by Brian Bohl
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby, overtaking Tax in the stretch with an impressive move from the outside and closing strong for a 1 ¼-length win in the 95th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Tacitus, who garnered 50 qualifying points to the ‘Run for the Roses’ on May 5 at Churchill Downs when he won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby last month, earned an additional 100 points by besting the 11-horse Wood Memorial field, rocketing to the top of the leaderboard as the first horse to crack the 150-point threshold this year.
Out of the gate, 51-1 longshot Joevia swung to the far left from the outermost post, nearly running into Overdeliver, before surging to the front with an opening quarter-mile in 23.62 seconds on the fast main track. Not That Brady, at 40-1, also gave chase and dueled Joevia for the early speed, eventually taking the lead with a 46.91 half-mile as the rest of the field stood 7 ½-lengths back.
Nearing the final turn, Tax and Tacitus overtook the pacesetters from the outside. Tax, under jockey Junior Alvarado, held the temporary advantage before Jose Ortiz asked Tacitus for his best, overtaking his rival in the final furlong, completing 1 1/8 miles in a final time of 1:51.23
“I was pleased with his effort,” said Ortiz, who won his first Wood Memorial. “I don’t know about the other horses behind me, it was kind of crazy around the first turn. After that, he got a little bumped and he’s a big horse. He managed to take that and go on and win the race.