SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— It has been a long road back to top company for 2019 Grade 2 Jim Dandy winner Tax, who returned to the races from a 19-month layoff in July to score a wire-to-wire victory in the Battery Park at Delaware Park. The 6-year-old son of Arch will now try for a Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup going 10 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained and co-owned by Danny Gargan with R.A. Hill Stable, Tax last faced Grade 1 company in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January 2021 at Gulfstream Park, his last race before an injury that forced his lengthy respite.
“Off that big a layoff, it was so rewarding,” Gargan said of the Battery Park effort. “And they made him the favorite when he hadn’t run in 532 days. He’s a really cool horse.”
Tax made a quick ascent to the graded ranks as a juvenile, graduating at second asking in a maiden claiming race at Keeneland where he was haltered by Gargan for $50,000. He followed with a third in the Grade 2 Remsen before making the grade in his sophomore debut with an off-the-pace score in the Grade 3 Withers, both at Aqueduct Racetrack. He punched his ticket to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby with a runner-up finish to Tacitus in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial that April and subsequently finished 14th in the “Run for the Roses.”
Tax went on to have a prosperous second half of his 3-year-old season that included a close fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, his determined three-quarter-length score over Tacitus in the Jim Dandy and a runner-up finish to Performer in the Grade 3 Discovery at the Big A to close out the year. As a 4-year-old, he competed in his first Pegasus World Cup and won the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park.
Gargan said he is excited to have Tax back in Grade 1 company.
“We didn’t know it would take this long, but it’s pretty cool,” Gargan said. “It’s a big step forward and he’s going to have to run a big step forward, so it will be fun to see if he still has that desire to be in that kind of caliber. If he does, we’ll keep doing it and if not, we’ll go back and figure it out. I would love to see him hit the board.”
Tax will run 10 furlongs for the first time since an even fifth-place finish in the 2019 Travers at the Spa. Gargan said the dark bay gelding, who is 3-for-3 going 1 1/16 miles, may be at his distance limits in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but that his class will carry him when he exits the inside post under Kendrick Carmouche.
“He’ll be on the lead and hopefully he runs big. We’ll break out of that one hole running,” said Gargan. “The only thing that worries me is that the mile and a quarter might not be his best distance. It’s funny to say this, but he’s undefeated at a mile and a sixteenth. But he ran good in the Belmont. There were a couple different options here, but we waited on this race and we’ll see how it goes. He likes this track and he’s a happy horse.”
Gargan also provided an update on his three-time stakes-winning New York-bred Dakota Gold, the gate-to-wire winner of the NYSSS Cab Calloway on August 17 at the Spa. The son of Freud’s next start will come in either the one-mile Grade 3 Bryan Station on October 29 at Keeneland or the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2, $300,000 Hill Prince on October 22 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
“He’s good. He’s on track for Keeneland, but there’s a chance we run in that one at Aqueduct. We’ll nominate him to both,” said Gargan.
Before the curtain drops on the Spa meet this Monday, Gargan will unveil two more promising 2-year-olds on Saturday as Champions Dream and Dubyuhnell make their debuts in Race 6 and Race 8, respectively.
Champions Dream, a grey son of Justify, is the second foal to race out of the Menifee mare Dancinginherdreams, who won the 2010 Grade 2 Pocahontas. Champions Dream breezed a sharp half-mile in 47.47 seconds over the main track on August 28.
Dubyuhnell, a chestnut Good Magic colt, is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Forest Wildcat mare Wild Gams. He is a half-brother to graded stakes winner Cazadero, stakes winner Mt. Brave and graded stakes-placed Almost Famous. Dubyuhnell’s latest work was a half-mile in 48.70 over the Oklahoma training track on August 27.
“My three favorites are running on Saturday: Champions Dream and Dubyuhnell are my two favorite babies, and Tax,” said Gargan, with a laugh.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Tax wins the Jim Dandy (NYRA/Coglianese)