HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 29, 2022 — Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes is about two things; motivation and intent. Since this will be yet another rider’s race, given a field of five, let’s cover them all.
Like all serious handicappers, we rely on both art and science. The art is visual observation, the science, provided public analysts courtesy of Thoro-Graph, are performance figures that embellishes a read into condition and development.
Before starting, an admission that I miss my good friend Cary Fotias more with each passing day, for his irascible charm, wit, and genius in defining condition through performance figures viewed through a prism of pace. I miss not seeing horses develop on paper before my very eyes.
A look at the quintessential Travers prep for three year olds at nine furlongs in advance of the 10-furlong Derby of Midsummer, listed in post order with early line odds:
1-WESTERN RIVER (20-1): Actually owns one of the best patterns in the race, the progression beginning when Lasix was added to the blinkers in which he broke maiden on APR 2 at Oaklawn Park. Indeed, the figure he earned winning his last at Churchill Downs matches many of Epicenter’s best.
But we do not trust figures earned at 12 furlongs when those runners are asked to turn-back to nine. Rodolphe Brisset has heated up, and Ricardo Santana needs no introduction to Saratoga, but we must pass on company lines.
2-EPICENTER (3-2): There are two things at work here. First, Steve Asmussen knows that his best chance to regain divisional leadership would be to win the Grade 1 run in Saratoga on Saturday, AUG 27. And with that comes the redemption he wants for the long-time pre-Derby divisional leader. He wants a confident colt going into Travers.
Asmussen wants to win this, too. No one looks askance at $600,000 pots, whatever the grade, but not at the expense of having him spot on for the Travers. But he is smarting; shocked he could lost the Derby after holding Zandon at bay, then followed by the nightmare in Baltimore.
Asmussen’s first instinct was to point a finger at the rider’s choice of tactics. But what was Joel Rosario supposed to do after getting sawed and squeezed before reaching the lower first turn, forcing to to steady his mount?
Save ground, that’s what, which is exactly what Rosario did. And his trip didn’t get much easier after that, especially after Early Voting separated himself from the group in midstretch. Both horse, trainer and, to some extent, the rider, need a W. All have something to prove.
Epicenter never has taken a back step on figures, Then neither has he shown significant development since his breakthrough performance on FEB 19 in New Orleans. All workout reports are first rate.
3-TAWNY PORT (8-1): Stablemate Cyberknife punched his Travers ticket at the Jersey Shore last weekend, but we’re sure Brad Cox wouldn’t mind a little backup plan.
This colt does not have an elite profile, but he comes pretty damn close. He had a horror trip in the Derby and was beaten only 4-1/4 lengths. He returned to win the Ohio Derby next out, and here he is at the Spa. His figures are forward and gets two to four pounds from the three favorites. Gets Irad back but no diuretics.
4-EARLY VOTING (8-5) To us, he’s the now horse despite a 10-week freshening. He owns the fastest race on the page, so the recovery time is good, and he’s working like a true professional. If we want to second-guess, we’ll note that he’s done an awful lot of developing from his DEC 18 debut.
But the Preakness winner is too fast, too tactical and can develop further. Ability and heart is what makes a race horse. Early Voting will be a pace presence; setting or pressing it. A neck separates him from an undefeated four-race career slate.
5-ZANDON (2-1): Trainers would never reveal for public consumption his choice of the better horse for a particular target. My guess is that, in his heart of hearts, Chad Brown believes that Zendon is his best chance to win his first Travers.
Doubtlessly, Saratoga’s co-leading trainer surely is motivated to win the Jim Dandy. But the true intent is to win his first Travers; the Mechanicville native thinks it’s his birthright.
G2 JIM DANDY STAKES Saturday Race 9
EARLY LINE VALUE: None
STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Epicenter to win at 3-2 or greater. Exacta Box: Epicenter and Early Voting, 2-4
CURLIN STAKES FRIDAY Race 7
The Skinny: Technically, this is a a race for “three-year-olds which have never won a graded sweepstakes at a mile or over in 2022.” It just as easily could have read for three-year-olds prepping for the Travers–or better suited to the shorter G1 Pennsylvania Derby–or sophomores with something to prove that they belong among the three-year-old elites. It happens to be a good betting race.
The 2-1 favorite is Creative MINISTER, and rightfully so. Prior to his one-paced fifth in the Belmont, he was a very good third in the Preakness following an impressive allowance score in Louisville. The second choice Artorius (7-2) comes off a strong maiden allowances at Belmont, with Team Chad-Irad.
Our preference is Be Better (4-1), who had a run over the track as a 2-year-old, reappeared at Monmouth this summer going long and is 2-for-2, drawing off with lengthening strides last month. This one goes for Team Todd-Saez and has the look of a horse specifically pointed here. We’ll pay to find out.
DESERVING FAVORITE: Creative Minister
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Golden Glider (8-1)
STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Betting Be Better to win at 3-1 of greater. Exacta Box Creative Minister and Better, 7-8. Trifecta Wheel 7 // 8 // 2-5-9. Trifecta Wheel 7 // 2-5-9 //8.
G1 ALFRED G VANDERBILT Saturday Race 8
The Skinny: It’s champion Jackie’s Warrior (1-5) vs. the world. Well, four rivals, anyway. He’s 4-for-4 lifetime at the Spa and 3-for-4 at the trip. Full stop.
Ny Traffic (6-1) has gotten drilled every time he’s tried graded company. We don’t know if it will be any different today but he’s worth considering. Saffie Joseph Jr. has been doing well with his fresh runners and here’s another, training will purpose, with good spacing, and he picks up Irad. It’s horse racing, and one never knows…
MOST PROBABLE WINNER: Jackie’s Warrior
EARLY-LINE VALUE: Ny Traffic (6-1)
STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Ny Traffic to win at 5-1 or greater. Exacta Box: 3-4. Instant Double Jackie’s Warrior with Epicenter, 4-2. Trifecta Wheel: 4 // 3 // 2-5. Trifecta Wheel 4 // 2-5 // 3.
When more than one horse is listed in a category, preferences are listed in order. Exotic wagering level suggested are at minimums available; straight wagers at $2 units.
this is a live column that will be updated through the weekend