Maturing Tacitus seeks Grade 1 breakthrough

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Trainer Bill Mott
Apr 29, 2019; Louisville, KY, USA; Bill Mott trainer of Country House and Tacitus waits outside of his barn at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Trainer Bill Mott feels the natural maturing process is taking effect on Tacitus ahead of his bid for a first Grade 1 triumph via the $500,000 Woodward at Saratoga on Saturday.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Tacitus is already a three-time graded stakes winner and he has made the frame in Grade 1 company on three occasions.

This weekend’s mile and a quarter event at Saratoga comes on the heels of a runaway win in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park in July.

That ended a 14-month wait for a win and came after he had previously disappointed in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in early May.

For Mott, that race may have been a misstep and he was glad to see Tacitus back on track.

“He’ll be a fresh horse going in,” Mott said. “He had done a lot of travelling 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.”

Tacitus was a consistent performer at three-years-old, posting runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy (G2) and the Travers (G1) at Saratoga as well as being third in the Kentucky Derby and – on his final start last year – posting a fine third-place finish in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Jose Ortiz will get the leg up this weekend on a horse that continues to mature, according to Mott.

“His energy level has been good,” Mott added. “Naturally, he’s a more mature horse from last year, which is normal. He feels good early in the morning before he goes out and he gets geared up and anxious to go once he gets going. He’s good to ride and he’s easy enough on himself to where he can take care of himself.”

Mott has previously sent out Hall of Famer Cigar (1995-96), To Honor and Serve (2012) and Yoshida (2018) to victory in the Woodward. His tally of four Woodward victories is tied with fellow Hall of Famers Elliot Burch and Bobby Frankel and, should Tacitus add the top prize to his career winnings of $2,817,500 on Saturday, he will stand alone as the winning-most trainer in the history of the race.

The likes of Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Gun Runner (2017) are amongst the recent impressive winners of the Woodward Stakes.

Fellow last-time-out winners Spinoff, Global Campaign, Moretti and Prioritize join Hidden Scroll and Multiplier amongst six rivals set to face Tacitus in the 2020 edition.