Stay Thirsty, Brilliant Speed Set For Saturday's Jim Dandy
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – It’s a wide-open race for 3-year-old championship honors, and Saturday’s 48th running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course could go a long way in helping clarify the division.
The traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on August 27, the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy drew a field of seven up-and-coming sophomores all looking to make their presence felt as the second half of the season kicks into high gear. The Jim Dandy, named for the horse who upset Triple Crown hero Gallant Fox in the 1930 Travers, has produced 15 winners of the “Mid-Summer Derby,” including eight who have completed the double, most recently Street Sense in 2007.
The Jim Dandy, race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, will be telecast from 5-6 p.m. EDT along with the Grade 1 Diana on VERSUS as the NBC Sports Group’s seven straight weekends of “Summer at Saratoga” continues.
Heading the Jim Dandy field is Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty, the Belmont Stakes runner-up who already owns a victory in one of the better-known stakes for 3-year-olds, Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 3 Gotham. Often overshadowed by his stablemate, Repole’s 2010 juvenile champion Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty could stake his claim to a lengthy stint in the spotlight with a breakthrough performance in the Jim Dandy.
“He’s been taking a backseat to Uncle Mo,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “But he can do a lot for himself by stepping up in the Jim Dandy, and the Travers.”
With a record of 2-3-0 from eight starts, including a maiden win here last August and a runner-up finish to Boys At Tosconova in 2010’s Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful, Stay Thirsty has precisely earned back his purchase price of $500,000 for Repole, who bought him at the Fasig-Tipton sales in February, 2010.
“I thought he justified what we thought of him in the Belmont, although we were disappointed at the end,” said Pletcher. “Nonetheless, it was a good effort and he’s trained well since then. He’s always been a straightforward kind of horse, pretty professional, and physically we’ve noticed some development even since the Gotham.”
Javier Castellano has the mount on Stay Thirsty, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, from post position 6.
Also returning from the Belmont is Brilliant Speed, who earlier this spring took the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland over an artificial surface before his third-place finish in the 1 ½ mile “Test of the Champion.” Subsequently given a light break, Brilliant Speed returned to the worktab in mid-July and trainer Tom Albertrani is confident he will get another good performance from the Dynaformer colt.
“When I see my horses training as well as he has, I’m confident they’re going to run well,” said Albertrani, who trains Brilliant Speed for Live Oak Plantation. “He’s come back with three works since the Belmont and we’re pretty pleased with him. Hopefully, the Jim Dandy will be a steppingstone to the Travers.”
John Velazquez, who rode Brilliant Speed during the Gulfstream Park meet, will be back aboard in the Jim Dandy, for which the colt drew post position 3 and was listed at 7-2 on the morning line.
Three Jim Dandy entrants come into the race off graded stakes victories: Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s Dominus, who won the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park on July 2, Pin Oak Stable’s Alternation, winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont on May 14, and Scotus, winner of the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 18.
Dominus’ front-running victory in the Dwyer was his second in four starts, having broken his maiden at Santa Anita on March 24. Second in his debut at Belmont last September, the Smart Strike colt also was second to Machen in the Grade 3 Derby Trial on April 30.
Julien Leparoux rides the Steve Asmussen trainee, 3-1 on the morning line, from post position 2.
Alternation had been under consideration for the Belmont following his head victory over Adios Charlie in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, but his connections opted to give the colt a break and bring him back for the second part of the season.
“We backed off after the Peter Pan and let him relax for a couple of weeks,” said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. “We then got back in business and put some in company works and some longer distances just to make sure we had everything ready to go.”
Ramon Dominguez, aboard for the Peter Pan, is back on Alternation, 7-2 on the morning line from the outside.
Scotus, who was unraced at 2, has fashioned a 2-1-2 record from five starts this year, most recently coming from just off the pace for a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn.
“His last race was a big deal for us,” said Ken McPeek, who trains the Successful Appeal colt for Peter Callahan. “He’s a horse who’s really improving with age. He had a bunch of physical issues we had to get past last year, but he’s still got a case to be a good one.”
Alan Garcia will ride Scotus, who drew post position 4 and was listed at 8-1 on the morning line.
Completing the field are Will’s Wildcat, most recently fourth to Rattlesnake Bridge in the Long Branch at Monmouth Park on July 9, and Moonshine Mullin, making his first start on conventional dirt following his victory in the Victoria Park at Woodbine on June 12.