A field of five 3-year-olds will be sent from the gate in Saturday's Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets. The 55th running of the 1 1/8-mile route will be broadcast on Saratoga Live from 6-7 p.m. nationally on FS2 from 4-7 p.m. and shown regionally on MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket and FOX Sports San Diego from 4-7 p.m.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso headlines the group, intent on improving in the second half of his sophomore year. Off of his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes on June 9, the chestnut son of Curlin will make his eighth career start, and first at Saratoga, for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“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.”
Pletcher and his connections decided to skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont following his ninth-place finish in the slop in the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. His pedigree for distance, combined with three weeks of rest, put him among the few with a chance to spoil eventual Triple Crown winner Justify's chance at the coveted feat in the Belmont but, compromised by a slow pace scenario, Vino Rosso settled for fourth among the field of 10 in the 1 ½-mile Test of the Champion.
“I think if we'd have ridden him to be second we might've been second,” said Pletcher. “Johnny [Velazquez] made a decision at the half-mile pole with Justify having a pretty decent way of things up front. He looked to try and put some pressure on him and I think because of that it kind of cost him a little bit in the end. Certainly, that's the way we would have done it if we had to do it all over again.”
Vino Rosso began the year with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs then added blinkers a month later and finished fourth in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. A trip north to Aqueduct, where he debuted a winner in November of his 2-year-old year led him to his first graded stakes victory in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 7.
With the Triple Crown trail behind him, Pletcher, in search of his seventh Jim Dandy victory, looks forward to the future for the Kentucky-bred colt.
“The one thing we'e always felt is that he would appreciate more distance,” he said. “We always felt like as he matured and got a little older he would continue to improve and that's what were hoping for. He's still a lightly raced horse so we're hoping for a good late summer and fall.”
Vino Rosso will break from the outside post 5, and will be ridden by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.
Robert Baker's Sporting Chance returns to Saratoga, where he is perfect through two starts including a win in last year's Grade 1 Hopeful by a neck. The Hopeful was the last time the son of Tiznow visited the winners' circle after his best efforts along the Triple Crown trail were third-place finishes in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park and Grade 3 Blue Grass at Keeneland. His characteristic ducking out in the stretch caused him to be disqualified to fourth for interference in the Blue Grass.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt brings talent as well as sporadic behavior which is apparent in all but two of his short comment lines in his past performances through eight starts. The Hall of Fame trainer looks to have him sharp and relaxed coming off his sixth-place finish in the Preakness.
“This one has got some quirks about him,” Lukas said. “If he shows up with his best race, and I think he likes this racetrack, he shows up, he'll be very tough, but he's got to bring his 'A' game.”
Lukas, who has seen it all in his career, says his colt is a challenge to ride, and can benefit from being left on his own, a tough situation to find in most races.
“Mentally, his gene pool kicked in,” he said. “His sire was very difficult to train. His 3-year-old season didn't help him mentally. We had situations where if we left him alone [in the Blue Grass] he'd be right there with Good Magic, right there a neck off of him if they'd just let him sit there. They went to whip him, and you can't blame them, they're trying to win the race, but he doesn't like any of that. You can't force him.”
Jockey Luis Saez, who had the riding assignment through both his victories at Saratoga will be reunited with the colt after last joining him in the saddle in the Blue Grass before Luis Contreras was legged up for his fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs and the Preakness.
“Luis thinks he knows him, and knows what he can and can't do,” said Lukas. “Rather than take some fresh guy, he knows the horse.”
Sporting Chance will break from post 4.
John Oxley's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis winner Flameaway is another with a victory over Saratoga's main course after winning last year's $100,000 Skidmore by 1 1/2 lengths in the mud after breaking his maiden at first asking at Woodbine. The son of Scat Daddy received a reputation as a fighter after two game runner-up finishes in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass before tiring to 13th in the Kentucky Derby.
The Ontario-bred enters off a sixth place finish in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown, but gives trainer Mark Casse hope that he's ready for run this Saturday.
“I gave him a lot of time off after the Derby because the Derby was hard on everybody,” Casse said. “I think I probably gave him a little too much time, but Flameaway is Flameaway now. Whether he's good enough I don't know, but he's as good as he can get right now. Where that puts him I'm not sure, but if you look at some of his races they're really good. He's as good as hes going to get.”
Flameaway draws the rail, post 1 and gets a rider change to Jose Ortiz.
Rounding out the field is Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC's Tenfold who makes his sixth career start after finishing third in the Preakness and fifth in the Belmont Stakes respectively. The son of Curlin has been working at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen since early July, and is one of two in the field for the connections joining Reride, who is cross entered in Friday's Curlin.
Tenfold will start from post 2 and will be ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr., while Reride will break from post 3 and will be joined by Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the saddle.
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