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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Godolphin homebred Essential Quality‘s class advantage helped him prevail over a gutsy rail-skimming Keepmeinmind to win Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.
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Essential Quality broke from the far outside post 5 under Luis Saez as the 2/5 favorite and sat outside Keepmeinmind while the other three runners – Dr Jack on the rail and Masqueparade between him and Weyburn – raced three-wide up front.
After watching opening fractions of :23.81, :47.41, and 1:11.13, Saez sent Essential Quality out four-wide heading into the far turn. As Dr Jack weakened while cornering, Joel Rosario waited until clear before shooting Keepmeinmind down to the opening on the rail.
Keepmeinmind surged at the top of the stretch to challenge for command just as Essential Quality cleared Masqueparade and Weyburn.
The two 3-year-old colts commenced to throw down in the stretch as Saez steered Essential Quality toward the inside so he could see Keepmeinmind.
Essential Quality reclaimed the lead shortly after straightening for home and held his game foe at bay by a 1/2-length for much of the stretch. The Brad Cox trainee kept that advantage as he completed the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route in 1:49.92.
“When they straightened up, I thought, ‘Wow we’ve been wide both turns,’ and then we see a horse slip up the inside (Keepmeinmind) who looked like he had some run left,” Cox said. “It made for some anxious moments down the lane.”
Saez, the meet’s leading rider, was confident that he was going to win despite the wide trip.
“I saw him (Keepmeinmind), but I had a lot of horse and I knew he was going to finish,” Saez said. “The plan today was not to take too much away from him. He always fights and he always wants to win.”
Masqueparade held third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Keepmeinmind.
Weyburn and an eased Dr Jack completed the order of finish.
Essential Quality’s win followed last month’s triumph in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and improved the Tapit colt’s career record to 8-7-0-0 with $3,545,144 earned. The 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes (G1) here on August 28 is next.
“There was a lot of ground lost today,” Cox added. “Luis obviously had to work to win. He got something out of it, I do think that. I think he’s carrying a little more weight now than he was leading up to the Derby or Belmont. I think this was a good tightener for him, 4 weeks out (from the Travers).”
Essential Quality returned $2.80 to win and $2.10 to place. Keepmeinmind brought back $4 to place. There was no show betting.
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