Saratoga Preview Sat 7.30: G1 Vanderbilt, G2 Jim Dandy
Happy Jim Dandy Day!
There are two very nice stakes races on the card today, albeit with short fields. As horse players we like big fields as it spreads the money around and gives us better prices on our good opinions. But there is no need to have a big field to have a great race. Just check out the four horse Shuvee from Sunday and the five horse CCA Oaks from Saturday. They were both awesome races between the leaders in their respective divisions.
While reigning Sprint Champion Jackie’s Warrior lays over the field in the Vanderbilt there is very good match-up in the Jim Dandy between Epicenter and Early Voting as they battle for the lead in the three year old colt division.
Race 8 – The Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap – Grade I
Six Furlongs on the Dirt, Handicap For Three Year Olds and Upward
Jackie’s Warrior headlines the Vanderbilt. He’s a special horse who was spectacular last summer in winning the Amsterdam and the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes. The Amsterdam performance was really something special – when Johnny I. announced “the half mile in 43.4” there was a collective gasp in the Grandstand. Not only was Jackie’s Warrior absolutely flying up front – he was doing it in hand. Watch that replay – it’s a sight to behold.
Jackie’s Warrior is undefeated in four starts at Saratoga – he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Hopeful at age two, the aforementioned Grade 2 Amsterdam and Grade 1 Jerkens at age three. Today he goes for his third Grade I in three years at the Spa.
He’s something special – enjoy.
- Kneedeepinsnow: Claimed three back from Mike Maker for $80k. Since that move trainer Matt Shirer has had some success with a second and third in two overnight stakes races. The new connections have modified his running style to put him more forward early in the race. Working well in advance of this and he posted a triple digit Beyer three back. Lasix comes off but he gets ten pounds from Jackie’s Warrior. He draws inside and will have to be on the engine from the get-go. But that’s the issue – he can’t outrun Jackie’s Warrior early but will likely get cooked while attempting to do so. Trainer State: Matt Shirer is zero for seventeen in stakes races. Passing.
- Willy Boi: Interesting Jorge Delgado trained entry who is three for three this year after coming off an eight month layoff. Last time he handled Drain the Clock in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream where he swept by the leaders in the stretch (98 Beyer). The upturn in form has also coincided with Chantal Sutherland getting in the irons and she ships in for the mount from South Florida. As a three year old this one was a pure speed ball, but it appears they have gotten him to relax and rate a bit and then unleash his speed to put the race away. Shows improving speed figs. Minor award candidate.
- Ny Traffic: New York bred takes on Grade 1 company off a win at Penn National in the ungraded Chocolate Town Stakes where he stalked the early pace and kicked on while under pressure all the way. He has had stakes success against state breds multiple times in New York, but this is Grade 1 company. He did hit the triple digit Beyer mark two back going today’s six furlongs with Irad in the saddle who is back here today. Has a couple of nice works over the Saratoga main track since shipping up from Belmont. He needs to sit off a hot pace and then pick up the pieces. Exacta play.
- Jackie’s Warrior: The reigning Eclipse Sprint Champion has come back better than ever for his four year old campaign after surgery over the winter. Last out in the True North (107 Beyer) he absolutely buried the field and won by five lengths as Rosario barely asked him and then eased him up in the final sixteenth. He’s undefeated in three efforts this year with each race better than the last. He is undefeated in four starts at Saratoga with two wins each in 2020 and 2021. He’s a spectacular sprinter who loves to bottom out a field. Gives the rest of the field between six and eleven pounds. I don’t think that will matter a bit. Come and catch me if you can. The Pick.
- Long Range Toddy: Dallas Stewart enters here off a third place finish in an Allowance race at Churchill (91 Beyer). At one time this was a promising dirt router who won the Rebel Stakes and ran in the Derby. But that Rebel win, which was twenty-one starts ago, was his last victory. Three back Jackie’s Warrior easily handled this one in the Churchill Downs Stakes going seven furlongs. Hard to endorse. He’ll be left chasing. Looking elsewhere.
