07/24/2014 12:56PM

Crist: Jim Dandy has substance over Haskell's flash


What’s the best way to get to the Travers – the $600,000 Jim Dandy over the Saratoga track or the richer and usually glitzier $1 million Haskell at Monmouth?

In recent years, the Haskell has usually been the more compelling race, but the Jim Dandy has been a more successful launching pad for Travers winners.

Things could well play out the same way this year. Both races will be renewed this weekend, and each drew good fields. On Saturday at Saratoga, Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong head a field of seven in the Jim Dandy. Given their connections, it was 1-10 they would end up at Saratoga instead of Monmouth this weekend. Trainers Christophe Clement (Tonalist) and Jimmy Jerkens (Wicked Strong) are based in New York and run here whenever possible. Also, it would be surprising if both horses fire their very best shots Saturday as opposed to firing merely good ones while getting a Travers prep over the Saratoga track.

(Tonalist and Wicked Strong have met twice before; most recently when running 1st and 4th in the Belmont, but also when they ran second and fourth in a Feb. 22 allowance race at Gulfstream that might be considered the Key Race of the Year: the victorious Constitution won the Grade 1 Florida Derby in his next start, second-place Tonalist won the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Grade 1 Belmont in his next two, and fourth-place Wicked Strong emerged from a fourth-place finish to win the Wood.)

On Sunday at Monmouth, two of the most talented 3-year-olds in the country – with perhaps more explosive ability than the Jim Dandy runners -- will square off in the Haskell, and both will be trying something new: Untapable will be facing males for the first time, and Bayern will be trying to win beyond a mile.

Both have been brilliant. Untapable has won all four of her starts this year, including big-figure romps in the Fair Grounds Oaks (earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 106) and Kentucky Oaks (107) and a 9 1/4-length blowout in the Mother Goose last time out. She has no competition in the 3-year-old filly ranks and thus is taking on the males and trying to join Serena’s Song (1995) and Rachel Alexandra (2009) as the only fillies to win the Haskell.

Bayern is less accomplished but turned in a truly sensational performance last time out on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Making his fifth career start in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, he dueled for the lead through sizzling fractions of 21.96 and 44.20, and then sprinted away to win by 7 1/2 lengths with seven furlongs in 1:20.75. That was good for a Beyer of 107.

They are the leaders of the 3-year-old filly and 3-year-old sprinter divisions, but unlike Tonalist and Wicked Strong, neither is necessarily on a path to the Travers. This would jibe with the pattern of recent years, when the Haskell has featured some scintillating performances but the Jim Dandy has proved the more productive route to the Travers.

In the last dozen years, no Haskell winner has won the Travers, but six Jim Dandy winners have made it the first half of a double with the Travers: Medaglia d’Oro (2002), Flower Alley (2005), Bernardini (2006), Street Sense (2007), Stay Thirsty (2011), and Alpha (2012). Last year’s Travers winner, Will Take Charge, was second in the Jim Dandy. The roll of Haskell winners during that time includes champions such as War Emblem, Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra, and Lookin At Lucky, but you have to go back to Point Given in 2001 to find a Haskell-Travers winner. (The only other two in the last 25 years were Coronado’s Quest in 1998 and Holy Bull in 1994.)

If I could watch only one race this weekend, it would be the Haskell. The ambitious bids by Untapable and Bayern are inherently fascinating, and the prospect of their hooking up down the stretch is exhilarating. Tonalist and Wicked Strong don’t make the blood run as quickly – they should outrun their mild competition while getting useful experience over the track – but the Jim Dandy may well prove, yet again, the better way to get to the Travers winner’s circle.


russell More than 1 year ago
I agree that Baffert flops in the Travers. And 1 1/8 compared to 1 1/4 makes a huge tactical difference. Bayern willl not start here. Even money on a filly is absurd. That said the Jim Dandy wasnt a great race. Wicked Strong isnt a top horse and he hung twice.
Rufus More than 1 year ago
With all the silliness and the craziness from all of Wicked Strong's 2013 races --- with all his head-turning, his wrong lead changes, his persistence in looking around while he was running, and all his being unfocused. Mark it down. By making the blinker change, Jerkens has barely scratched the surface in getting to the bottom of this obviously talented horse. Any horse that can run a final quarter in the Remsen in 22 seconds, after switching from his wrong lead, and be the only horse the entire day to make up any significant amount of ground, and to do it against the top horses (then), Honor Code & Cairo Prince, who set a lethargic pace and could have had all their strength left for the stretch run, but almost got caught with Wicked making up 6 lengths --- was just an absolutely just a phenomenal performance. Any horse that can do something like that, you better expand the ability of what & how you think a horse is capable of performing five-fold, if the problem was solved.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
3 days ago I told you Bayern turned the corner
Roger Bascum More than 1 year ago
Good luck to all
Honnimae More than 1 year ago
I disagree Belmont Winner are Never Sexy. Empire Maker and Tons of Others Turned into Pumpkins after there Upsets of Triple Crown Tries.. Birdstone is One Exception, I don't Count Palace Malice As a Upset Winner of a Even Crop...... The Haskill is Way more Sexier
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I agree with posters that DMs turf course is like a well groomed putting green, it looks hard andis nothing like the lush turf it once was.. When Longview broke it's sesamoids on the main synthetic, the horse was barely in a slow gallop. Pre-existing circumstance?
Hail No More than 1 year ago
sorry, wrong column
Rick Baldwin More than 1 year ago
Getting a race over the track is very important,so when Untapable wins she'll skip the Travers or regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first one to post all the horses to win both the Travers and BC Classic wins. Heck, I'll make it easy. Just name one. Hint. It wasn't Alpha or Golden Ticket.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
B More than 1 year ago
None, though Easy Goer and Will Take Charge came awfully close.
Tom Urgo More than 1 year ago
These are stand alone races. Since 1967 only four horses have 'won' both the Belmont and Travers. Point Given (2001); Affirmed (1978) (Disqualified); Arts and Letters (1969) and Damascus (1967). All won Horse of the Year. Racing has dramatically changed and no great horses exist (Sorry Wise Dan) at present due to the economics of this 'game'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't Birdstone win both the Belmont and Travers? I'm pretty sure he did. Didn't Summer Bird also win both? I'm pretty sure he did too.
B More than 1 year ago
Yes, they somehow both did.
RandomNameMeToo More than 1 year ago
Oh, please. The fact that you don't think Wise Dan is a great horse is laughable.
B More than 1 year ago
He's a great horse at what he does.
RandomNameMeToo More than 1 year ago
Which is WIN in graded stakes races.
Thomas Rex More than 1 year ago
In 1989, Easy Goer accomplished a string of five G1s in four months: Belmont, Whitney, Travers, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup. Astonishing.
Eric Rickard More than 1 year ago
What, no mention of Wildcat Red. I hope the bettors feel this way too. Untapable is a great filly whom has faced basically no competition. Bayern , I feel is an awesome middle distance runner. Wildcat red should be the best at this distance.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Wildcat Red is ready to bust out this weekend and hope he doesn't go down below 6/5 to1...Is it a Win & your N race???...
Ann More than 1 year ago
Don't trust Gulfstream form. It doesn't translate well to less glib (and I can't believe I'm saying this about an NYRA track) surfaces. Wicked Strong couldn't win at GP because the surface was against him; Social Inclusion could win there because the surface helped him.