SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – Trainer Danny Gargan’s Tax overcame a stumble out of the gate to duel fiercely with two unyielding foes the length of the stretch before edging away late to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
Breaking from the rail under Junior Alvarado as the even-money favorite, Tax had to be coaxed in order to maintain forward position heading into the first turn. Though he initially held the early lead, Tax soon gave it up to Not That Brady on the outside, and he posted opening fractions of :23.56, :47.39, and 1:11.44. Still riding the rail within range of the pacesetter, Alvarado waited for running room to open up as he rounded the far turn. Luck came his way when Not That Brady lugged outward, bumping with Our Braintrust, and Tax shot through the opening. Kept to task as he fought gamely along the inside, Tax crossed a head and a neck in front of those two in a final time of 1:50.23 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“I was hoping the hole would open up, and I got lucky and got through,” Alvarado said. “He responded right away when we got the space, it was just enough for him. When we got to the lead at the 1/16 pole, he started waiting again for the horses. He’s a big guy, but mentally, he’s not 100% in the game yet. He’s still learning, and today was a great learning experience for him.”
Following the finish, Our Braintrust’s connections lodged an objection against Not That Brady for the stretch run interference, but upon review, the stewards kept the initial order intact. Sir Winston was 5 lengths behind the winner in fourth while a 1/2-length past Admire, with Moretti and Lucky Lee completing the order of finish.
The Withers is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Tax earned 10 points for the win, with Not That Brady receiving 4 for second, Our Braintrust 2 for third, and Sir Winston 1 for fourth.
Tax’s win was his first since taking a $50,000 maiden claiming event at Keeneland on October 21, which is where Gargan claimed him for co-owner Hugh Lynch. Gargan then entered Tax in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last out, where he finished third behind the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes favorite third-place finisher Maximus Mischief. The 3-year-old gelded son of Arch now sports a record of 4-2-1-1 with $186,300 earned for owners Lynch, R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, and Corms Racing Stable.
“He ran really good today,” Gargan said. “I think down the backside, he got a really good education. Junior said he was really impressed with him. He said he kind of got stuck down in there and clipped heels a couple of times. I’m happy with the fact that he learned and got in there and got an education. We’re going to get into bigger fields as this goes down the road further.”
Tax returned $6.20 to win, $3.90 to place, and $2.80 to show. Not That Brady brought back $7.20 to place and $4 to show, while Our Braintrust paid $3.20 to show.