The big race in America this weekend takes place at a unseasonably rainy Saratoga with the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes worth €600,000 a prep for the Travers.
We have enlisted American expert Jeremy Plonk to preview the big race.
The final piece of a 3-stakes Saturday puzzle at the Spa, the G2 Jim Dandy gives leading 3-year-olds a chance to build a championship resume. The 1-1/8 miles Jim Dandy joins the G2 Bowling Green and G1 Vanderbilt in a very engaging series of consecutive races, 9 through 11. Last week we saw Xpressbet Florida Derby winner Maximum Security deliver on his promise in the Haskell. All roads lead to the Travers title bout in August, especially the path through the Jim Dandy.
WAR OF WILL is a G1 winner, while TACITUS is G1-placed and a G2 winner. They have held the strongest company lines along with G3 winner TAX. The field’s other graded winner is G3 victor GLOBAL CAMPAIGN.
TAX and GLOBAL CAMPAIGN are most likely to go to the front with WAR OF WILL right in the mix. There’s not a pure run-off speed horse in this 6-horse lineup and that leading trio has every right to control the situation.
The Belmont Stakes alumni of TACITUS, WAR OF WILL and TAX make a lot of sense to start the evaluation. In the last 6 Jim Dandy editions, 3 winners. 4 runner-ups and 2 third-place finishers were horses who last raced in the Belmont Stakes and came in freshened off 7-8 weeks. That’s 9 of the 18 trifecta placings in the Jim Dandy on the same pattern, and from only 13 total players making that move.
WAR OF WILL earned plaudits for his rebound in the Preakness after the Kentucky Derby incident at the 5/16ths pole. You can argue he got a perfect trip in Baltimore, and you’d be right. But that’s also his running style to make that trip. He was a fish out of water in the Belmont Stakes and regressed while making his 11th straight start of his form cycle. He never had any real break since coming to the racetrack at 2; that’s a product of being a January horse for the Lecomte. He’s finally freshened and 1-1/8 miles always has seemed about his optimum distance.
Trainer Mark Casse was runner-up in this race a year ago with the less-credentialed Flameaway. The most recent Preakness winners to add the Jim Dandy were Bernardini in 2006 and Louis Quatorze a decade earlier in 1996. Prior to that it was ’78 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. I loved the way he leveled off and finished past the wire in his workout July 13, as seen at XBTV.com, going against a very rank and sprint-laden barnmate Strike Silver.
TACITUS likely goes favored because…well…the public (and especially public handicappers) loves TACITUS. There’s plenty to appreciate. His wide trip likely cost him the Belmont Stakes when runner-up by a length. Bill Mott won his last Jim Dandy appearance in 2017 with Good Samaritan and was third here previously in 2015 with Japan. Sire Tapit has had recent Jim Dandy runner-ups Tonalist and Frosted. Mama Close Hatches won the 2014 Personal Ensign at 9 furlongs by 5 lengths in her only career appearance at the Spa.TACITUS won’t want to fall too far out of the race given the pace scenario, but it’s likely he’s only got LAUGHING FOX behind him as they run down the backstretch. He worked very strongly July 13 against elder stablemate and G1 winner Yoshida, as seen at XBTV.com.
TAX was my upset pace pick in the Belmont Stakes and ran decently when fourth at 11-1 odds. He was beaten less than 2 lengths by runner-up TACITUS and finished 1-1/4 lengths behind that one in the Wood Memorial. If you like TACITUS, there’s not a cavern separating these 2 in previous match-ups and TAX again will be part of a modest to fair pace scenario. He’s got a bullet workout over the track for this and once again tempts just enough to be dangerous at what figures to be fair odds around 8-1.
GLOBAL CAMPAIGN is the fresh face to the high-stakes sophomore scene. He’s 3-for-4 lifetime with the only disappointment coming in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth when unnecessarily wheeled back on 3 weeks’ rest. He extended nicely in the Peter Pan to 1-1/8 miles, albeit around 1 turn at Belmont. This is a different trip. Purge in 2004 is the last horse to win both the Peter Pan and Jim Dandy. Jockey Luis Saez has been riding lights-out at the young meet and last week delivered the Haskell aboard Maximum Security. Given the pace scenario, Saez could find himself in a familiar position on his sophomore scene — the front. Sire Curlin has had exceptional success in the Jim Dandy with recent winners Tenfold and Palace Malice, along with third-place finisher Vino Rosso. GLOBAL CAMPAIGN, like several others in this spot, appears to be moving well in the a.m. for the Jim Dandy.
MIHOS goes for a Jimmy Jerkens barn that won this race in 2014 with the more accomplished WICKED STRONG. Nothing on his resume indicates he’s beating the best here if they fire, but MIHOS should be cycling into a better effort. An old school trainer like Jerkens must be factored into a second-off-the-layoff sort, but really honed in third-off-the-break in the true goal, next time in the Travers.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: TACITUS hasn’t missed a superfecta in 6 starts and likely needs only to pass a horse or two in the lane to continue that run.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: LAUGHING FOX was the only runner in this field to compete at Saratoga last summer, and it was a poor effort. The deep closer could be compromised by a modest pace and quality front-runners who don’t come back to him. But he will keep coming and set himself up for the Travers at a furlong farther. He gets a 6-pound break from WAR OF WILL and 4 pounds from TACITUS. Steve Asmussen won this race with Kensei and Tenfold, not exactly superstars, so LAUGHING FOX merits respect, while I prefer others in the top few spots. The barn also sends out its elite sprinter Mitole on the card, and often you’ll see that everyone fires when the big horse appears for a circled spot.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): I love inside speed going 1-1/8 miles at Saratoga, so let’s build around TAX and GLOBAL CAMPAIGN over the classy logical favorites. $25 exacta part-wheel TAX and GLOBAL CAMPAIGN over WAR OF WILL and TACITUS.