Jim Dandy At Saratoga Draws Short But Talented Field
Four Triple Crown Race Veterans Square Off Again
By Margaret Ransom
Gary Barber’s Preakness Stakes (GI) winner War of Will, who ran in all three legs of the Triple Crown before getting a short break following his ninth-place finish in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, is back in action and is one of six who will head postward in Saturday’s 56th running of the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (GII) at Saratoga, the traditional prep for the track’s $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes (GI) in a month.
The Mark Casse-trained son of War Front will face some familiar company in the Jim Dandy, including Belmont runner-up Tacitus, fourth-place finisher Tax and Preakness fifth-place runner Laughing Fox. Mucho Macho Man Stakes winner Mihos and Peter Pan Stakes (GII) victor Global Campaign round out the field for the nine-furlong main track test.
War of Will, who was probably most affected by the incident that led to the controversial Kentucky Derby (GI) inquiry and disqualification, put in a strong effort to win the Preakness by 1 ¼ lengths, a performance that maybe didn’t leave a ton of fuel in his tank, which could explain his poor Belmont showing, though he did have some trouble that day. He’s been at Saratoga for a month now after shipping in from his Keeneland base and has posted some decent works over the Spa’s main track.
“We trained him here last year and he liked the track,” Casse said. “He just reconfirmed this year that he gets over it nicely. We’re ready and hopefully he brings his ‘A’ game. They still have to beat him, I think.
“He’s good and he’s ready. The best way to describe it is that he’s in a good place. We’re happy. 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.”
War of Will has raced a lot this year and now making his seventh start in as many months, but his connections clearly feel he’s fit and ready for this performance. Regular rider Tyler Gaffalione is back aboard.
Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus, who in addition to finishing second in the Belmont Stakes, was fourth across the wire in the Run for the Roses and placed third after the disqualification of Maximum Security from the win. The Wood Memorial Stakes (GII) and Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner has only finished worse than third – officially – once in his debut back in October. The son of Tapit and the grade 1 winner Close Hatches has been training at Saratoga since shortly after the Belmont and has posted some strong works for his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, who has saddled a Jim Dandy winner three times previously.
“He’s good, he worked a couple of days ago and looked good this morning,” Mott said. “His works have been very steady. They’ve been very similar to what they’ve been all spring. He’s good going nine to ten furlongs. It looked like he could be good up to a mile and a half, but he can still be effective at a mile an eighth.”
Jose Ortiz will ride from post position five and the gray colt drew the honor of morning line favorite odds of 7-5.
R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable’s Tax, who was fourth in the Belmont after a disappointing 15th-place finish in the Derby, will meet up with his old friends War of Will and Tacitus, this time looking to turn the tables. The Kentucky-bred son of Arch was haltered for $50,000 in his second start and has since won the Withers Stakes (GII) and finished second in the Wood Memorial before faltering in his two Triple Crown race starts. For the Jim Dandy he will have the benefit of special shoes after the switch was made to glue-ons before the Belmont.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “His hair coat looks better than it’s ever looked. He’s eating better. Ever since we glued (on) his front shoes, he’s really come around a lot. I definitely think he’s better now than he’s ever been. I expect him to move forward three or four lengths. He came out of the Belmont better than he went in it. Ever since that, we’ve kind of been pointing to this race. He’s never gone backwards at all.
“It’s going to be a horse race. If I could win it, it’d be great. I just want to run big in it. If he keeps going forward, he’s got a big future. And, we still have the turf that we’ve played around with trying but it’s hard to put him on it right now because he’s doing so well on the dirt. He’s definitely getting better with age.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. will be back aboard and the pair will break from post position two.
Alex and Joann Lieblong’s Laughing Fox, who won the Oaklawn Invitational on Kentucky Derby Day before his fifth in the Preakness Stakes, has a win at this nine-furlong distance already and has been training exceptionally well at Saratoga all month. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of Union Rags is a stone, cold closer who could not make the wire in time in the Preakness and may be placed closer in the early going here. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. returns for the mount and the two will lead the field to the gate.
“I’m very pleased with how he’s trained up here,” Asmussen said. “Obviously, it’s a very good race with who is targeting it. I think that Laughing Fox’s best is still ahead of him.”
Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm’s Peter Pan Stakes winner Global Campaign brings a nice record of three victories from four starts in his career and takes a big step up in class for trainer Stan Hough. The talented son of Curlin has that nine furlong win last out to his credit here and has posted a series of three nice workouts in New York heading into this race, including a bullet four furlongs in :47 4/5 over the Oklahoma training track on July 5. Luis Saez will ride from post position four.
Centennial Farms’ stakes winner Mihos finished fourth in the Dwyer Stakes (GII) on July 6 at Belmont Park and seeks his first graded victory here. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee, who was purchased as a yearling for $320,000, appears to have some tactical ability, which can only help him here. Junior Alvarado will ride the son of Cairo Prince from post position 3.
Saturday’s weather in Saratoga Springs is expected to be very warm with highs in the mid- to upper-90s with no rain in the forecast. The Jim Dandy is the feature on the card that includes two other graded stakes – the Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap (GI) and Bowling Green Stakes (GIIT) – and has been carded as the 11th with a post time of 6:51 p.m. ET.