07/29/2010 2:50PM

Jim Dandy offers chance to join division's elite

Barbara D. Livingston
Fly Down could make his name in the 3-year-old division with a win in Saturday's Jim Dandy.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – None of the 3-year-olds expected to run in Saturday’s $500,000 Jim Dandy have established themselves as major contenders in the division. But by the end of summer, one or more just might.

While the marquee 3-year-olds such as Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky are slated to run in Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, there are several horses in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy that may be one start away from joining the ranks of the elite.

Fly Down, the Dwyer Stakes winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up; Afleet Express, the Pegasus Stakes winner; and A Little Warm, the Louisiana Derby runner-up; head the list of Jim Dandy horses that might currently be ranked a notch below the division’s best.

“They look like they could be as good,” said Jimmy Jerkens, trainer of Afleet Express, adding that A Little Warm “looks like he could be a nice horse.”

Nine were entered for the Jim Dandy, but Winslow Homer and Miner’s Reserve were entered back for Sunday’s $75,000 Curlin Stakes. Winslow Homer will definitely run in the Curlin, while trainer Nick Zito and owner Robert LaPenta will discuss what to do with Miner’s Reserve.

Afleet Express won the Pegasus in his two-turn debut at Monmouth, but his connections opted for the Jim Dandy over the Haskell to get a race over Saratoga’s main track in preparation for the $1 million Travers here Aug. 28. Afleet Express did everything right in the Pegasus, rating kindly behind horses before taking command in the stretch. The time was pedestrian, but Monmouth’s track yielded slow times that entire day.

“I expect him to run at least as good as he did,” Jerkens said “I don’t know if it’s good enough; he’ll probably have to step up, too. He acts like he will.”

Javier Castellano, the regular rider of Afleet Express, was impressed with his colt’s run in the Pegasus.

“He handled it so well and he did it the right way,” Castellano said.

A Little Warm missed the Kentucky Derby due to insufficient earnings. He missed the Preakness after bleeding in a workout six days before the race. After some time to recover, A Little Warm won a second-level allowance by 2 1/4 lengths over Miner’s Reserve at Delaware and has impressed trainer Tony Dutrow with his training since then.

“That horse is awesome, he’s at the very, very top of his game,” Dutrow said. “I’ve seen that horse all-in before; when he went into the Spectacular Bid, when he went into the Hutcheson, when he went into the Louisiana Derby. I’ve seen that horse where I felt like he could not be better. I’m feeling at least that good about him today.”

John Velazquez will ride A Little Warm, who could be the speed of the race if Miner’s Reserve doesn’t run.

Fly Down’s win in the Dwyer was eye-catching and noteworthy in that he defeated Drosselmeyer, who came back to beat Fly Down in the Belmont. Zito likes the Jim Dandy over the Haskell for Fly Down because he felt the bigger turns at Saratoga – as compared to Monmouth – would favor the bigger, longer-striding colt.

“He’s certainly run legitimate races,” Zito said. “We’ve had quite a few offers for the horse. He must have stepped up, he must have impressed a few people.”

Zito is not thrilled by having the outside post for Fly Down, who will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.

Friend or Foe and Stormy’s Majesty are a pair of undefeated New York-breds that have both gone 3 for 3. Friend or Foe, who tries two turns for the first time, figures to be sitting just behind the speed under Rajiv Maragh. Stormy’s Majesty will likely be midpack early under Edgar Prado.

Aikenite returns to the track over which he won his career debut. He comes off a first-level allowance win going a one-turn mile. Trainer Todd Pletcher said this race will determine whether to keep the horse at two turns or shorten him up in distance.

The Jim Dandy as well as the Grade 1 Diana will be part of a one-hour telecast to be broadcast live on MSG-Plus and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.