Tacitus rallies to win in record time in Tampa Bay Derby

Tacitus won his stakes debut in his third career start on March 9, rallying from off the pace to capture the $355,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in record time. The son of Tapit finished 1 116 miles in a Tampa Bay Downs stakes record 1:41.90 to clinch his spot in the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs. Tacitus earned 50 points towards the Derby, and jockey Jose Ortiz still thinks his horse will mature and improve in the next two months.

"He’s a little green still but we got a rail trip and it opened up for us," Ortiz stated. "He’s a big horse and when he made the lead, he didn’t keep going; he kind of waited a little bit. He does everything so easy and I don’t know if he’s given me 100 percent yet – I don’t think so."

Zenden, a 19-1 longshot, broke from the far outside 11 post and led from the start into the stretch, posting fractions of :22.79, :45.85 and 1:09.57. Well Defined chased close outside the leader but weakened badly turning for home to be eighth under the wire. Outshine was third behind those two but had more left in the stretch, digging in and closing steadily to finish second and pick up 20 Derby points.

Meanwhile, Tacitus and 7-5 favorite Win Win Win were midpack before making their move in the stretch. Tacitus moved up two wide on the far turn and rallied in the stretch to gain steadily and take the lead inside the sixteenth-pole before winning by 1 14 lengths. Win Win Win came five wide into the stretch under Irad Ortiz Jr. and rallied far outside to finish third, 2 12 lengths behind the winner. He picked up 10 Derby points.

Tacitus earned $210,000 for the win and closed at near 9-1 odds. He returned $19.80, $8.20 and $4.60. Outshine paid $6.20 and $4, and Win Win Win returned $3. The $1 exacta returned $64.60 and a 50-cent trifecta was worth $115.50.

"We’ve always liked this horse and thought he could be a horse that would be on the (Kentucky) Derby trail," trainer Bill Mott said. "I liked him a lot better today at the three-eighths pole than I did at the five-eighths pole because it looked like when he was trying to get between horses, I couldn’t tell if he was maybe fighting with the racetrack. He was climbing a little bit but once he got through between those horses, he really got some confidence and got some momentum. Jose said he actually finished with something left."

Going into the final rounds of Derby preps, Mott now has a Derby runner in Tacitus plus two others who have a good chance to make the field in Hidden Scroll and Country House. Mott, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1998 at the young age of 45, has yet to win the Kentucky Derby from eight starters.

Tampa Bay Derby Preview

The Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 9 drew a field of 11 and the $400,000 race for three-year-olds will be challenged at a distance of 1 116 miles. The top-four finishers of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series race respectively receive 50-20-10-5 points.

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The morning-line favorite is aptly named Win Win Win (#7) (5-2), a Florida-bred who has done just that in three of his four starts including last out over the Tampa Bay Downs surface in the January 19 Pasco Stakes. He set a seven-furlong track record in that contest, and his 7 14-length win was off the pace against a small field. The Hat Trick colt also earned a nice 101 BRIS Speed figure in that race.

The other runner with a recent stakes win over the track is Well Defined (#5) (7-2), a hometown favorite whose front-running, 2 34-length Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) win last month gave him 10 Derby points.

Dream Maker (#4) (4-1) recorded an impressive allowance score in his 2019 debut at Fair Grounds, romping by 8 12 lengths to be awarded a career-best 91 BRIS Speed figure. He’s on the improve after finishing fifth in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and 12th in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last fall. Dream Maker is one of two Mark Casse trainees in the Tampa Bay Derby, with the other being Sir Winston (#2) (12-1), who has run better on synthetic tracks and finished a non-factoring fourth as the biggest longshot in the Withers last month at Aqueduct.

Outshine (#6) (8-1) won an allowance at Gulfstream Park last month off an eight-month layoff. Trainer Todd Pletcher is lacking Derby contenders this year, and he’s hoping this Malibu Moon colt can outkick the others coming from off the pace. Zenden (#11) (8-1) is 2-1-0 in three starts after a runner-up finish in the Swale Stakes (G2) last month. He tries two turns for the first time here, but hasn’t show the necessary speed of others in this race and may need more to either get towards the lead or show a stronger kick in the stretch. Tacitus (#10) (12-1) is a Bill Mott-trained Tapit colt making his stakes debut after breaking his maiden in November at Aqueduct. The gray sophomore is getting first-time Lasix for his season opener.

The remaining runners are Withers fifth-placer Admire (#1) (12-1), maiden scorer The Right Path (#8) (15-1), stakes winner Dunph (#9) (20-1) and recent maiden victor Lord Dragon (#3) (30-1).

Five stakes races worth a combined $1 million highlight the March 9 card at Tampa Bay Downs, and the Tampa Bay Derby is Race 11 with a post time of 5:25 p.m. (ET).

Tampa Bay Derby History

The Tampa Bay Derby has been run at 1 116 miles every year since it originated in 1981. A Grade 3 race starting in 2002, the race earned Grade 2 status in 2011 and saw its purse bumped up to $350,000. The purse was increased to $400,000 for the 2019 running.

The Tampa Bay Derby is for three-year-olds and held at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-March. Horses competing in the local prep, the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February, are logical contenders and that was the case in 2017 when Davis runner-up Tapwrit went on to win the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 12 lengths as the favorite while setting a new track record of 1:42.36. Tapwrit, who broke the 1 116-mile record set a year earlier by Destin (1:42.82), went on to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby before winning the Belmont Stakes. Destin also finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and just missed by a nose when second in the Belmont Stakes. 

Tapwrit, Destin and 2015 winner Carpe Diem were all trained by Todd Pletcher, who has a record five wins in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Last year’s victor, Quip, was a 19-1 longshot and was awarded the winner’s share of the 50-20-10-5 qualifying points the Tampa Bay Derby is worth as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series.

The Tampa Bay Derby received a major status boost in 2007 when Street Sense became the first Tampa Bay Derby runner to go on and capture the Kentucky Derby. He had won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his 2006 finale and opened his sophomore campaign four months later with a nose victory in the Tampa Bay Derby. In 2010, Super Saver followed in Street Sense’s hoofsteps, using a third-place run in the Tampa Bay Derby as a stepping-stone to Kentucky Derby glory.

Notable horses from past years include 1982 winner Reinvested, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Hall of Famer Slew o’ Gold ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby, fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes in 1983, and was honored as that year’s champion three-year-old colt.

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