Owned by royalty in Juddmonte Farms, trained by hall of famer Bill Mott, by leading sire Tapit and out of a champion mare in Close Hatches, Tacitus is a blue blood alright. Still, for all the pagnetry that his connections and family bestow upon him, Tacitus wasn’t supposed to make this Kentucky Derby field. A big, gangly mover, Bill Mott made the right choice to simply get Tacitus headed in the right direction as a two year. Him breaking his maiden going long second-time out was icing on the cake. Clearly talented, Mott allowed Tacitus to prove himself in stakes company off of a long layoff in the Tampa Bay Derby. Somewhat of a surprise winner, he became a leading Derby contender and entered the Wood Memorial as a logical favorite. There, he easily won at Aqueduct after enduring some harsh traffic trouble early. Conditioned by Mott who takes his time with his stock and is particularly adept at preparing his runners for their entire careers, Tacitus is still early in his development. Mott allows horses to peak concurrent with their natural progression as four to six year olds. Forget those inducing speed into their babies so they can win first-out, Bill Mott molds his horses into  career champions. The fact that Tacitus is a logical Kentucky Derby contender after just four starts in Mott’s care is an exceptional feat, squarely based on Tacitus’ raw ability.

Fast enough on speed figures, and obviously bred to be as classy as any, we expect Tacitus to continue to improve throughout the year. He should relish the mile and a quarter distance at Churchill. A resolute runner, Tacitus is equipped to handle early traffic troubles as evidenced by his Wood Memorial win and should be making up ground to the wire despite his positioning.

The critiques of Tacitus’ Derby chances are plain and simple. Both of his stakes wins this year came over suspect company: the best horses he beat are Win Win Win and Tax, who are both KY Derby longshots. Additionally, these victories came in races with fast early paces that benefitted Tacitus. Now he will be considerably stepping up in class under the Twinspires versus the likes of the Baffert trio and Omaha Beach, and could be faced against an adverse pace scenario for the first time. We believe that the pace of the Derby will be average to quick, resulting in an evenly run race. This would provide no aid to Tacitus which very well may be essential to him winning.

Despite being an early favorite for this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup in the fall, Tacitus is not quite for us on Saturday. Ultimately, while all signs indicate that Tacitus will be up to the task to step up in class, he will have to improve significantly on top of that formidable task. We cannot take a horse as highly regarded as Tacitus without a race on his page that, if duplicated, would crown him champion. Improvement is expected; whether this plays out or not may prove key to the triple crown series as a whole, but anticipating Tacitus to win the KY Derby after just four career starts is a task that we expect him to find a bit too challenging. At what could be underlaid odds, we’ll be using Tacitus defensively, since he is as likely a winner as any other horse not named Omaha Beach to win the roses.

Here are our trip notes of Tacitus:

4th career start: April 6th, Aqueduct, G2 Wood Memorial, one mile and an eighth  

Tacitus is #2

Out fine, bumped badly getting knocked off his hind quarters, in tight into first turn, then taken up and forced to bump outside foe a few strides later, settled nicely a length off the nearest foe in Tax both of whom were behind wild duel up front, lost some ground into the far turn, angled out when moving with momentum rounding into the stretch, gradually wore down Tax to his inside, up at 8th pole, ridden out not wanting to open up even though it was a strong option considering the momentum, finished fine. Undeterred by the early traffic trouble that would have done many horses in, Tacitus was an easy winner in this relatively weak edition of the Wood. From a pace flow perspective, things worked out beautifully for Tacitus. He probably could have won by more but only did the bare minimum once the race was all but decided in midstretch taking the advantage from Tax. Tacitus showed he’s still a work in progress.

3rd career start: March 9th, Tampa Bay Downs, G2 Tampa Bay Derby, one mile and a sixteenth

Tactius is #10

Outside 3 wide on first turn, in among horses in midpack behind a very swift, contested pace up front, didn’t pick it up until rounding into the stretch, in between two foes before moving into 4th at the top of the stretch, quickly bearing down on leaders, made the front with all the momentum, held Outshine completely at bay, ridden out. In his first stakes race and off of a layoff, Tacitus was a solid winner. He made good on a perfect trip and setup over what was otherwise a questionable field. We were impressed that Tacitus was able to commence a winning inside rally throughout the stretch though.

2nd career start: November 10th, Aqueduct, Maiden Special Weight, one mile

Broke bit slow, in between in 2nd tier behind contested pace up front, shuffled back some into the turn, switched outside, big overland march 3/4 wide to easily draw up to the leaders mid-turn, struggled to go by with eventual 2nd place finisher Erlich, took lead at the 8th pole, couldn’t open up, held. Although gangly from the gate without much early speed, this was a nice effort from Tacitus as you could see he was learning to win here, struggling with the final frontier of drawing away in the stretch.

1st career start: October 4th, Belmont, Maiden Special Weight, one mile and a sixteenth

Broke fine, an outside third just off a contested pace up front, shuffled back briefly into the turn before making a quick move to press the pacesetter and eventual winner for much of the turn, lost ground into the stretch, kept on and not embarrassed at the finish even though Tacitus clearly tired late. This was a nice effort at first asking for a horse that was clearly not cranked.

Image courtesy of NYRA (Joe labozzetta)

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