole because it looked like when he was trying to get between horses, I couldn’t tell if he was maybe fighting with the racetrack. He was climbing a little bit, but once he got through between those horses, he really got some confidence and got some momentum. Jose said he actually finished with something left. He got to the lead and maybe started to dog it a little bit, but I thought it was a very good race and a very good education for him.”
Tacitus returned $19.80 to win, $8.20 to place, and $4.60 to show. Outshine brought back $6.20 to place and $4 to show, while Win Win Win paid $3 to show.
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