Jim Dandy runner-up Tonalist “came back in good order; a touch stiff, but not bad,” trainer Christophe Clement said Sunday morning and now will turn his attention to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers on August 23.
The Belmont Stakes winner was beaten 2 ¼ lengths in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy by Wicked Strong after traveling three wide on the first turn and four wide into the lane. He was also brushed slightly by the winner at the top of the stretch.
“He was second best yesterday with the trip that he had,” Clement had. “Wicked Strong ran a really nice race, and we live to fight another day. We will do everything we can to be back in the Travers.
“The main thing is to focus on the future. We've got four weeks. We've got two breezes, and we will do everything we can to have him at his best on Travers Day. He will walk today, walk tomorrow; then he will go back to the track Tuesday morning.”
Trainer Linda Rice said Grade 3 winner Kid Cruz emerged from his third-place finish in Saturday's Grade 2 Jim Dandy in good order and will be pointed to the Grade 1 Travers.
Kid Cruz's sire, Lemon Drop Kid, won the 1999 Travers after finishing second in the Jim Dandy. Under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Kid Cruz finished behind Grade 1 winners Wicked Strong and Tonalist on Saturday, beaten six lengths.
“He came out of it good,” Rice said. “It was kind of an odd trip for him. I was pretty worried on the backside; it looked like he was going the wrong way, but he regrouped and Irad got him running the right way. He made up a lot of ground and came out of the race well, so I think we can move on to the Travers and hopefully have a better trip and a better finish.”
The normally late-running Kid Cruz broke on top from post five and uncharacteristically was up close to the pace early before dropping back. Ortiz steered Kid Cruz five wide into the stretch and set his sights on the two front-runners, finishing 2 ½ lengths ahead of Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve.
“I would have rather he laid off of it and made one big run. It was kind of an ugly race,” Rice said. “He kind of got sandwiched on the turn and [Ortiz] was having to ask him to be there, anyway; then he went the wrong way on us. It was kind of an ugly trip, but the horse gathered himself back up and was running at the end.
“It says a lot [about him]. He's a nice horse. Frankly, if that happens to most horses they're going to trail the field and run last. I think this allows us to move into the Travers. I think that's what we were really looking for. I was hoping for a closing second, beaten a length and a half, but it is what it is. If we're going to have a trip that doesn't work out, I'm glad it was in the Jim Dandy and not the Travers.”
Ten of the past 16 Travers winners have come out of the Jim Dandy, including Lemon Drop Kid and Unshaded (2000) and Afleet Express (2011), who each ran third. Afleet Express was trained by Jimmy Jerkens, who also handles Wicked Strong.
Rice would become the fifth female trainer since 1978 to start a horse in the Travers, following Dianne Carpenter, sixth with Kingspost in 1988; Kathy Henry, seventh with Ridan Clarion in 1984; Kathy O'Connell, fourth with Blazing Sword in 1997; and Helen Pitts, seventh with For You Reppo in 2007.
Kid Cruz won the Easy Goer and Grade 3 Dwyer a month apart, the latter on July 5, heading into the Jim Dandy, and also captured the Federico Tesio and Private Terms in Maryland before a disappointing eighth in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 17. Rice had also considered the West Virginia Derby at Charles Town on August 2 but opted to stay at home.
“I thought there was a lot of risk in running him back in three weeks. He's supposed to 'bounce' and not move forward,” she said. “But to train straight into the Travers, that wasn't very appealing to me, either. I don't think you can train the seven weeks and expect to win. The other option was in West Virginia, and then we're too close to the Travers. All in all, I wish things had unfolded differently, but if we're going to have things go poorly, better in the Jim Dandy than a month from now.”
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