Rome wasn’t built in a day, but for Tacitus, the horse, a lifetime of glory can be earned in just two minutes. The thoroughbred will compete in the 145th Kentucky Derby on May 4, and if he wins “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” he’ll etch his name in the history books. The horse is big and strong, but will he be big and strong enough to win the “run for the roses?” Before it all goes down, here’s all the info you need to know.
1. He qualified for the Derby with the most points. Tacitus won the Wood Memorial Stakes, one of the prep races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Between 1930 and 2000, 11 of the Wood Memorial winners went on to win the Kentucky Derby (the last being Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.) Winning one of these prep races gives the horse 100 points. He also won the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, giving him 150 points going into the Kentucky Derby. However, early odds don’t really paint Tacitus as the favorite, as that honor goes to the horse second in points – Omaha Beach.
2. His jockey hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby – yet. Tacitus’s rider is 25-year-old Jose Ortiz, the grandson of jockey Irad Ortiz and brother of Irad Ortiz Jr., 26, the jockey riding another horse in the Kentucky Derby, Improbable. Both these young riders have racked up wins in the thousands, but neither of them has won the Kentucky Derby – yet. Irad won the 2016 Breeders’ Cup, while Jose won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2017.
3. He’s snapping a 15-year dry spell for his breeder. Prince Khalid Abdulla’s Juddmonte Farms, a worldwide organization known for decades of its excellence in breeding and racing, has only had a handful of horses compete in the Kentucky Derby. Tacitus will be the fifth horse to race with the organization’s colors. The last horse from Juddmonte Farms to race at the Kentucky Derby was Empire Maker in 2003, according to Blood Horse.
4. He’s not easily shaken. Tacitus won the Wood Memorial Stakes (aka the Wood at Aqueduct) and did so despite being bumped around by other horses after leaving the gate and going into the first turn. “This guy has never been anything but a cool customer,” Juddomentoe’s manage, Garrett O’Rourke said of Tacitus. “After the Wood, we asked (rider) Jose (Ortiz) about the bumping, and he said, ‘I’m on a pretty big horse, so the others came out of it the worse for wear.’ ”
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 28, 2019
“[Tacitus] was able to handle it physically, and mentally it didn’t faze him. That was good to see because an incident like that can throw some horses off and rattle them. Horses like American Pharoah and Justify showed how important it is to be able to take things in stride,” he added.
5. Tacitus was born in Kentucky but has a Roman name. While trying to decipher why a racehorse has its name seems like a fools’ errand sometimes, Tacitus’s name makes sense – sorta. Tacitus (c. 56 AD to c. 120 AD) is considered the greatest of Roman historians, and one of his works, Germania (or De origine et situ Germanorum) detailed the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire. Insider Germania, Tacitus details how the Germanic tribes used white horses for divination – or how they are viewed as holy (h/t Project Gutenberg.) So, here’s hoping for some divine luck on Tacitus’s side when he races on May 4.