Tacitus possible to return in Oaklawn Handicap (G2)
by Keith McCalmont
Tacitus possible to return in G2 Oaklawn Handicap
Antoinette, Lake Avenue and Harvey's Lil Goil probable for G3 Fantasy
Tacitus, last year's Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets winner, is under consideration for a start in the Grade 2, $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Tacitus, a handsome gray son of Tapit out of the Eclipse Award-winning mare Close Hatches, was among the favorites for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, which was slated for March 28 until canceled due to the continued impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The 4-year-old colt has since returned to Belmont Park where he has posted a pair of breezes just five days apart, including a five-furlong effort in 1:01.35 on April 20 on the dirt training track.
Mott said Tacitus is training towards a potential start in the nine-furlong test for 4-year-olds and up slated for May 2 at Oaklawn Park.
"He'll work again and if that goes okay we might go to Oaklawn," said Mott, who is on the cusp of saddling 5,000 career winners in North America; a milestone only matched in North American racing by six others. As of April 23, Mott has won 4,988 races from 25,463 starts in North America.
Tacitus made his 4-year-old debut off a five-month layoff in the inaugural Saudi Cup where he finished fifth, defeated just 4 ¼-lengths.
"He ran well in the Saudi Cup to be fifth. He hadn't been out in a long time," said Mott.
Tacitus graduated at second asking in November 2018 at the Big A and made his sophomore debut a winning one in March 2019 with a rallying effort in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. He completed a hat trick of wins with a 1 ¼-length score in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct as the betting favorite.
The talented grey continued a memorable sophomore season when elevated to third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, which was awarded to the Mott-trained Country House, and the classy colt went on to finish second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes as well as the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga.
He completed his 3-year-old campaign, in which he banked in excess of $1.6 million, with a third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in September at Belmont Park.
Mott has also nominated Godolphin homebred Endorsed to the Oaklawn Handicap. Previously trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who has switched gears to become a jockey agent for Luis Saez, the 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro bay was a first-out maiden winner in August 2018 at Saratoga.
The lightly-raced colt closed from last-of-12 to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers in August in a sophomore season in which he made just three starts. Endorsed opened his 4-year-old campaign with an optional-claiming win at Gulfstream Park on January 11 and last out finished fifth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.
Endorsed has trained with Mott's string at Payson Park in anticipation of his first start for the Hall of Fame conditioner. Mott said he won't pit the two stablemates against each other in the Oaklawn Handicap.
"If Tacitus runs, he probably won't run," said Mott. "He's a nice horse and we're optimistic as he's been improving a little bit. He looked like he was improving for Kiaran and hopefully he'll continue in that direction."
Mott has a trio of talented fillies in Harvey's Lil Goil, Lake Avenue and Antoinette nominated for the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy slated for May 1 at Oaklawn Park, a 1 1/16-mile test offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
"All three might make their way to Oaklawn," said Mott.
The Hall of Fame trainer will be looking for his first win in the Kentucky Oaks, which this year will be held on September 4 - the first Friday in September - due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Estate of Harvey A. Clarke and Paul Braverman's Harvey's Lil Goil romped to a six-length maiden win at second asking in December at the Big A and followed up with a 7 ½-length score over next-out Busher Invitational champ Water White in the nine-furlong Busanda in February at Aqueduct.
"She might not get in the Fantasy. They have a big field and she might not have enough earnings," said Mott.
Harvey's Lil Goil is out of the Tapit broodmare Gloria S, who is a half-sister to 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another and the Mott-trained dual graded-stakes winner Golden Award.
Mott said the well-bred filly relishes a distance of ground, which should suit her well as she gears up for Grade 1 races like the Kentucky Oaks and the 10-furlong Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.
"She's a nice filly and distance isn't going to hurt her," said Mott. "I really didn't want to shorten her up to the mile and a sixteenth in the Fantasy if she gets in there, but if we don't run there we might not be running for a while."
Harvey's Lil Goil is currently 21st on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 10 points.
Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue, a Tapit chestnut, won the Grade 2 Demoiselle at 1 1/8-miles in December at Aqueduct while garnering an 82 Beyer Speed Figure. After a disappointing fourth in the Busher Invitational to launch her 3-year-old campaign, Lake Avenue was an even third last out in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks won gate-to-wire by Swiss Skydiver.
"She's doing well. She ran much better here in the Oaks than her previous race in New York," said Mott.
Lake Avenue is 11th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 35 points.
Godolphin homebred Antoinette, a bay daughter of Hard Spun, graduated at second asking on the Belmont turf in October and followed up with a victory in the off-the-turf Tepin in December at the Big A.
Last out, in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, Antoinette moved to 12th on the Oaks leaderboard by garnering 20 points with a troubled third-place run.
Mott said the Fair Grounds effort was deceptively good.
"It was a good race. She had to wait for running room but she ran a decent third. She's doing well," said Mott.
Pam and Martin Wygod's Modernist, who is 4th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 70 points, graduated in January at the Big A ahead of winning the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds. Last out, Modernist was third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.
Modernist is not nominated to the Grade 1 $750,000 Arkansas Derby set for May 2 at Oaklawn, and Mott said he will wait for other options for the dark bay son of Uncle Mo.
"We won't be cranking him up for that race," said Mott. "We'll wait for something in New York with him."