Creator and Destin, who were separated by inches at the end of a grueling 12 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, hook up again at Saratoga Race Course in Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes – the key local stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes August 27.
Also looming large in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy is Mohaymen, who finished ahead of Creator and Destin when fourth in the Kentucky Derby for streaking trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who saddled six winners from just eight starters opening week.
Creator and Destin have had a brief freshening since their memorable stretch battle in the Belmont, as has Jim Dandy hopeful Governor Malibu, trained by Christophe Clement, who was a troubled fourth in the “Test of the Champion” on June 11.
Also making his first appearance since Belmont Stakes Day is Race Me Home, who was a rallying second in the Easy Goer Stakes for Dale Romans.
The pace will likely be set by Laoban, a maiden who has nevertheless had the lead in several graded stakes, most recently when fifth in the Dwyer three weeks ago for trainer Eric Guillot.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Creator, owned by WinStar Farm and Bobby Flay, worked out a ground-saving trip after breaking from post 13 in the Belmont and found a seam in the lane under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to catch Destin in the final strides.
“[Ortiz] saved yards and won by inches,” said Asmussen, who will be inducted into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame next Friday.
“Creator has trained really well since his little break at WinStar [Farm in Kentucky],” he added. “It’s exciting to be running him here at Saratoga, and he’s doing really well. Backing up from the mile and a half in the Belmont to this mile and an eighth, obviously the Travers is the major goal for him here this summer, but I think he’ll represent himself well in the Jim Dandy.”
By design, Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Destin has raced only twice since winning the Tampa Bay Derby in mid-March. He was then sixth in the Kentucky Derby, and a tough-luck second in the Belmont for Todd Pletcher.
“I thought his race was sneaky good in the Derby, and I think the Belmont solidified his status as one of the top colts in this crop,” said Pletcher. “He gives us the impression he’s in the process of taking that step to the next level, and we’ve always felt like he’s the kind of horse that’s going to improve once he gets a little older. Being a [son of] Giant’s Causeway, they tend to improve with experience and age. The Travers at a mile and a quarter should suit him well, so we’re hoping to win the Jim Dandy, but we’ve kind of got our eye on the Travers as well.”
Even though Saturday will mark 12 weeks since Mohaymen ran in the Kentucky Derby, the $2.2 million son of Tapit could be the “now” horse based on his trainer’s 6-for-8 start to the meet.
Mohaymen reeled off five straight wins to begin his career, including four Grade 2 stakes, before fourth-place finishes in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
“He’s doing great, ready to go, and hopefully it doesn’t rain at five o’clock on Saturday, like it did the last two times he ran,” said McLaughlin. “He ran very well last time. I think a repeat of that race puts him right there.”
Several of McLaughlin’s winners last week were returning from layoffs as well. “We’re happy that he had some time off,” he said.
The Jim Dandy, one of four graded stakes Saturday, will be the tenth of 11 races with a post time of 6:18 p.m. and is the third leg of a Late Pick 4 with a $500,000 guaranteed pool.
#1 Creator – The Belmont Stakes hero is back today, and looks to be thriving at the Spa since arriving to town. Here is something to keep in mind…this horse was a maiden in March. Even though he won the Belmont Stakes you could still make the case that he has a right to improve as he continues to develop. The thing I love about Creator is the fact that his running style doesn’t really hamper him. Many times a deep closer becomes a victim of the pace, but in Creator’s situation he does an incredible job of getting himself into position when the real running begins. That will be important in a six horse field today where the pace may or may not be fast up front. It’s a tough spot, but lets see if he’s progressed even further and can become the top horse in this division.
#3 Mohaymen – Consider me to be extremely intrigued with this horse for a variety of reasons. For several months leading up to the Kentucky Derby this was my top ranked horse in the 3 year old ranks, but disaster struck in the Florida Derby when he ran terribly and was embarrassed by Nyquist. However, he did come back with a solid fourth place effort in the Kentucky Derby. Now he fires fresh today with this race and the Travers Stakes being the target since May. Also, you can’t overlook the fact that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is REDHOT at Saratoga. His six for eight start has been incredible, and not only are his horses winning but they are running off the screen. He’s on a real roll right now, and you can bet he’ll have Mohaymen ready to run a big one.
#4 Destin – Ever since his unorthodox route to the Kentucky Derby it’s been very tough to figure how this horse is going to run. In the Kentucky Derby he ran a pretty even but respectable sixth, but five weeks later he really picked it up in the Belmont Stakes and almost won the race. I feel like he had somewhat of a pace advantage over his main rivals in that one which could have moved him forward a little bit. Would not be at all shocked today if he jumped up and won, but in a six horse race I don’t want to recommend more than two horses as “likely winners.” He’ll be up on the lead today I would imagine, but I think Mohaymen will keep him honest and stay within striking distance. Laoban will also keep him company on the front end.
#5 Governor Malibu – Certainly a sneaky horse here that has to be respected based on his last few efforts. In fact last time out in the Belmont Stakes he was running right there with the leaders until traffic trouble cost him a couple of lengths. He still ended up finishing fourth, and Clement has said he’s doing well leading up to the race. It’s worth noting that he was eligible for the Curlin Stakes, but Clement chose to run him in the tougher spot today. Still might be a touch behind the top couple in this division, but if he improves he could turn the tables.
NONE – The only two horses that would be a huge surprise to me are Race Me Home and Laoban and I don’t think either have a chance to beat the top four. So I can’t call anyone a true “party crasher” in this race.
#6 Race Me Home – It was really hard for me to throw this horse out after his big race at Belmont Park last time out however I don’t think from a class standpoint he matches up with the top four in this race. I’m also still not 100% sold that he can run back to that last race again today.
#2 Laoban – The maiden once again is running in a tough graded stakes race. The brilliance continues…