- Doc Amster: Jorge Delgado wheels this one back in thirteen days off of winning a Starter Allowance at Monmouth going six furlongs (90 Beyer). He has finished in the money in eight of eleven attempts at six panels – but he is facing much tougher today than his recent races at Monmouth. Javier Castellano, who is riding lights out at this meet so far, picks up the mount. Could fill out the superfecta if he can work a trip.
Race 9 – The Jim Dandy – Grade II
One Mile and One Furlong on the Dirt for Three Year Olds
The first two finishers from the Preakness Stakes are back here today as Epicenter tries to turn the tables on the Chad Brown trained Early Voting.
Epicenter was the leader of the three year old division on the morning of the first Saturday of May. But second place finishes in the Derby and Preakness moved him down the rankings a touch.
But at this point the three year old colt division is wide open.
A different horse won each leg of the Triple Crown sequence. Longshot Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike didn’t show anything in his return in the Belmont Stakes, and Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal is out for the remainder of the year with bone bruising. Jack Christopher was the flavor of the month after his dominate Wood Stephens win. But he didn’t quite measure up going nine furlongs in the Haskell and Chad now appears to be aiming Jack Christopher for the Allen Jerkens at seven furlongs.
So where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us with a very good Jim Dandy that will help to sort out the three year old colt division a bit more in advance of the Travers. A win by either Early Voting or Epicenter today makes them as the divisional leader…for now.
- Western River: This one is cross entered in Friday’s restricted Curlin Stakes. He was moved to the dirt for his three year old campaign and that led to a maiden breaking effort in April at Oaklawn. He then tried the Peter Pan Stakes where he started poorly but finished well to end up in fourth but only a head of the place money. Last out he won a N1X race going twelve furlongs at Churchill at 4/5 where he drew off in the stretch to win by five lengths. Three 87 Beyers in a row are nice – but are well below what is needed to win today. Santana stays aboard as he can stalk or close from further off the pace. Water is too deep.
- Epicenter: Enters here off a freshening since his second place performance in the Preakness (102 Preakness). He didn’t break sharply at Pimlico and end up being taken back and moved down to the rail. While he did get a ground saving trip by the time a hole opened up for him to make a move in the stretch Early Voting was already three lengths ahead and there was too much for him to do. Two back he looked like a winner in the Derby after repelling Zandon – only to be caught late by Rich Strike. He is very consistent and has three straight triple digit Beyers going back to his Louisiana Derby win (102 Beyer). Versatile runner who can win on the front end or can come off the pace. Dangerous.
- Tawny Port: Brad Cox trained colt comes out of a win in the Ohio Derby (90 Beyer) where he sat a trip behind a fast early pace. In that win he defeated Classic Causeway (who won next out in the Belmont Derby on the turf) and White Abarrio (who failed to fire in the Haskell). Speed figs just don’t stack up against the best here and there does not appear to be a progression. He won the Lexington with an 89 Beyer and then was seventh in the Kentucky Derby with a 94 Beyer. Should be running late to get a slice.
- Early Voting: Lightly race Chad Brown colt has three wins and second in his four starts including wins in the Preakness (105 Beyer) and the Withers. His lone defeat was in the Wood Memorial where he was passed late by Belmont winner Mo Donegal to lose by a neck. He likes to be forwardly placed and could be loose on the lead today. His Beyer fig has jumped by an average of ten points in each of his four career starts. He is still eligible for improvement in his fifth career start. Trainer Stat: Chad Brown is winning at a 40% clip in dirt route races this calendar year (42/106) with a remarkable 69% of his runners finishing in the money. The Pick.
- Zandon: This was the “IT” horse of Derby week, was the morning line favorite, and went off as second choice to Epicenter. In the Derby he got a nice ground saving trip and came running at the quarter pole but finished third (98 Beyer) as he couldn’t catch Epicenter and was passed by eventual winner Rich Strike. Talented stalk and pounce type who has a Blue Grass win on his resume where he came running late (98 Beyer). Those paired up Beyers reflect his best figs of his career. He can sit off the pace or stalk and pounce – either way he’ll be coming late and is a win candidate with a small improvement. The Other Chad. Upset potential with a small step forward.