What we learned: Blinkers aren't putting Tacitus over the top

August 25, 2019 02:04pm
One of the old handicapping rules is to play against a favorite attempting something new, or at least use other horses alongside him as insurance. In the case of Saturday's Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, Tacitus attempted to win while sporting blinkers for the first time.

Trainer Bill Mott wanted to put more focus into Tacitus. Like in his past two races, though, Tacitus finished a runner-up again.

But considering the circumstances, Tacitus turned in a good race. The blinkers encourage early speed, and instead of running in midpack or farther as usual, Tacitus broke on the lead.

After the first turn, Tacitus let Mucho Gusto take over outside. But approaching the far turn, Tacitus came back at him on the inside.

Because the blinkers caused him to contest the lead, Tacitus used up all his energy on fighting Mucho Gusto, who also stayed on stubbornly late. 

Meanwhile, Code of Honor settled toward the tail end of midpack and revved up on the outside approaching the far turn, taking dead aim.

With Tacitus and Mucho Gusto used up on the pace, and Tax suffering from a wide trip, Code of Honor only needed to pass tired horses to win.

Tacitus held second three lengths behind Code of Honor. He ran a gallant race overall in showing speed and holding off Mucho Gusto, but Tacitus is also starting to show a case of seconditis with runner-up finishes in the Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and now the Travers with blinkers.

While Tacitus is a talented colt, the declarations of him as the best 3-year-old in training were premature, especially with Maximum Security still around.

Rather than blinkers, how about a jockey change moving forward? 
That's no knock on Jose Ortiz. But it can't hurt to get Tacitus back to his old running style and see what fresh boots in the irons can accomplish. 

Regardless, the lesson is clear. When a favorite tries new equipment, it is always reasonable to hold some skepticism as a bettor.

Midnight Bisou handles nine furlongs

For the first time in her career, Midnight Bisou finished off a 1 1/8-mile race strongly as she battled Elate in the Personal Ensign (G1).

In Midnight Bisou's previous tries at the distance, she had hung after getting into a good position in the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Midnight Bisou showed a solid late kick in her first try at the distance this season against a classy mare in Elate and nosed her out at the finish line.

What changed? This writer is not big on saying horses mature into handling different distances. But given the result, it is possible Midnight Bisou grew stronger as she got older and subsequently displayed a better late run.

As for Elate, she tried her best. Both Midnight Bisou and Elate earned a 124 TimeformUS Speed Figure for their efforts. but it is slightly disappointing to see Elate lose again after getting back on track.

In this division, the amount of 1 ¼-mile races are limited, but Elate would benefit from added distance. There is still time to jump over to the older male division and point for the Breeders' Cup Classic instead of the Distaff.

Shancelot burns money in Allen Jerkens

Bettors pounded Shancelot to 1-5 in the Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1), and it cost them as he faded to the final strides to finish third by a head.

On paper, the fractions seemed reasonable as he opened 23.15 and 45.58. For a Grade 1-quality horse, those are tepid fractions in a sprint.

But for those who want an excuse, there was some talk of a dead rail after Promises Fulfilled completely folded in the Forego Stakes (G1) against Mitole. Also, it felt odd that Shancelot opened up in slow fractions with a speedy horse such as Call Paul on him. Why would they go slow?   

Shancelot managed to open up in the stretch. But he hit a wall and Mind Control, Hog Creek Hustle and Rowayton all made their late moves. Mind Control managed to catch Shancelot in the end at 10-1, with Hog Creek Hustle second at 10-1. At least Shancelot held third by a neck.

The whole race just shows there is no point to betting a 1-5 shot, as anything can still happen in horse racing, especially at the sprint distance.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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