Belmont pick is Tacticus, aided by bloodlines

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This is a Triple Crown season that will be remembered, though probably should be forgotten.

Maximum Security was the winner of the Kentucky Derby for about 20 minutes, then got taken down over a claim of foul that will be debated forever. The Preakness was probably most notable for Bodexpress throwing jockey John Velazquez to the ground as they lurched from the starting gate and then running the race anyway.

And now, the Belmont Stakes gets its turn. If form holds, something peculiar will happen.

A field of 10 horses will be in the gate on Saturday for the mile-and-a-half race, which is racing’s equivalent of a marathon. The Preakness winner, War of Will, is in there. So is Tacticus, who was placed third in the Kentucky Derby and is set as the morning-line favorite for the Belmont at 9-5 – slightly better than War of Will, at 2-1.

They are, far and away, the best horses in the field on paper.

Thing is, this race – like every other race – isn’t run on paper.

There are horses that can beat Tacticus and War of Will in this race, including Bourbon War, who was inexplicably a non-factor in the Preakness. If basing solely off that race, there would really be no reason to take a shot with him in the Belmont. But there is a big reason to take a look at him, and Intrepid Heart, and Tacticus.

They were all sired by Tapit.

There may not be a race where bloodlines matter more than the Belmont. Not every horse can go 12 furlongs. Those sired by Tapit have shown they’re more than capable of handling the distance; he was the winning sire in three of the last five Belmonts.

Bourbon War also gets Mike Smith to ride in this one, which is always a plus. His morning line of 12-1 is going to get bet down considerably simply because of the Smith factor, which is especially noteworthy in New York.

Intrepid Heart’s record – two wins and a third in three starts, with $140,400 in earnings – doesn’t look like much. But his last start, at Belmont four weeks ago in the Peter Pan, was actually very impressive considering he stumbled at the start and seemed to burn through his gas tank trying to make up ground.

Tacticus was placed third in the Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security was taken down and smartly skipped the Preakness. He’s a closer and he’ll be fresh for this race, always a good Belmont combination, plus keeps Jose Ortiz in the irons. This will be Tacticus’ sixth start; he’s had the same rider every time.

Everfast has raced 11 times; he won his first start and hasn’t won since, yet got up for second in the Preakness and he’s officially puzzling. Joevia needs a perfect trip and some luck to be a factor. Tax and Spinoff both never fired in the Kentucky Derby, though that may have been more about the slop in each case than anything else. Sir Winston ran huge at the end of the Peter Pan and looks like he’ll be a hard-charger at the end, if he doesn’t steal the whole thing.

War of Will was fantastic to win the Preakness, another horse with the closing style that one needs at the Belmont. As always, though, the question remains about how a horse can handle the daunting task of competing in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont in a five-week window. Some get through it with ease. Others are gassed before they get to New York.

Master Fencer is racing for more than anyone else. He’s a Japanese-bred and would get a $1 million bonus from the New York Racing Association if he wins the Belmont. He had a big finish in the slop at the Kentucky Derby and showed big-time closing speed. So he could be there at the end, and there will be value with him since New York bettors aren’t likely to bet down a horse they’ve rarely seen. He had a misstep in a workout last week, which may scare some potential backers off.

Plenty of good options. But a wacky Triple Crown season should end on a fairly predictable note.

Tacticus is the best horse of the 10. If he gets the right trip, even coming from the outside in a marathon, he wins.

The pick is Tacticus, with Bourbon War second and Master Fencer third, with Sir Winston rounding out the superfecta.

Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — With his top two horses elsewhere, John Sadler took a chance with a couple others in his barn.

Higher Power paid off.

The 4-year-old colt took command turning into the stretch and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Saturday, making Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said.

In 2018, Accelerate ended Sadler’s 0-for-11 skid with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the West’s biggest race of the summer. Owner-brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis joined Sadler with consecutive victories.

“Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler,” Kosta Hronis said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40.

“When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well,” Prat said. “Once the leader fell apart he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own, so I thought that was the right move.”

Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom was another neck back in third and paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds.

Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita this fall.

Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

“He didn’t try at all,” jockey John Velazquez said. “No effort. I don’t get it.”

Sadler’s top two handicap horses, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser, weren’t in the picture. Gift Box won’t run again until this fall and Catalina Cruiser is tabbed to run next in a sprint race.

Not seeing a dominant horse in the race, Sadler entered Higher Power. The colt responded with the first stakes win of his career.

“It developed pretty much the way we thought,” he said. “We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Sadler’s other entry, Campaign, finished fifth.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Higher Power’s career earnings to $800,648, with five wins in 13 starts.

Sadler didn’t get Higher Power in his barn until spring. The colt was with another trainer for the first six starts of his career and then transferred to a different trainer.

In other stakes:

– Acclimate won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a length under Florent Geroux. The 5-year-old brown gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Acclimate ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.71 and paid $16.60 to win at 7-1 odds.

– Cambier Parc shipped in from New York and won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Ridden by Velazquez, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.75. She paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

– Fighting Mad cruised to an eight-length victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, the 3-year-old filly ran one mile in 1:38.61. Fighting Mad paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite trained by Bob Baffert. She’s owned by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby.

– Mr Vargas won the $100,000 Green Flash Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year-old gelding ran five furlongs on turf in 56.15 seconds under Talamo. Mr Vargas paid $8.40 to win for trainer Brian Koriner.

Horologist upsets Jaywalk in Monmouth Oaks

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Horologist upset Jaywalk, last year’s juvenile filly champion, in the $162,500 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday.

As expected, 1-5 favorite Jaywalk set the pace until Horologist made a strong run along the rail on the final turn. She slipped by to win by three quarters of a length in the stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park.

Horologist, bred in New Jersey, won for the fifth time in 10 starts for trainer John Mazza. Mazza said he was confident his horse would run a “bang-up race,” but he didn’t know it would be enough to beat a “champion like Jaywalk.”

Angel Suarez was aboard for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44.

Jaywalk was coming off a nine-length win in the Delaware Oaks last month. She closed out last season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to clinch the Eclipse Award.

Horologist – whose name refers to a maker or dealer of timepieces – paid 12.80, $3.40 and $2.10 as the 5-1 second choice in the five-horse field.

Jaywalk returned $2.10 and $2.10. Sweet Sami D paid $2.10 to show, and was followed by Lady Banba and Stay Smart.