By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
An absolutely spectacular weekend of racing kicks off this Saturday with a terrific card at Saratoga, highlighted by the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). The nine-furlong race has drawn a top-notch field of three-year-old colts prepping for the August 29th Travers Stakes (gr. I), and although the field might not be large, it still offers plenty of handicapping intrigue and value for multi-race wagers. So without further ado, let’s start handicapping!
||5th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)|
||1st Easy Goer Stakes (VIDEO)|
||2nd Dwyer Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)|
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||Richard Violette, Jr.
||18th Kentucky Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO)|
||6th Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)|
||2nd Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)|
||2nd Belmont Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO)|
If Upstart and Competitive Edge scratch as expected (they have been cross-entered in the August 2nd Haskell Invitational), that will remove two front-running/pace-pressing colts from the race, which could substantially slow down the early pace. Of the remaining runners, only Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Tekton has ever led at the first call of a race, and even he has shown the ability to successful rate off the lead in the past. As a result, in seeking the winner, I’m going to try and find a colt with not only talent but respectable tactical speed as well, which I think could be the key to winning the race.
The most logical candidate is the 2-1 favorite Frosted, who fired off a trio of top-notch efforts earlier this year to win the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Based on accomplishments, he’s arguably the second-best three-year-old in the country behind American Pharoah, and while his greatest success has come as a stretch-runner, he demonstrated early in his career that he also has a lot of early speed, and he did rate closer to the pace in the Belmont Stakes. On paper, he looks difficult to beat, as his strong speed figures and solid workouts at Saratoga are eye-catching, and he should be able to work out a traffic-free trip from the outside post position. But that said, he will carry the top weight of 123 pounds—conceding four to six pounds to his rivals—and coming off a layoff, it might be worth trying to beat him at a short price.
Second choice Texas Red definitely deserves a lot of a respect, even though he doesn’t have as much early speed as some of his rivals. After scoring a spectacular 6 ½-length win in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Texas Red finished second by a neck in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita before going to the sidelines with a foot abscess. He returned to action on July 4th at Belmont Park to finish a good second in the one-mile Dwyer Stakes (gr. III), in which he rated only a few lengths behind quick fractions of :22.83 and :46.29 before making a strong early move to draw within a half-length of the lead after six furlongs in 1:10.92. He did flatten out a bit in the homestretch, eventually finishing second by 2 ½ lengths, but he still ran his final quarter-mile in about :24 3/5, which is quite good considering that he was coming off a layoff. With that race under his belt, he should show improvement on Saturday, and his bullet five-furlong breeze in :59 3/5 on July 25th suggests that he is ready for a big effort. In terms of Beyer speed figures, he’s right on par with Frosted, and if the pace of the Jim Dandy is slow, the improved speed that he displayed in the Dwyer should put him right in contention from the start. He is my selection to win, and I think odds of 3-1 or higher would be excellent value.
I’m also very intrigued by the chances of Japan, an up-and-coming son of Medaglia d’Oro from the barn of Bill Mott. After breaking his maiden by seven lengths in his third start, Japan stepped up to stakes company and defeated Stanford and Nonna’s Boy in a three-horse renewal of the 8.5-furlong Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. The track was quite fast that day, but Japan still showed decent tactical speed while tracking fractions of :46.42 and 1:10.42 and unleashed a solid run in the homestretch to triumph by 1 ¼ lengths. He’s been improving with each race and brings a solid string of workouts into the Jim Dandy, and Bill Mott is off to a terrific start at this Saratoga meet, having won with six of his fourteen starters so far (four others have hit the board.) Japan also gets a six-pound weight break from Frosted and should appreciate the nine-furlong distance of the Jim Dandy, and I think he’s a good candidate for inclusion in the exotics and multi-race wagers.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the Jim Dandy Stakes?
Just for fun, here are a few race replays that I thought everyone might enjoy:
To help keep track of all the great racing action this week, here are the links to the entries for some of the best races!
To help keep track of all the Breeders' Cup prep races, here is the link to Bloodhorse.com's Breeders' Cup news page. To keep track of all the races for two-year-olds at Saratoga and Del Mar, here is the link to my "Diamonds in the Rough" column on The Turf Board. Also, here is the link to the currrent standings, entries, rules, and schedule for our "Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic" Handicapping Challenge. Enjoy the racing, everyone!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.