You know it is really summertime when the $600k Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes rolls around. The Saratoga race for sophomores is contested at 1 1/8 miles and is a great harbinger for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes the following month. Five of the last 10 Travers winners (Medaglia d’Oro, Flower Alley, Bernardini, Street Sense and Stay Thirsty) used the Jim Dandy as a springboard.
#1 Alpha (Bernardini x Munnaya by Nijinksy II): Handicappers should put a line through his Kentucky Derby race. He was very anxious in the paddock and looked unsettled while sweating badly on the track. Throw in a poor start and he never really had a chance while finishing 12th. Before that race he looked like one of the best three-year-old colts in the country when he missed in the Wood Memorial by just a neck to the then undefeated Gemologist. This Kiaran McLaughlin pupil has the pedigree to love long route races and his latest works indicate he is ready to run a career best race under Ramon Dominguez.
#2 Fast Falcon (Awesome Again x My Chickadee by Pleasant Tap): Nick Zito has really come out of nowhere with this colt. He looked to be overmatched in his first two races at Gulfstream before shipping to Pimlico for an easy maiden breaking victory over second and third string horses. After that race he posted a 28-1 second place finish in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. His last out second in the Dwyer where he missed by just a neck solidified that form. Rosie Napravnik retains the mount and should be moving from the back of the pack.
#3 Atigun (Istan x Rimini Road by Dynaformer): He was easy to like in the Belmont Stakes when players considered his long odds combined with improving form and ability to stay the distance. However, the Belmont Stakes is a goofy race that creates special circumstances. He will not be so easy to like in the Jim Dandy. The Ken McPeek trained bay colt hasn’t shown he can run fast enough to beat the best this race has to offer. His strong last out effort means he is likely to be an underlay in this spot. Julien Leparoux, who put in a great ride last out, will keep the mount.
#4 Neck ‘n Neck (Flower Alley x Bootery by Storm Boot): Seemingly “woke up” two races back in an allowance race at Churchill Downs where he drew off for a 6 ½ length win. Of the five horses to race out of that event, three won next out, and a fourth won in his second try. This shows us that it was a live event. He got a 101 BSF for the win and verified it by earning a 102 in his very next race, the Matt Winn Stakes. He demolished a good horse called Stealcase by 7 ½ lengths. The tactical speed he displays will be a big advantage for jockey Leandro Goncalves. The only real question is his ability to get the distance. His sire won this race as well as the Travers, but the damsire is a bit questionable. Overall, he has too many positives to let one negative get in the way. Ian Wilkes conditions this colt.
#5 My Adonis (Pleasantly Perfect x Silent Justice by Elusive Quality): Bay colt showed tons of promise early this year, but hasn’t really lived up to it. He won the Long Branch Stakes last out, but did so after setting dawdling fractions. He will not have that luxury in this spot. It’s going to take a career best effort for JJ Castellano to get him to the winner’s circle. Kelly Breen is the trainer.
#6 Teeth of the Dog (Bluegrass Cat x Deputy Reality by Deputy Minister): Smart ride by Joel Rosario to utilize some of his early speed to get to the front of the Dwyer Stakes. He never looked back after doing so. Before that the bay runner took the Easy Goer Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths. His recent form is strong and he is improving. However, he will have to bring his “A” race to win for Michael Matz.
#7 Liaison (Indian Charlie x Galloping Gal by Victory Gallop): Grade 1 winning juvenile hasn’t found the winner’s circle in six tries as a sophomore. His most recent effort saw him rally to lose just ¾ of a length in the Swaps Stakes. Many were impressed with his latest work in 1:12 2/5 H over the Del Mar synthetic main track. Jockey Martin Garcia loved it so much that he decided to make the cross country trip to ride. It’s hard to knock Baffert in a race like this, but I’ve got a feeling this colt’s best days are behind him. He just doesn’t seem to have the punch he used to have.
#8 Prospective (Malibu Moon x Spirited Away by Awesome Again): Last out Ohio Derby winner also owns a win in the Tampa Bay Derby. After a poor effort in the Kentucky Derby where he lost all chance at the start, it looks as if he could be coming into his own. Jockey John Velazquez sees fit to pick up the mount for jockey Mark Casse.
Neck ‘n Neck looks like an absolute standout in this race. He has the field over the barrel based on my speed figures and he looks like he will get a perfect trip right behind the speed. This colt is getting good at the right time and has the potential to be the best sophomore in America. I’m going to call for him to register a powerful win under Leandro Goncalves. This is a A+ play. Take it to the bank; Neck ‘n Neck in the Jim Dandy.