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Jim Dandy Preview: Will the Graveyard of Champions Claim Another Victim?
Essential Quality winning the Belmont (Credit: NYRA/Elsa Lorieul)

Jim Dandy Preview: Will the Graveyard of Champions Claim Another Victim?

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – The $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) returns to its normal place on the racing schedule this Saturday at Saratoga and drew a field of six runners, including Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Essential Quality.

The Jim Dandy is set for race 9 on a fantastic card with a local post time of 5:39 PM.

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Essential Quality easily headlines the field, coming into the race as the country’s best 3-year-old. His Belmont Stakes (G1) victory last time out atoned for his first career defeat in the Kentucky Derby (G1) 2 starts back. He gets regular rider Luis Saez aboard once again, breaking from post 5 for trainer Brad Cox.

“I’m very anxious to see him race again, just for the simple fact of how he’s training and how he’s filling out,” Cox said. “He’s a very intelligent horse. He’s been wanting to do more. He came out of last work great. He’s been very sharp and his energy has been great. The cooler weather is playing a role in that, but he’s ready to run. I’m very excited.”

His main challenger will come from the Al Stall Jr. barn, who sends out Ohio Derby (G3) winner Masqueparade. He seems to be the “now” horse after 3 straight victories, including a runaway allowance win at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. He’ll break from post 2 in this race with Miguel Mena up for the ride.

“Our horse is on the upswing, so if he keeps improving, he could be there or thereabouts. He deserves a shot,” said Stall Jr. “His last 2 races have been very good and he handled graded competition. The numbers are fine, but stepping up to those proven competitors is more a test to me than running against the clock. I think he deserves a chance.”

Keepmeinmind is back again, but this time with Joel Rosario taking over for his previous regular jockey David Cohen. Rosario’s riding style fits pretty well with this deep closer who’s been in many tough races but just hasn’t been closed all the way to win. He’ll try again here from post 4 for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

“I don’t think you can change much with the horse, but at the same time, Joel is one of the best riders in the country, so I’m going to leave it up to him,” Diodoro said. “We may need a little pace to run and it looks like there’s a little bit there on paper, so we’ll see. I thought there were three or four that may be forwardly placed, so hopefully a couple of them decide to go ding-donging and give us a pace to run at.”

The full field from the rail out: Dr Jack, Masqueparade, Weyburn, Keepmeinmind, Essential Quality, and Risk Taking.

Top Choice

#5 Essential Quality – He enters the summer as the top horse in the crop after his ultra-impressive Belmont Stakes (G1) win. The colt has lost just once in his lifetime, which came when getting caught wide and finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. This challenge seems to be the easiest spot he’s faced since his 2021 debut and should be a nice little prep for the Travers Stakes (G1). However, the “Graveyard of Champions” claimed its first major victim last week in Malathaat, and that mystique perpetually looms over this historic track.

“He likes it up here, big-time,” Cox said. “We take him out in the afternoons when it’s not raining and let him graze. He’s a lawn mower. He’s real focused here. He’s doing well.”

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#2 Masqueparade – Let’s see if this horse can step up and run with the big boys after completely dominating allowance runners at Churchill Downs and winning the Ohio Derby with a determined effort. He’s flashed a nice turn of foot in his last 2 starts, something he’ll have to do again here if he wants to beat the heavy favorite. He’s the logical alternative to Essential Quality.

Exotic Plays

#4 Keepmeinmind – He’s kind of this year’s lovable loser. He faces the top horses in the crop every time, he runs hard every time from the back of the pack, but he’s not quite good enough to win. That should be the same story with him here. He’ll come with a run, but it’s hard to see him getting up for the win.

Party Crashers

#3 Weyburn – At times, this horse has shown that he can run big races, which makes him mildly interesting in a race where it isn’t easy to find an upset candidate. He comes into this spot off of a pretty solid effort as well, finishing a very close second in the Pegasus Stakes to eventual Haskell (G1) winner Mandaloun. Look for him to try and steal this race on the front end.

“He still acts like he’s a little confused by two-turn racing,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “He breaks on his own and then gets on the bridle and then he was a little keen down the backside (in the Pegasus). The pacesetter stopped abruptly and he ended up on the lead by himself, and he looked like he spit the bit out a little bit. Mandaloun made a big, sweeping move past him and then (Weyburn) went after him again.”

Throw Outs

#6 Risk Taking – He was disappointing in his last 2 races, but it’s a good sign that Chad Brown gives him another shot here. He has potential, he just needs to show it.

#1 Dr Jack – After 2 victories to start his career, he gave stakes company a shot last time out and ran third in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Past the heavy favorite, this field is pretty similar to what he saw last time out. He should be able to compete for the underneath spots with a solid effort.

“He’s lightly raced, but he was able to break his maiden first time out and step up into an allowance,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I thought he ran a respectable race in the Pegasus and certainly Mandaloun coming back to win the Haskell makes that look to be a good race. It looks like a very competitive field, but not a large field, so we’ll take a shot.”

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