After a season spent largely on the sidelines getting through various issues, Tax suggested there might be many good days ahead with an authoritative, wire-to-wire victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Holding a short lead through fractions of :23.87 and :46.96, Tax began to extend his advantage around the far turn and continued to extend it even more in the run down the stretch. Under Luis Saez, Tax won by 4 1/2 lengths and covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:41.15, not far off the track record of 1:40.97.
Owned by R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, and Hugh Lynch, Tax paid $6.60. Eye of a Jedi finished second, a half-length in front of 2-1 favorite Phat Man. Math Wizard, Identifier, Tatweej, and Royal Um completed the order of finish.
This was the third graded win for Tax, who captured the Jim Dandy (G2) and Withers (G3) last season. He’s also previously placed in the 2018 Remsen (G2) and in the 2019 Wood Memorial (G2) and Discovery (G3).
A 4-year-old gelded son of Ach, who was claimed from breeders Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider for $50,000 in October 2018, Tax had just two prior starts this year. Ninth in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in January after stumbling at the start, he was last seen finishing fifth in the Oaklawn H. (G2) on May 2.
“We turned him out and had a couple of misfortunes that we didn’t get to run,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “I think (2021) will be his best year. He’s grown, developed. He’s sound. He’s bigger, stronger than he’s ever been.”
Produced by Toll, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and multiple Grade 2 winner Yell, Tax is from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Elate. His fourth dam was Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute.
Speed was also important in the one-turn, main track features for fillies and mares, one of which was won impressively and the other narrowly.
Early in the card, Letruska shook off early pressure and proceeded to dominate in the $100,000 Rampart Stakes (G3) by 6 3/4 lengths over younger rival Dream Marie, who finished three parts of a length ahead of Bajan Girl.
Ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, Letruska completed one mile in 1:35.03 for owner St. George Stable and trainer Fausto Gutierrez. She returned $5 as the 3-2 favorite.
A 4-year-old daughter of Super Saver, Letruska was a champion in Mexico at three. The Rampart marked her third stakes win of 2020, the others being the Shuvee (G3) at Saratoga on Aug. 30 and the one-mile Added Elegance S. at Gulfstream on June 27.
The Rampart was Letruska’s first race without blinkers since her return to the U.S.
“I had a big question mark about today because after her last race in New York I decided to remove the blinkers,” said Gutierrez, referencing her last-place finish in the Beldame (G2) in October. “I came to the conclusion that all the time she runs she never saw the other horses. It’s important how she responds when she feels the competition near her. It was a very good performance.
“We’ll stay here and we’ll decide what’s possible,” Gutierrez added. “I think we’ll stretch her out next time.”
Sugar Swirl Stakes
In contrast to Letruska, Lady’s Island barely scraped home the winner of the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3), a 6-furlong dash she had won more decisively a year ago.
Also with Jaramillo riding, Lady’s Island built up a significant lead early but was hard-pressed to hold off the late surge of Bronx Beauty by a short head. Cinnabunny, the 11-10 favorite, rallied for third.
Owned by Matties Racing Stable and Averill Racing, Lady’s Island returned $11 after covering the distance in 1:10.46.
This was Lady’s Island’s first victory since the May 16 Musical Romance S. at Gulfstream. She had finished a close second in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) at Saratoga two back, but had thrown in the towel early and finished sixth of seven in the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) at Keeneland most recently.
“I am so pleased she was able to defend her crown,” trainer Georgina Baxter said.