Race Previews

Jim Dandy Preview: Showdown at the Spa

Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

For the first time since 1991, Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy will feature a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner matching up against each other at Saratoga Race Course. It will be the first time ever that the two races’ winners will meet in the Jim Dandy, as the 1991 race between Derby winner Strike the Gold and Preakness winner Hansel took place in the Travers. Both of them were defeated on that day, but this time around, the duo looks formidable.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Preakness, fired an easy 5-furlong breeze in 1:01.71 over the Oklahoma training track with jockey John Velazquez on Saturday morning. The work put the finishing touch on training up to the race, planned under the watchful eye of trainer Todd Pletcher, who is in search of his seventh Jim Dandy victory.

“Anytime you have the Kentucky Derby winner running, you don’t want to get beat,” Pletcher said. “But it’s something we thought a lot about between the Preakness and now, and we wanted to get here not just with a fresh horse, but a horse hopefully fit enough to run a mile and 1/8.

“It’s always a delicate balance when you’re trying to freshen a horse up and have him ready for a race like the Jim Dandy,” he added. “You know you have to be fit and prepared for it, but you also want to hopefully have something to build on and something left in the tank for the Travers. I think we’ve been able to accomplish that in the time off after the Preakness.”

“He settled in well,” said Pletcher. “He ran well here last year as a 2-year-old. The one thing we’ve seen with him is that he’s able to take his races over multiple surfaces. He’s run well at Tampa and Gulfstream, on a really slow surface one day, a really fast surface one day, a sloppy track at Churchill, and ran as a 2-year-old at Belmont and Saratoga, so when he’s in good form, he’ll run over any track.”

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Always Dreaming will break from the rail in this small field of five.

Preakness winner Cloud Computing will break just outside the Kentucky Derby winner as he drew post two for the showdown on Saturday. Almost fittingly, the big two have drawn side-by-side in a race that could turn into a chess match between jockeys. Javier Castellano will have the mount on Cloud Computing once again after his hard-fought victory over Classic Empire in the Preakness. Judging by his latest workout, he’s ready to roll.

“He looked really good today,” Brown said. “I thought the horse breezed great, and coming off this work, he remains on target.”

The Jim Dandy will go off as Race 10 and will be one of four stakes races on the day’s card. The race will anchor Saturday’s “Saratoga Live” program, which will air nationally on FS2 from 5-6:30 p.m.

Top Choice

#2 Cloud Computing – I’ve been screaming that this horse is getting no respect, and I still feel that way. After the Triple Crown season, many felt like Classic Empire and Always Dreaming were the two best horses, but Cloud Computing beat Classic Empire fair and square in the Preakness. He’s been directly pointed towards the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes ever since, so there’s no question that he’s going to be geared up and ready to go. He’ll enter this race a little bit fresher than Always Dreaming, too. The pace scenario is iffy for Cloud Computing, so that’s a minor negative, and I don’t think that he’ll be fully cranked up with the Travers just down the road in a few weeks. However, Always Dreaming most likely won’t, either, so that could be a wash. I like these horses about the same, so I’ll take a shot with the horse that I believe will be the higher price: Cloud Computing.

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#1 Always Dreaming – Maybe I’m just crazy and have Cloud Computing ranked too highly in my mind. Always Dreaming looked incredible in both his Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby wins, so maybe it’s just simply going to be easy for him now that he’s rested and ready. However, I’m not convinced that he can come back at the same level that he displayed in the Kentucky Derby. As we know, the Triple Crown series takes a lot out of a horse, and that will be a big advantage for Cloud Computing, who only ran in one of the races instead of two, like Always Dreaming. However, from a pace standpoint, Always Dreaming might have a big-time advantage, unless newcomer Pavel can press him early, and that will make him tough to catch. This race can go either way, but at this point, the ceiling might be higher for Cloud Computing.

Exotic Plays

#5 Good Samaritan – He tries the dirt for the first time here after a solid, yet frustrating, stint on the grass. His main issue is the fact that he drops too far back and can never make up enough ground on the front-runners. While he should take to the dirt in good order, it’s hard to see his pace dynamics changing that much. Expect him to run his normal race, even though he’s trying something new. No matter the surface, the horse just needs a really hot pace in front of him.

Party Crashers

#4 Pavel – A very impressive debut maiden special weight winner at Santa Anita just three weeks back, he now ships to the east coast and take on the giants in this division, but with a small field, this is actually a very logical place to enter. He could be completely outclassed here, but his lack of experience shouldn’t hurt him in a field this small. He’s the only real wildcard in the race because we have no idea how high his talent level reaches.

Throw Outs

#3 Giuseppe the Great – Looking to stretch out to a two-turn race for the first time in this spot, he might not be outclassed (he’s had some nice sprint races), but at this distance, he’s a real question mark.

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