Essential Quality preps for the Travers in the Jim Dandy off Belmont Stakes Score
Geo is back from his visit to the Spa, and he will be returning soon, but you know he did his work on the Jim Dandy
This 2021 Saratoga meet is in full swing as we enter the 3rd full weekend of the country’s very best in Thoroughbred racing. There have already been a few fabulous Stakes races at the meet, but it’s this weekend that will jump start the higher level big-time Graded Stakes races.
Inaugurated back in 1964, we are 57 years in the running with this Jim Dandy Stakes. This Grade 2 event always sports some of the very best three-year-olds in training and typically is considered a preparatory race for Saratoga’s most anticipated event, the Grade 1 Travers Stakes which runs in late August each year.
Often, Thoroughbred racing fans and historians will share recollections and conversation regarding the horse this race is affectionally named in honor of, Jim Dandy. It was Jim Dandy who soundly defeated Triple Crown Champion Gallant Fox in the 1930 Travers Stakes. He was the longest shot on the board at 100-1 odds and the upset arguably remains the biggest shock in American racing history.
This year we have a solid field of 6. I have completed my intense handicapping process to provide you with my anticipated precise order of finish for you to use as a guide to make an informed decision at the windows. So are you ready? Let’s go and make some money.
# 5 Essential Quality
As I have shared in recent columns, this gray colt is clearly the very best three-year-old in training and the leader in the division on all accounts. He comes into this race fresh and fit after a series of breezes while being barned at Saratoga. As he makes his Saratoga debut, few should worry about this guy adapting to the Saratoga soil. In his last, the real Test of Champions, the Belmont Stakes, he was simply outstanding running down Hot Rod Charlie and posting his career best 109 Beyer. He’s 6 for 7 in his 2-year career with his only defeat being at the Kentucky Derby where he still raced with grit and guts even though he was bumped at the start and raced wide throughout the race. He’s a three-time Grade 1 winner, Juvenile champion and on his way to repeat as the champion three-year-old. This guy is versatile in his approach and is well proven at this 9-furlong distance. Hot riding Luis Saez is back up in the silks for Brad Cox. I did my very best to find a logical reason to make a stand against him but I came up empty. This colt can be successful under any pace scenario and would need to have an unfortunate bad step or accident to lose this race. Very hard to go against, expect a short price, and a must use in all betting exotics and gimmicks. He’s a great lead for your exacta and triple wagers or if you’re the conservative bettor, to swing a nice wager to win or across the board. Next stop the mid-summer Derby, the Travers Stakes.
# 6 Risk Taking
This colt is very interesting. I have always seen significant ability in him but he’s had some races that left me scratching my head with disappointment. Purchased for $240,000 as a yearling, this son of Medaglia d’Oro always brought solid expectations. Started three times as a juvenile, his connections raced him in a sprint, then stretched him out in a turf route, finally settling him in going today’s distance of 9 furlongs where he graduated from the maiden ranks in his 3rd start at Aqueduct. He made his first start as a three-year-old in the Grade 3 Withers over the same track and was well-backed at the windows, and he proceeded to trounce the field by almost 4 lengths. His connections felt that he had finally become a solid threat to his division. Then in early April, racing in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, he bobbled at the start and then later came up completely empty, finishing a well beaten 7th and burning all the money wagered on him as he was the post time favorite at the windows. 6 weeks later, he was ambitiously entered in the middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, the Grade one Preakness Stakes where he broke from the #9 hole, took a bump but then showed no ambition to compete while tiring badly in the stretch. He’s now back working soundly and smartly over the Saratoga soil by big time conditioner Chad Brown and switching riders to Manny Franco. I watched his Withers romp several times and his running style is tailor made for this distance, I just know he’s going to show up big again sometime soon, and Chad Brown would not run him in this race unless he was fit and ready. I do not think he will beat my top choice but he’s definitely a threat to fill your exacta and triple wagers at what could be a generous price. Yep, it’s worth taking a risk on Risk Taking.
# 4 Keep Me In Mind
This colt has also been quite a puzzle to figure out. He raced brilliantly as a juvenile, showing great promise in his 4 starts, hitting the board all 4 times. 3 of his races were at the Graded stakes level ( 2 of them were Grade 1’s) where he finished very close to my top choice and juvenile champion Essential Quality. He opened up his three-year-old campaign with a rather sluggish effort and was soundly beaten while racing in 2 of the 3 Jewels of the Triple Crown. He showed great improvement racing in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby, closing willingly while wide on the course finishing a close 3rd. A habitual slow starter, who does have some solid closing punch and now he gains the services of world class rider Joel Rosario. Trained by the well-respected Robertino Diodoro, he’s been working outstandingly at Saratoga with solid, sharp and swift breezes. I’m feeling he may be sitting on a big race, perhaps his career best. If he has a better start, along with what could be a powerful close, he may be a threat to better my rating and finish 2nd or possibly come even closer to Essential Quality but as I completed my handicapping, I felt placing him 3rd would be my best option. I would use him in many of your exotic wagers.
# 3 Weyburn
I have admired this colt because he’s a hard-hitter and very game when considering how he has finished some of his races. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens now switches to Irad Ortiz, so you now have one of racing’s very best in the saddle. Since his lackluster debut start, he has been competitive in all of his races; however, he has won only one Graded Stakes, the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct where he blew up the tote board at 46-1 odds. In his last over at Monmouth Park, he was a close 2nd to Mandaloun but he was passed rather easily in the stretch and then came in closer in the final strides. He comes into this race with a pair of impressive breezes over the same Saratoga soil, an indication that he is fresh and fit. Because of that he must be considered as a threat in this race. He possesses pure tactical speed, so expect him to be in the mix during the first half mile, if not longer. He’s got a very intelligent rider who has exceptional feel for the race he’s running. He’s a solid horse, but I’m feeling class wise he just may be a little cheaper than those I have listed above. He’s my 4th contender and worthy of being used in your window gimmicks.
# 2 Masqueparade
I gave him an exceptionally long look as I was doing my film study. He’s the son of Upstart who was purchased for $180,000 and he has shown rather dramatic improvement over his last 4 starts, although against much cheaper company. His Beyers have been strong and his late kick even stronger. He’s making his debut at Saratoga just as all of his opponents are and he’s worked over the track a couple of times posting average times. Miguel Mena, his regular rider is back up for the successful Albert Stall barn and he’s likely to be sitting a good trip just behind the front runners. If he continues to improve and runs his career best, he’s capable of hitting the board, so I would take a good look at him on the track to see how he looks and watch the board for the action he’s taking in. I think he’s a nice colt, but the others I have listed above are simply more appealing as they have run in much tougher fields as part of their overall resumes.
# 1 Dr. Jack
Another well bred colt who’s lightly raced but has finished well in all 3 of his starts. Jose Ortiz is up for soon to be Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. It feels funny and awkward to handicap a race and place a Todd Pletcher horse last at the bottom of my handicapping. Considering his below par works, his overall speed ratings, his light body of work ( 3 lifetime starts) none being in Graded ranks, it’s just too much to ask of a colt to contend or win a race like this vs colts who are significantly more battle tested in much richer races. If he runs his best race he could grab a share, perhaps 4th money, but that would be at the expense of two others really faltering. I’d use him only in your deepest betting gimmicks, expect him to be close early, but them to tire badly in the stretch.
Well there you have it, it should be a fabulous racing day at Saratoga, As always I appreciate your continued readership and please stay tuned for my columns at Saratoga covering the Whitney, The Alabama, The Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.