The historic Woodward (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga will be contested under handicap conditions for the first time in many years and run over 1 1/4 miles for the first time since Easy Goer won the 1989 renewal at Belmont Park. All of which should have little effect on Tacitus, who figures as a strong favorite in the field of six.
The $500,000 event might finally be the elusive Grade 1 the gray son of Tapit has been seeking and thus far denied. Victorious last season in the Tampa Bay Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G2), the Bill Mott charge ended the year with five consecutive placings, four at the top level.
After modest efforts in the $20 million Saudi Cup and Oaklawn H. (G2), Tacitus blitzed five rivals in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban (G2) last time by more than eight lengths in a time of 1:59 2/5.
“He’ll be a fresh horse going in,” Mott said. “He had done a lot of traveling earlier in the year. The Oaklawn race could have been a mistake, but at least we came back and capitalized on the next race being the Suburban. Right after Oaklawn, we decided we would wait for it.”
There isn’t a lot of pace on paper in the Woodward, which might be to the benefit of Global Campaign, who’s been on or near the lead when taking races like the Monmouth Cup (G3) and 2019 Peter Pan (G3) in the past. Another contender is Suburban runner-up Moretti, who book-ended that performance with victories in the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out S. and 1 3/4-mile Birdstone S.
Bypassing a shot in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), Dr Post will instead be a solid choice to take down the $150,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) over 1 1/8 miles. The stakes-winning runner-up in the Belmont S. (G1) and third-place finisher in the Haskell (G1) is ostensibly using this as a tune-up for next month’s Preakness (G1) at Pimlico.
“We’re taking it one race at a time, but that’s in the back of our mind,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Pletcher also trains Happy Saver, who makes his stakes debut after dominating maiden and allowance foes in his first two outings, the latter a four-length allowance win over the track and distance.
The regally-bred Mystic Guide, a son of Ghostzapper and Music Note, adds blinkers after a belated third as the favorite in the Peter Pan (G3) at the beginning of the Saratoga meet.
“He was way out the back on the backstretch and had given himself way too much to do and wasn’t really running into the dirt that day,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “(Jose) Ortiz said every time he tried to get him going, he didn’t really kick in until he swung him out turning for home. So, we put the blinkers on in the morning and he seems to be handier with them on. We’re hoping he can lay a little closer and have a better chance to win by getting a better position on the backside.”
Also in the lineup is Jesus’ Team, recently second to Pneumatic in the Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park.
Kimari, who did the U.S. when finishing a fine second against the boys in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot in June, returns to action in the $200,000 Prioress Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies over 6 furlongs.
The Wesley Ward trainee won her only previous start on dirt, a 1 3/4-length decision in the Purple Martin S. at Oaklawn over Frank’s Rockette, subsequently a narrow winner over Reagan’s Edge and Center Aisle in the Victory Ride (G3).
The $200,000 Glens Falls Stakes (G3), a 1 3/8-mile grass test for fillies and mares, kicks off the quartet of stakes on Saturday. My Sister Nat will be favored to follow up on her photo-finish score in the 1 1/2-mile Waya (G3) on Aug. 8.