‘Blossoming’ Tax, Distance-Bred Endorsed On Target For Travers

R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable’s Tax breezed a half-mile in a bullet 47.33 seconds on Friday morning in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, slated for Saturday, August 24 at Saratoga Race Course.

The 1 1/4-mile Travers is the centerpiece of a card featuring seven stakes and six Grade 1s, including the Grade 1, $850,000 Sword Dancer; Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti; Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina; Grade 1, $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor; and Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy. Rounding out the blockbuster card is the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa.

Trained by Danny Gargan and piloted in the work by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., Tax broke off behind a workmate and was able to easily take command down the lane despite encountering some unexpected traffic.

“We tucked him in behind a horse and we got some other company in the middle of it and he went to the rail and just went right on about his business. I was really happy,” said Gargan. “Irad said he’s getting stronger and bigger and faster. We’re really happy with how he’s doing. He seems to be blossoming at just the right time. He was bucking and squealing coming off the track. It was a big-time work. He worked in 47 [.33], and out three-quarters in 1:12.4.”

Ortiz, Jr. was equally impressed with the training session from the imposing dark bay son of Arch.

“He just did it so easy,” said Ortiz, Jr. “I asked him because I want to work him and when I asked him he responded really well and kept galloping out. He came back like it was nothing. He looks good going into the race.”

Gargan, who claimed Tax for his current connections for $50,000 of a winning effort at Keeneland on October 21, said this morning’s work reminded him of a breeze not long after the claim at Belmont Park. The veteran conditioner recalled watching Tax breeze at Belmont and as the horse stylishly overcame traffic trouble, he turned to fellow trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and said, ‘What am I going to do with this horse.’

McLaughlin replied, “You’re going to run him in the Remsen.”

Gargan supplemented Tax to the Remsen and enjoyed immediate dividends as the gelding ran third in the 1 1/8-mile test at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Tax continued to blossom on the Kentucky Derby trail winning the Grade 3 Withers and finishing second behind Travers rival Tacitus in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets. Following a difficult trip in the Kentucky Derby when pinched back and stuck on a bad rail, eventually placed 14th, Tax returned to form with a prominent fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

Last out, on July 27 in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets, Tax broke alertly but sat off the pace of Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will before taking command late in the turn and holding off Tacitus, who endured a difficult trip after stumbling at the gate.

A similar trip may be in store for Tax in the Travers.

“We’ll break running like we always do and figure it out from there,” said Gargan. “I’ve been training him to stalk horses. That’s the way we did it the other day. He broke in front and then took him back. He can be in front, but I prefer him to have a target.”

Gargan said Tax is currently in the best shape of his life as both horse and trainer look to earn a first Grade 1 win.

“He looks great after the work. This is the fittest we ever had him,” said Gargan. “This winter we missed a lot of training due to weather and a few things here and there, but he’s fit now. I don’t know if we can win the Travers, but we’re going to show up and run good.”

Tax, despite boasting a record of 3-2-1 from eight starts and purse earnings on $756,300, is unlikely to go to post as the favorite in the “Mid-Summer Derby,” and Gargan said he’s fine with that.

“No one was talking about him going into the Jim Dandy either,” said Gargan. “I think a lot of people have a hard time thinking he’s going to be a good horse because we claimed him.

“If he runs big in this race he’ll start getting credit,” he added. “I just know at some point, if somebody is going to beat him, they’ll have to pass him a hundred yards before the wire because he’s going to be there.”

Godolphin’s Endorsed breezed Friday morning on Saratoga Race Course’s main track and is now targeting the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 24, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

Endorsed, who ran a competitive second to Highest Honors in the Curlin on an off-track on July 26 at the Spa, went four furlongs in 48.33 seconds in his latest breeze, the 12th-fastest time of a group of 63.

“He worked really well and has been doing great since the Curlin and at this time are pointing to the Travers as long as he jogs up well tomorrow,” McLaughlin said.

After winning his debut by a neck last August at Saratoga, Endorsed ran sixth in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont Park. Following an eight-month break, Endorsed made a triumphant return by besting allowance company in a six-furlong race on June 23 over a fast Belmont track and stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Curlin, where he tracked the speed before finishing 1 ½ lengths back to Highest Honors on a muddy and sealed track.

The son of Medaglia d’Oro, out of graded stakes-winner Dance Card, will now look to get the Travers’ distance of 1 ¼ miles, which his conditioner said will be a challenge for any of the field’s contenders.

“That was the first time going a mile and a furlong, and he came out of the race great and he’s moved forward, so we’re happy with it,” McLaughlin said. “The distance is the distance. They all have to do it. But he’s bred for it. He ran very well going nine furlongs, so we’re happy with him.”

On Thursday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert announced Game Winner, the reigning Eclipse Award-champion 2-Year-Old, contracted a virus and will skip the Travers, while Maximum Security was also removed from consideration for the “Mid-Summer Derby.” McLaughlin said those recent developments helped make his decision.

“We were looking at it strongly, but it helps to know that two of the [potential] favorites aren’t running. We’re doing very well and excited about the prospects,” McLaughlin said.

Joel Rosario, who rode Endorsed in June, will have the return call in the Travers, where the jockey has had four previous mounts. His best Travers finish was a third-place effort aboard Tonalist in 2014, with his most recent start last year aboard Gronkowski [eighth].

Stonestreet Stables’ Dawn the Destroyer is also likely to make an appearance on Travers Day, with McLaughlin saying she is pointing to the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park.

Dawn the Destroyer, who ran third in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bed o’Roses contested at the Ballerina distance on June 7 at Belmont, breezed four furlongs in 48.09 on the main track Friday, continuing a string of five strong works since shipping up from Belmont in July.

In five graded stakes appearances, the 5-year-old Speightstown mare has finished third on three occasions, including the Bed o’Roses where she rallied from sixth to finish behind Chalon and the winner Separationofpowers on Big Sandy. She will race at Saratoga for the first time since running third in the 2017 Grade 2 Prioress.

“She worked this morning also and now we’re pointing that way,” McLaughlin said. “It’s tough to place her. Grade 1s are tough, but we’re hoping to get a piece of it. She’s doing very well.”

A Thread of Blue continues to do well after winning the $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational on August 4 and remains on target for the final leg of NYRA’s newly implemented Turf Triple Series with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby on September 7 at Belmont, McLaughlin said.

Owned by Leonard C. Green, A Thread of Blue, who ran second in the Grade 2 American Turf in May at Churchill before running fourth in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1 at Penn National, captured the middle jewel of the Turf Triple Series with a one-length score in the 11-horse Saratoga Derby contested at 1 3/16 miles. The Jockey Club Derby will be held at 1 ½ miles.

“He’s doing very well. We didn’t know if he would get a mile and three-sixteenths and we don’t know if he’ll get a mile and a half, but there’s a million reasons to try,” McLaughlin said with a laugh.

The post ‘Blossoming’ Tax, Distance-Bred Endorsed On Target For Travers appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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