by John Mucciolo
Juddmonte Farms homebred Tacitus split runners approaching the turn for home and closed best of all en route to a 1 1/4-length score in the $355,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on Saturday. The son of Tapit finished off 1 1/16 miles on the fast main surface in a stakes-record 1:41.90 to earn his first stakes victory.
Zenden broke best from his outside post and led the cast early on, establishing ambitious fractions of :22.79, :45.85 and 1:09.57 for the opening six furlongs while holding a half-length edge. The pacesetter improved his lead to 1 1/2 lengths after clocking one mile in 1:35.44, but the demanding splits would eventually take their toll.
Tracking in sixth early on, Tacitus was always moving well, and he steadily made his way into contention nearing the top of the lane. His momentum carried him to third by the midstretch marker and he did the rest from there in a very professional effort.
Outshine tracked off of the swift early pace and finished a solid second for conditioner Todd Pletcher. Win Win Win, the 7-5 choice, was wide every step of the way while checking in third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths in total. Zenden stayed on for an admirable fourth after dictating the action into the stretch.
Tacitus is trained by Bill Mott and was guided home by Jose Ortiz. He upped his career mark to 3-2-0-0, $253,000 following the tally, which earned him 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and impressed his jockey on Saturday.
“He’s a little green still but we got a rail trip and it opened up for us,” Ortiz stated. “He’s a big horse and when he made the lead, he didn’t keep going; he kind of waited a little bit. He does everything so easy and I don’t know if he’s given me 100 percent yet – I don’t think so.”
Tacitus began his career at Belmont Park in October in a highly-competitive maiden special weight event going 1 1/16 miles and finished a creditable fourth. The Tapit colt came back to graduate second time out at Aqueduct in a similar maiden race to cap his brief two-year-old campaign.
The winner was bred in the Bluegrass State and is the first registered foal produced from champion Close Hatches, who was a five-time Grade 1 heroine and a full-sister to 2017 Kentucky Oaks (G1) third Lockdown.
Close Hatches is also responsible for an unraced two-year-old filly by Malibu Moon named Altheer, an unnamed yearling colt by Tapit and an unnamed weanling colt by Curlin.