In hindsight, Tacitus’ Travers Stakes blinkers ‘the right choice’

August 24, 2019 07:28pm

Even though Tacitus went off as Saturday’s favorite in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes, the runner-up that resulted didn’t surprise trainer Bill Mott.

"The horse that won, he was third in the Derby,” Mott said of Code of Honor, who was placed second thanks to Maximum Security’s disqualification on the Saturday in May. “He ran well. He did actually beat Tacitus in the Derby. They were third and fourth, respectively.

“You look back and you have to say he figured.”

In this meeting between the New York-based colts, there was a much different means to the same end, with Code of Honor again one spot ahead of Tacitus.

Mott-trained Tacitus pulled jockey Jose Ortiz to the early lead wearing blinkers for the first time, and he continued to factor in a pace duel with California shipper Mucho Gusto. Code of Honor sat in behind the leaders, then tipped out in the stretch to scream past for a three-length victory.

"I had one eye on the winner and one eye on mine,” Mott said. “It looked like there was a good chance we were going to out-duel Mucho Gusto but the winner — I mean he rolled by pretty fast.”

It wasn’t the plan, of course, to go for the lead. But Chad Brown-trained Looking At Bikinis stumbled leaving the gate, and Jim Dandy (G2) winner Tax never quite made it to the front from his outside post position.

“No excuses,” Mott said. “Looking back, I don't know what else we could have done. I've been doing this a long time, and when they fire a good shot like that and they try, you've got to be pleased. You know, I want to win, but I don't know how I could have turned it around today in here.

“I think we made the right choice putting the blinkers on him. My horse was brave. He was good coming through on the inside. No regrets.”

Having led through the first turn, Tacitus took back a bit along the backstretch when Mucho Gusto stormed to the front. Joe Talamo, aboard that rival, never came down to the rail to block Tacitus, who shot up the inside and back to the lead into the far turn.

Jose Ortiz, who rode Tacitus, was thinking, “Sit, sit, sit.”

Another near miss for Tacitus ensued after the Juddmonte Farms runner opened his season with consecutive Grade 2 victories. Since being placed third in the Derby, the gray has run second in the Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy and now Travers.

“From the 3/8ths pole on, it was a horse race,” Ortiz said, “and the other horse flew by us and beat us. But I'm very proud of my horse.

"Today we had no excuses. Today he was second best. I'm very happy and very proud of him."


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