After placing in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont Stakes (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2), Tacitus will add blinkers and seek a signature victory in Saturday’s 150th running of the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga. The Bill Mott-trained colt heads a field of 12 in the 1 ¼-mile Midsummer Derby.
The main event on a blockbuster program that features seven stakes races, including six Grade 1s, the Travers will be televised live on FOX from 5-6 p.m. (EDT).
Tacitus raced greenly in the stretch of the Belmont Stakes and missed the start of the Jim Dandy, finishing second both times. The Juddmonte Farms homebred son of Tapit opened his three-year-old season in encouraging fashion, recording wins in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2), and one can argue that Tacitus’ best races are in front of him. The gray has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite with regular rider Jose Ortiz.
Code of Honor comes next at 4-1 following a sharp 3 ¼-length score in the July 6 Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park. Trained by three-time Travers winner Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor was elevated one spot to second in the Kentucky Derby two back and captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) earlier this season. John Velazquez guides the Noble Mission colt and Code of Honor should receive a ground-saving trip from post 2.
“I think he’s come a long way in the last two or three months and I don’t think the distance will be a problem,” McGaughey said at Tuesday’s post draw. “He’s a laid-back, one-run type of horse and that’s what we’ll try to do with him. Hopefully, at the quarter pole, we’re in a decent position where he can go on and make his run and see what happens.”
Jim Dandy victor Tax must overcome post 12. One of three runners listed at 6-1, the dark bay gelding has run his best races in New York posting a win in the Withers (G3), a second in the Wood Memorial and a fourth in the Belmont Stakes. Tax possesses good tactical speed and may be hustling to establish decent positioning before the first turn. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides for Danny Gargan.
“Well, I haven’t taught him how to read yet, so he doesn’t know he’s an underdog,” Gargan said when asked about Tax’s underdog status. “Nobody wrote about us going into the Jim Dandy and we did just fine and nobody’s really written about us now, but I think he’s in his best form today.”
Four-time Grade 3 scorer Mucho Gusto, a good second to Maximum Security most recently in the Haskell Invitational (G1), is also 6-1. The son of Mucho Macho Man invades from California for Hall of Famer and three-time Travers winner Bob Baffert off a five-furlong bullet work (:59 1/5) at Del Mar on Monday. Joe Talamo has the call.
“It’s always great to be a part of the Travers, it’s an event,” Baffert said. “The city embraces it and everyone is into it. It’ll be an exciting race, with a lot of good horses.”
Owendale, who completes the 6-1 trio, has established himself as an up-and-coming prospect in the division. Winner of the June 22 Ohio Derby (G3) as an odds-on favorite, the Brad Cox-trained colt registered his first stakes win in the Lexington (G3) three back and followed with a third in the Preakness (G3). Florent Geroux will be up on the late runner.
Leading trainer Chad Brown will seek his first Travers victory with a pair of entrants, Highest Honors and Looking at Bikinis. Highest Honors jumped straight from a maiden win to capture the July 26 Curlin at Saratoga, rallying to improve to two-for-three in his brief career. The improving Tapit colt picks up the services of Luis Saez. Looking at Bikinis, a son of Lookin at Lucky, finished third in the Curlin as the even-money favorite after racing over the worst part of the track. A nice allowance winner when making his 2019 debut in late June, the front-running colt will try to show more with six-time Travers winner Javier Castellano.
Completing the field are Curlin runner-up Endorsed; Preakness runner-up Everfast, fourth in the Haskell last out; Jim Dandy fourth-placer Laughing Fox; and maiden winners Chess Chief and Scars Are Cool.