Former fringe player Tax is now front and center as a contender in the 1 1/4 mile, $1.25 million Travers Stakes Aug. 24 at Saratoga in Upstate New York.

Irad Ortiz Jr., riding Tax
Upsetter Tax, under pilot Irad Ortiz Jr., won the 2019 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. (Image: Chelsea Durand/NYRA)

The former claimer disposing of a solid group of rivals in the $600,000 Jim Dandy, the local Travers prep. He’s now is marking himself as a horse to watch. When the big boys of the division Maximum Security and Game Winner come calling next month in the Travers, he’ll be ready.

The son of Arch, running for $30,000 tag and later claimed for $50,000 early on in his career, brought a smile to backers — $11.00-$4.30-$2.90 — because most bettors were gravitating towards Tacitus (8/5), Global Campaign (5/2) and War of Will (3/1). 

Tax Prep Services

Tax has been strong recently in his morning workouts, producing his 3/4 length victory over favorite Tacitus. He’s certainly now a horse to be reckoned with. Trained by Danny Gargan and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Tax covered the 1 1/8 mile over Saratoga’s fast main track in 1:49.28.

“Hopefully if he comes out of this well, we’re in the Travers,” said Gargan. “I think he likes this track and he likes it here, so that’s something we’re pushing towards and hoping we make. It’s a wide-open division, he was unfortunate a couple of times. The Derby was a throw-out race because of the way the break went and the way the track was. If you take the Derby out, he’s run as good as anyone all year. With the right trip and the right situation, he can be right there.”

Tacitus, the favorite as the starting gate sprung open, stumbling badly, then, exerting extra energy to catch the field — running on in the stretch finishing second. The hard-luck grey colt was second in the Belmont Stakes to Sir Winston. That’s with a wide journey compromising his chances for victory. 

Global Campaign, the Peter Pan Stakes winner, is spending most of his three-year-old season battling foot problems. After a convincing win in the Peter Pan at Belmont over the eventual Belmont Stakes hero, Sir Winston, skipping the Ohio Derby at Thistledown and the Haskell last Saturday at Monmouth it was thought he would assert himself in the Jim Dandy. But, the ordinary effort at off odds of 5/2 is leaving bettors wondering. Is his foot still the issue? Does he currently have what it takes to compete at this level? Trainer Stanley Hough will decide.

War of Will Exhausted and Fading?

Preakness winner War of Will, the only participant in all three legs of the 2019 Triple Crown, is thought by many to be a tired horse. His lackluster Jim Dandy effort seems to confirm that opinion.

The Travers looks like it will be its most contentious in years. Besides, Tax, Maximum Security and Game Winner, expect to see the always dangerous Shug McGaughey’s Code of Honor and Mr. Money, fresh from his stirring Indiana Derby win.  Then there’s Friday’s Curlin Stakes winner at Saratoga, Highest Honors for Chad Brown and upstart Ownedale, the odds on Ohio Derby victor from the Brad Cox barn.

The race is the signature event of the hugely popular summer season.

Because Saratoga is known as “The Graveyard of Favorites,” others will likely be reaching for the glory and the lucrative purse, as well.

For complete chart of the 2019 Jim Dandy Stakes, click here.