After nearly a two-month lull, Thoroughbred horse racing begins the second half of its annual season at the most competitive level for three-year-olds. And the highlight of the weekend will be the return to racing of the Triple Crown Champion, American Pharaoh, at Monmouth Park, racing in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational Stakes.
But before we get to the rare Sunday feature race, attention should be paid, Saturday afternoon, to Saratoga Race Track and the Jim Dandy Stakes, which will feature the return to the races of Belmont Stakes second-place horse, Frosted. The Jim Dandy is also run at a mile and an eighth and is the traditional prep race for Saratoga’s feature race of the meet, The Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes.
In my opinion, the Jim Dandy is likely to be the more entertaining of the two races, in that is likely to be the more competitive race of the two features this weekend. The field for the Jim Dandy is, by post position, as follows:
This race for me boils down to Frosted and Texas Red. As the three-year-old class has developed through the year, it’s clear that American Pharoah is far and away the best horse; for me Frosted is the next best. Since his throat surgery in the spring, this is a horse that has solidly grown to his potential. I think he’ll be fine with the distance and this race could be his opportunity to shine. The only misgiving I have, is that this will be his first race back from the nearly two-month layoff following the Belmont. There is a chance he could be a hair fraction short.
If he is, look for Texas Red to be ready to pounce. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Champion Texas Red is coming off a solid second-place finish to improving sprinter Speightser in the one-mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, July 4. It was a great prep for Texas Red and he should really benefit going longer in the Jim Dandy and that’s where I think the race will get interesting and entertaining.
There are other horses to consider beyond these two. Japan is a highly regarded colt that has shown steady improvement. Upstart had a very solid late winter/early spring leading up to the Kentucky Derby, but faltered completely in that race finishing 19th and last. This will be his first race since the Derby. His connections have been pleased with his training leading up to the Jim Dandy, but I think the long layoff and the distance will work against him being in the winner’s circle at the end of the race. Competitive Edge showed a great deal of promise as a two-year-old, but his form has dipped as a three-year-old; can’t endorse him here. Frammento also ran in the Derby and Belmont and was a non-factor in both. Tekton is a colt I’m completely unfamiliar with. One more thing to add to the Jim Dandy Stakes mix–Saratoga is known as “The Graveyard of Champions,” anything can and often does happen at the Saratoga track. Man O’ War and Secretariat are two famed horses that were upset at Saratoga; the Jim Dandy Stakes is named for the colt of that name that upset Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the 1930 edition of the Travers Stakes at odds of 100-1!
For me, it would take a Jim Dandy (indeed!) to upset Champion American Pharoah in the Haskell Stakes on Sunday, especially with the horses that have been entered to face him. The field for the Haskell as of today stands as, by post position:
7. Top Clearance
And yes, you’re seeing Upstart and Competitive Edge’s names yet again. They have been cross-entered for both of the weekend’s features; at this writing, they are expected to scratch from the Jim Dandy and run in the Haskell. I’ve already explained how I felt about their chances against Frosted and Texas Red. I give them even less of a chance for a win against American Pharoah. Mr. Jordan was a solid sprinter over the winter at Gulfstream Park and has won the Pegasus Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth at Monmouth so he’s familiar with and comfortable on this track. Keen Ice ran a good third in the Belmont Stakes and this race will be his first start back since that race. The other three horses lining up against American Pharoah boil down to four words for me–I couldn’t tell you…
Since his last race winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown in the process, American Pharoah has rattled off a series of, as usual, solid, flawless works at Santa Anita and Del Mar race tracks. He doesn’t appear to be any worse for wear from his Triple Crown efforts. If the cross-country trip hasn’t drained him (and he’s already shown himself to be a solid traveller) and he takes to the track (and so far there hasn’t been one yet he hasn’t shown the ability to handle), everyone is, once again, running for second place money. If all goes well, there is a chance that the Haskell could serve as American Pharoah’s “prep” for the Travers Stakes. As trainer Bob Baffert has indicated, the next race or races leading to the ultimate goal and final race for American Pharoah, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will be American Pharoah’s call.
The very good and exciting news is that the Haskell Stakes will be available for all to see (for the first time in many years), airing Sunday beginning at 5:00 p.m. on NBC. That’s the power of a Triple Crown winner.
Also, one quick update since my last post, Carpe Diem, who I considered the third best horse of this three-year-old crop has been retired from racing due to a knee chip.
I can’t wait for the Haskell even though I don’t believe it’ll be the exciting race of the weekend. It should, however, still be the most thrilling because American Pharoah will be gracing the track! Enjoy!!