Heller goes with Tacitus to win Travers

Code of Honor, Tax round out his top three picks
Gazette horse racing handicapper Bill Heller is going with Tacitus to win Saturday's Travers Stakes.
Gazette horse racing handicapper Bill Heller is going with Tacitus to win Saturday's Travers Stakes.

Categories: Sports

With both Game Winner and Maximum Security out of Saturday’s 150th running of the Travers at Saratoga Race Course, the top spot of the 3-year-old division is wide open for an interesting, deep mix of a dozen competing in the “Mid-Summer Derby.” We think any of our top five prospects could get the job done, and a couple more have a decent shot.

We’re going with Tacitus, who ran a remarkable race to finish second in the Jim Dandy Stakes. Our top five:

Tacitus — Trainer Bill Mott adds blinkers on Tacitus, who had a rough trip when he finished fourth, and then placed third on Maximum Security’s disqualification, in the Kentucky Derby. He was extremely wide on both turns with a solid second by a length in the Belmont Stakes, then nearly fell to his face coming out of the starting in the Jim Dandy. He not only recovered, but he nearly won the race while rallying on the dead inside to finish second by three-quarters of a length to Tax. He worked well since and deserves top billing.

Code of Honor — He made his career debut here last summer and won by a length and a half. He looked like he was going to win the Kentucky Derby at the top of the stretch when he got through on the inside. He was either intimidated or bothered when Maximum Security came over on him, and still finished third by 2 1/2 lengths, then placed second on the DQ. He won the Grade II Dwyer in his next start, and has been training brilliantly for this.

Tax — He followed a good fourth in the Belmont Stakes with his game, three-quarters length victory in the Jim Dandy. Before that, he had been beaten by Tacitus twice. The 12 post is a concern, but he can win with a clean trip.

Mucho Gusto — Trainer Bob Baffert had Game Winner penciled in for the Travers, but a temperature forced him to change plans and send Mucho Gusto, who was a strong second by a length and a quarter to Maximum Security in the Grade I Haskell. He has trained sharply since, but has distance concerns.
Owendale — He’s an intriguing prospect on the rail who won the Grade III Lexington, finished third by a length and a quarter in the Preakness and won the Grade III Ohio Derby in his last three starts. He threw in a brilliant bullet work for this and has a shot to win it.

Two Other Top Contenders

Highest Honors — This Chad Brown/Luis Saez colt is making just his fourth career start. He finished second by a neck in a maiden race, then won a maiden race and took the Curlin Stakes here by a length and a half at 4-1 odds. With Brown having an absolutely dominant Saratoga meet, Highest Honors must be considered.

Endorsed — Also lightly raced, he rallied to be second in the Curlin Stakes. He could move forward off that race.

The Other Five

Looking At Bikinis — Great name, but he was a late-tiring third in the shorter Curlin Stakes.

Everfast — He was a distant fourth in the Haskell, his 12th consecutive loss after winning his debut.

Chess Chief — He was a distant second in the Grade III West Virginia Derby, and adds Mike Smith.

Laughing Fox — He finished fifth in the Preakness and fourth at 15-1 in the Jim Dandy. He’ll have to step up.

Scars Are Cool — He won a maiden race by four lengths in last. Enough said.  

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