Saturday’s Grade II, $600,000 Jim Dandy is like a book in which the opening didn’t hook you, but the middle is absorbing. People come and go, noises go unnoticed and you just keep reading because you know the details will have an effect on the ending.
Here, that opening was the Triple Crown trail. There was no clear favorite heading into the big three races, and they did nothing to dissipate the fog, with three different winners.
But two of the main characters on Saturday had a say earlier this spring, especially Preakness Stakes winner War of Will. He’s been sharp and he’s been puzzling, mixing three wins with three finishes no better than seventh this year.
But his 1 1/4-length victory in the Preakness was impressive. It was followed with a ninth in the Belmont, but the War Front colt had run in all three Triple Crown races. He most recently put in two breezes on Saratoga’s main track and trainer Mark Casse said his horse is ready.
“We’re happy,” Casse told the New York Racing Association. “A lot of times a trainer will say, ‘I wish I could have done this or that.’ That’s not the case here, I’m happy with him. It’s up to him now.”
Having won at 1 3/16 miles, the Jim Dandy’s 1 1/8-mile distance shouldn’t be a problem for him.
Though War of Will has been inconsistent in his 11 career races, lightly raced Tacitus has been steady as a rock in his six outings, with three wins, one second and one third.
The Juddmonte Farms-owned colt won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial before placing third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont. He had minor bumps in both Triple Crown races, but finished strong in both, so he proved he’s game. A cleaner trip could mean a visit to the winner’s circle.
Like Tacitus, Tax tried the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, but an equipment change to glued front shoes in the Belmont — resulting in a fourth-place finish — has left trainer Danny Gargan optimistic, and a 4
7.09-second, 4-furlong breeze on the main track on July 20 only confirmed that.
“I definitely think he’s better now than he’s ever been,” he said. “I expect him to move forward three or four lengths.”
Grade III Peter Pan winner Global Campaign has put in three solid works at Saratoga and retains jockey Luis Saez, second in the Saratoga standings entering Friday. Also entered are Laughing Fox and Mihos.
Mitole leads Vandy field
For those into polls, Mitole — ranked second in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll — leads a field of seven in Saturday’s Grade I, $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.
Winner of his last seven races, including all four this year, the 4-year-old sprinter will carry high weight of 125 pounds and spot all horses except Imperial Hint seven to nine pounds.
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Mitole has won his last two Grade I’s: the Churchill Downs Sprint and Metropolitan Handicap.
Imperial Hint is last year’s Vanderbilt winner. The 6-year-old is running his first race since placing third in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30, and the Monmouth Park-based horse will look to add to the success that shippers have had in Saratoga stakes this summer.
Highest Honors to date
The Travers got another probable entrant after the gray Highest Honors won the $100,000 Curlin by a length and a half on Friday.
He and Endorsed both made sweeping moves on the far turn, overtaking pace-setter Looking At Bikinis, before Highest Honors pulled away to give jockey Jose Ortiz his third win of the day.
It was only the colt’s third start, but the Travers is next.
“We thought he’d get a mile and an eighth for the first time two turns,” winning trainer Chad Brown said. “It looks like a little more distance won’t hurt him.
“It’s a race we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he added, “knowing the horse wasn’t going to get on the Derby trail early — he had some problems as a 2-year-old, he got started late this year — but we always thought he was really talented, and the Travers is a dream.”
There will be an autograph session Saturday as part of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund Awareness Day. Riders from the Saratoga jockey colony will sign autographs on the Jockeys Silks Room porch from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. with a suggested donation to PDJF.
Fans who donate $5 to PDJF will receive a commemorative “Riders Up” poster while supplies last, and will be entered to win a framed, limited-edition “150 Years of Racing at Saratoga” print.
Horse for course
By winning the eighth, 8-year-old gelding Dowse’s Beach improved his record to 5 for 8 at the Spa.
The $100,000 John Morrissey for New York-breds, rained out Thursday when races 5-10 were cancelled because of heavy rainstorms, has been rescheduled for Aug. 1.