The Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, a key Grade 1 Travers Stakes prep race, is set to go off at Saratoga as race 10 on an amazing 11-race Saturday card. This year brings us a field of five looking to step up and take charge of the division after the recent news of Triple Crown winner Justify‘s retirement. Four of the five entries in the race competed on the Triple Crown trail, so while the field might lack quantity, it does not lack quality.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Tenfold seems to fit the bill as a horse that could develop into a monster during the second half of the season. The son of Curlin did not race at age 2, but he quickly won his first two races at Oaklawn Park to kick off his 3-year-old season. After that, he was thrown into three straight Grade 1 events and held his own in each one. You can read more about him in Mike “Saratoga Slim” Spector’s article on Steve Asmussen and his Saratoga stars here, as well as this quote from him that explains his excitement for Tenfold:
“I love who he is physically and mentally,” Asmussen said. “I still think his best is ahead of him. He’s just a beautiful horse and he moves so good. For him to take the Preakness and the Belmont as well as he did, I think it just shows his quality. And he’s looked so good on the race track up here. I have a tremendous amount of faith in him.”
When it comes to Saratoga, trainer Todd Pletcher is always one to watch, and as usual, he has an entry in this year’s Jim Dandy. Vino Rosso will carry the Pletcher barn flag after a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes last time out. Another son of Curlin, he will break from the outside post in this race, which should give him a bit of a tactical advantage. Jockey John Velazquez will have the mount once again on Vino Rosso, just as he has in each of the horse’s seven lifetime starts.
“I think he’s doing well, he’s had a good time since the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “He seems to be showing good energy, and he’s been pointing to the Jim Dandy since then. We’re looking to get him on track and get a good race into him before the Travers.”
The full field of five includes Flameaway, Tenfold, Reride, Sporting Chance, and Vino Rosso.
#2 Tenfold – This rapidly-developing colt could be ready for a huge second half of the season. After two straight wins at Oaklawn Park, Asmussen entered him in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, where he finished fifth despite his lack of experience. Asmussen remained aggressive and entered him in the Preakness next, and Tenfold showed tremendous class to finish third while only losing to Justify by 3/4 of a length. After a poor trip in the Belmont Stakes, he finished fifth, but the conditions will be much better for him in this race. This could become the big horse of the summer, and it is clear that Asmussen has been extremely high on him from day one.
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#5 Vino Rosso – Pletcher has been high on this horse from the very beginning. Without a doubt, he has some spotty form, but he has also shown us at times that he can really run. His biggest win came in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, where he dominated to win by 3 lengths. Most recently, he was a solid fourth in the Belmont Stakes. In some of his other races, he has been a bit green, but he has always had the looks of a late developer. The summer races could be his time to shine.
#4 Sporting Chance – The D. Wayne Lukas trainee got a little break after finishing off the board in the Preakness, which may have been needed moreso mentally than physically. Lukas admits that this horse has been difficult to handle at times, but he also says that he is starting to come around. It is clear that this horse has a lot of talent, and now he returns to the track where he picked up his biggest career win in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. If Sporting Chance can finally put it all together here, then he could pull off the upset, or at least hit the board.
#3 Reride – This horse has been literally everywhere this year! After running in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park, Asmussen shipped this colt all the way to Dubai to run in the Group 2 UAE Derby. He was dominated in that race, then came home to the United States to run on the turf at Canterbury in the Mystical Lake Derby. After running off the board in that one, he now shows back up on the dirt. At one time, he was considered a Kentucky Derby contender, but as of now, it is hard to get a read on him. However, he has shown talent in the past, so he could surprise some people in this race.
#1 Flameaway – It will be interesting to see how this horse rebounds after two poor performances in a row. Two races back, he was in a tough spot in the Kentucky Derby, so that poor showing was understandable. Last time out certainly was more disappointing when he finished a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. He went off as the second choice in that race and was done before they even entered the turn. Saratoga can be a speed-favoring track, which could really help him, but he must rebound in a big way.