SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Trainer Danny Gargan told anyone who would listen that his prized pupil Tax was ready to run a big race in Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2), and that’s exactly what he did as he won the 1 1/8-mile local prep for the Travers Stakes (G1).
Breaking from post 2 at 9/2 odds under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Tax led initially as the field made the clubhouse turn, posting an opening 1/4-mile fraction in :24.89. However, the Preakness Stakes (G1) winner War of Will was hell-bent on controlling the pace, and he rushed up Tax’s inside down the backstretch to take over.
Heading into the far turn, War of Will still led but soon came under pressure as Tax rallied along his outside. At the top of the stretch, War of Will began to give way as Tax held command. Despite a strong push from the 8/5 favorite Tacitus on his inside, Tax dug in hard to remain in front through to the wire. He completed the event over the fast main track in 1:49.28 while winning by 3/4 of a length.
“When the speed horse (Global Campaign) didn’t break that sharp, I changed my plan,” said Ortiz, Jr. “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.”
Tacitus’ hopes for victory almost disappeared completely at the start after his front legs crossed and he fell to his nose. The athletic colt managed to recover and keep pace with the field, but his auspicious beginning may have factored into being unable to close the deal in the end and finished 3 3/4 lengths clear of Global Campaign for second. Laughing Fox nosed out a spent War of Will for fourth, while Mihos never played a factor before completing the order of finish.
Tax’s win was his first since taking the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct last February and improved his career record to 8-3-2-1 with $756,300 earned. The 3-year-old gelded son of Arch, who was claimed for $50,000 as he broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall, will aim for the Travers as his next start. He is co-owned by R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch, and Corms Racing Stable.
“I think he likes this track and he likes it here, so that’s something we’re pushing towards and hoping we make,” Gargan said. “It’s a wide-open division; he was unfortunate a couple of times. The (Kentucky) 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.”
Tax returned $11 to win, $4.30 to place, and $2.90 to show. Tacitus brought back $2.80 to place and $2.30 to show, while Global Campaign paid $3.20 to show.
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