Tacitus Odds to win the 2019 Belmont Stakes with Expert Predictions
Tacitus is the most heavily-hyped horse in the prospective Belmont Stakes field as I write this almost two weeks before the race, and he is very likely to be the favorite by post time. As much as our job here today, then, is to figure out if he is any good, it is to figure out if he justifies the hype that is around him. We know he is good, in other words, but is he good enough?
Last race: The Kentucky Derby was an odd race for Tacitus. He wound up placed third after the disqualification of Maximum Security. By most measures, a podium finish in a Triple Crown race is a good result. But in this case, it feels a little disappointing. Like he left a lot on the table. He got off to a flat-footed start, and he did not look comfortable early on. The track was decidedly sloppy, and he did not seem to love it. But as the race went on, he got better. He dug in and showed courage. The more I rewatch the race, the less convinced I am that he actually made a big late charge. It feels more like he was just better at holding his ground late than most of the rest. But either way, he was moving forward. The last quarter of the race was good for this colt, but what is most striking is that it feels like he is significantly better than what we saw in that race. It's like the race was a tease. Now we have to figure out if we will get the full effort that that race hinted at here.
Career highlights: The colt started his career back in October in a maiden race at Belmont. So, he knows the track. But he didn't shine on it that day, fading late and wining up fourth. He came back a month later at Aqueduct and looked like a whole different horse. There, he was way wide on the turn without being bothered at all, took the lead at the top of the stretch, and held on in a very tough battle. He showed a lot there and earned both a break and an elevation to stakes company. We didn't see him again until March, when he rallied impressively after a fairly sluggish start and won handily. It was a strong effort. But it wasn't until the Wood Memorial that we truly knew he was for real. In that race he encountered roughness at the start, and more contact in the opening furlong, but he was unbothered, taking the lead into the stretch and again pulling away to win nicely. The Wood field hasn't turned out to look like the best by any means, but the horse took care of business - enough that he went off at less than 6/1 in the Derby.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz has been aboard for every start, and it is no surprise that he has kept the mount here. Ortiz rides in New York regularly, and along with his brother Irad is among the top jockeys in the country right now. He won the Belmont in 2017 and was named the nation's top jockey that year. He currently sits third nationally in earnings and has finished in the top three in a ridiculous 61 percent of his races this year. He's a serious asset here.
Trainer: All you really need to know about Bill Mott is that in 1998 he became the youngest trainer ever elected to the Hall of Fame. He doesn't have as big a stable as some guys, but when he is dialed in with a horse there are few better. He hasn't typically played the Triple Crown game that often, but he did win this race with Drosselmeyer in 2010. And the history books will show that he already has a Triple Crown win this year as he trains Country House.
Pedigree: The breeding here is exceptional. Tacitus is a son of Tapit, who has sired three Belmont winners since 2014. Tapit was born to breed winners of this race. He is a grandson of A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont, and has been a stamina factory in the breeding shed. A.P. Indy is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and his damsire is Triple Crown winner Secretariat. And Tapit's damsire is Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who has four Belmont winners, including American Pharoah, among his direct descendants. It's a stellar bloodline for this race. And Tacitus' mother is Close Hatches, who was the champion older mare in 2014 - also for Mott. Close Hatches' great-grandsire is Unbridled, so there is a very advantageous cross-breeding at play here, too. Tacitus was bred for this race.
Running style: He's not a deep closer by any means, but he doesn't like to have any piece of the early pace. We typically find him sitting somewhere mid-pack early on, and he gets revved up around the final turn. That style doesn't make him particularly reliant on a swift early pace, which is good because there isn't likely to be a ton of natural speed in this race.
Belmont outlook: He is the +150 favorite to win the Belmont at BetOnline, and that is justified. He doesn't face a particularly deep field here, he is much more rested than War of Will, his biggest challenger, and he is bred very well and has excellent connections. He's the horse to beat.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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