July 19, 2019

Tacitus leads competitive renewal of the Wood Memorial

Jose Ortiz celebrates as Tacitus wins the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 9, 2019, at Tampa Bay Downs (c) SV Photography

Fifteen years after his sire Tapit won the race, Tacitus will attempt to keep Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) somewhat of a family affair in the 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep at Aqueduct.

A winner in two of three starts, including a maiden score at the Big A and a 1 1/4-length triumph over Outshine in last month’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Tacitus will seek to become the second son of Tapit to win the Wood following Frosted in 2015.

Todd Pletcher will rely on Outshine and stakes-placed Overdeliver to win his sixth Wood Memorial since 2010. Compared to the more seasoned Outshine, Overdeliver has raced just twice, finishing a distant second last out in the $75,000 Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs.

“We’re excited about stretching him out to a mile and an eighth,” said Pletcher of Outshine. “We’ve been pointing to the Wood since the Tampa Bay Derby and we’re optimistic from what we’re seeing.

“We didn’t really have a firm plan (for Overdeliver) after the Pasco,” Pletcher said. “It’s really just been based on his last three works that he’s trained exceptionally well that we decided to take a shot at the Wood. I think his last couple works he’s shown some really strong gallop outs and indicates that he’s capable of stretching out.”

The competitive renewal also features Tax, a $50,000 claim three starts back who improved to win the February 2 Withers (G3) by a head over Not That Brady.

“He’s training tremendous; he looks good. We’re just hoping we get a clean trip,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “He’s a nice horse and we’re just hoping we can run top-three, so we can go to the (Kentucky) Derby (G1).

Tax earned 10 Derby qualifying points winning the Withers, while points of 100-40-20-10 will be up for grabs for whomever finishes among the top four in the Wood.

Haikal faces no such pressure having earned 50 points in winning the one-mile Gotham (G3) with a final-furlong blitz aided by a fast pace, but the son of Daaher has yet to race around two turns.

“The only question is the two turns, but we feel like it’ll be no problem. Hopefully he won’t be as far back as he was last time,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He could be in the middle of the pack or last, but he won’t be 15 lengths off the pace like last time.”

A wild card in the field is Hoffa’s Union, who debuts for new connections after being privately acquired following a 15 1/2-length debut victory at Laurel in late February. Meanwhile, owners Gary and Mary West look to earn a third Kentucky Derby slot with two-time winner Final Jeopardy. The Wests currently have champion juvenile Game Winner and Florida Derby (G1) hero Maximum Security among their confirmed Derby hopefuls.