07/26/2014 11:01AM

Saratoga Day 8: 7/26/2014

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12:30 pm: Should the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the feature at Saratoga today on Day 8, be a Grade 1 race? It's an interesting question that can be argued either way.

On one hand, it routinely attracts Grade 1 winners and is often won by them. Six of the last 12 Jim Dandy winners returned to win the Grade 1 Travers in their next start, a a stretch during qhich no winners of the Grade 1 Haskell went on to victory in the Travers.

On the other, it is clearly a prep for the Travers and of secondary importance next to it. Granted, a bunch of spring races for 3-year-olds leading to the Kentucky Derby are Grade 1's -- the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass and Arkansas  Derby -- but those are the climactic and defining races of their respective meetings and feel more like they deserve to stand on their own as Grade 1's more than the Jim Dandy does.

The Jim Dandy goes as the 10th of 11th today. Two races earlier is the G2 Amsterdam at 6.5f, which leads to the seven-furlong G1 King's Bishop on the Travers undercard. Two major players have been scratched from the Amsterdam: Rock Fall, the 2-1 ML favorite, and Noble Moon. In the Jim Dandy, the only scratch is the expected one of Cousin Setphen, who ran 9th and last in yesterday's Curlin Stakes.

1:50 pm: A $260 all-turf early double as Indy's Million ($35.20) took the maiden-filly opener for Fipke/Tagg and Sanctify won the 2nd for Mott in a statebred allowance. Indy's Million is a daughter of A.P. Indy and Sanctify is by A.P. Indy's son Pulpit.

The upcoming 3rd is one of those Saratoga juvenile maiden races that seems loaded with well-liked firsters. Competitive Edge, a Pletcher-trained Super Saver colt who sold for $750k as a March 2-year-old, is currently 9-5. Aldrin, a Malibu Moon colt and half-brother to Tapit who sold for a cool $1 million in April, is the 3-1 second choice from trainer Chad Brown. There are also firsters being sent out by Wesley Ward, Tony Dutrow, Steve Asmussen, Nick Zito and Wayne Lukas.

2:15 pm: New early favorite for the Hopeful. Competitive Edge was the goods, making the lead after a quarter in 21.87 and a half in 45.23, then widening his margin with every stride to win by 10 1/4 lengths in 1:09.89. The Super Saver-Magdalena's Chase(Cape Town) colt, who races for Nancy Favreau and Kathy Psoinos, was slammed from 8-5 to 4-5 in the last five minutes. Aldrin, who went off at 5-2, showed little. Today's Agenda, a $180k Monba colt, was the distant runner-up.

3:30 pm: Big mutuels after Away Game ran down Bay of Biscay and C J's Awesome at the wire in a N1x dirt route, paying $58 to win. That completed an early pick-4 worth $5,825 and an early pick-5, adding a $35.20 winner in the opener, that paid $153,147 for $2.

Finishing off the board at 8-1 was Golden Soul, who now has a record of 8:0-0-1 since finishing second to Orb in last year's Kentucky Derby. Usually having the last two Derby runners-up on the same card would be noteworthy, but Golden Soul and Commanding Curve have continued a recent trend of limited success for such horses. Since 2001, it looks like only four Derby runners-up have gone on to win a Grade 1 race: Empire Maker in 2003 (Belmont Stakes), Lion Heart in 2004(Haskell), Bluegrass Cat in 2006 (Haskell) and Hard Spun in 2007 (King's Bishop.) The others during the stretch are Closing Argument, Eight Belles, Pioneerof the Nile, Ice Box, Nehro, Bodemeister, Golden Soul and Commanding Curve..

In the jockeys' charity footrace run between the 5th and 6th, reigning Travers winner Luis Saez turned back steady pressure from Manuel Franco to win, with Dylan Davis third. John Velazquez fell coming out of the starting gate -- I'm not making that up -- and refused.

4:05 pm: Razzle Jazil, a 5-year-old Jazil gelding who has made all six career starts for a claiming tag, proved the stoutest among 12 older $35k claimers going a mile and a half on the turf in the 6th. Like yesterday's 12-furlong race, this one had a strong finish with most of the field in contention in upper stretch. Razzle Jazil had only three beaten turning for home but closed strongly to run down 7-2 face Capitan Futuro.

Razzle Jazil is trained by Jonathan Sheppard, who Tom Durkin announced has now saddled at least one winner at Saratoga for the last 46 years.

 

4:40 pm: The Big Beast, aptly-named enormous 3-year-old, walloped an N1x field with 6f in 1:09.00 to win the 7th. It was the first dirt sprint since Competitive Edge's 1:09.89 in the 3rd. The Big Beast looks like a candidate for the King's Bishop.

Here's the late-pick-4 play. I like the favorites in the two dirt stakes but find the other two turf races pretty wide open:

5:15 pm: Coup de Grace got a perfect set-up waiting behind the early speed in the G2 Amsterdam, then rallied wide to run down a game C. Zee to win as the 9-5 second choice. Captain Serious, turning back from a second to Kid Cruz in the Dwyer, sat right behind the C. Zee/Big Guy Ian duel (21.87, 44.45)  but had no rally and settled for third.

Coup de Grace, a Tapit filly owned by Fox Hill and now trained by Larry Jones, has now won 5 of 7 career starts including the G3 Bay Shore and the Oh Say at Delaware. He was trained by Chad Brown until his last start. Coup de Grace is no apparent relation to Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year who also raced for Fox Hill and Jones.

5:40 pm: Palace Dreams, off since November for trainer David Duggan, took the field in the 9th all the way around the track, getting a little weary late but with plenty left to hold off 5-2 fave Distorted Beauty. #1 Run to Mama, 18-1 on the board, was a gate scratch.

6:20 pm: Wicked Strong, blinkers on, turned back a prolonged challenge by Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist to win the Jim Dandy by about two lengths. THe winner's time of 1:49.16 was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the only other race at the distance today, an N1x allowance won by Away Game in 1:50.49.

Wicked Strong, a son of Hard Spun owned by Centennial Farm and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, has won 3 of 9 starts. He won the G1 Wood Memorial, then finished fourth in both the Kentuckly Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Tonalist, who got into the fray sooner than usual today in teh absence of much early speed, held second easily, with Kid Cruz belatedly up for third.

It appears that 7 of the 10 in the finale are covered in the pick-6, at payoffs ranging from $12k to $100k:

 

6:55 pm: 7-1 Elroi ran down a seemingly home-free 21-1 Charity Reins and then survived an inquiry and objection to win the finale and complete a $720 pick-4 and a $25,100 pick-6.

Racing resumes at 1 p.m. Sunday on a 10-race card featuring the G3 Shuvee for older fillies.