07/25/2012 1:14PM

Saratoga: Gemologist's defection leaves eight for Jim Dandy Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Alpha will be among the favorites as part of a field of eight in Saturday's Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The complexion of this weekend’s major stakes for 3-year-olds changed Wednesday when the connections of Wood Memorial winner Gemologist decided to run in Sunday’s Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park as opposed to Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.

The Haskell and Jim Dandy are stepping-stones to the $1 million Travers run Aug. 25 at Saratoga.

Gemologist, who likely would have been favored in the Jim Dandy, will now likely be the second choice behind Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter in the Haskell.

“Paynter’s a nice horse, we think we got a pretty good one, too,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Gemologist for WinStar Farm.

Pletcher and WinStar teamed to win the Haskell in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and 2007 with Any Given Saturday.

“The Jim Dandy is a very, very nice race, but the Haskell is one of the top races for 3-year-olds,” said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm. “It’s still a marquee race for the summer. He deserves a chance.”

The decision to run Gemologist in the Haskell left an eight-horse field for Saturday’s Jim Dandy, with Dwyer Stakes winner Teeth of the Dog, Matt Winn winner Neck ’n Neck, and Count Fleet and Withers Stakes winner Alpha likely vying for favoritism. NYRA linemaker Eric Donovan installed Alpha as the 5-2 morning-line choice.

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Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Alpha who was beaten a neck by Gemologist in the Wood, was not sorry to hear that Gemologist will take his talents to the Jersey Shore.

“I hope he wins the Haskell, we’ll stay here for the Jim Dandy; good luck to Todd,” McLaughlin said.

Alpha finished a neck behind Gemologist in the Wood Memorial before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. A temperature knocked him out of the Belmont Stakes, and he has been training super over Saratoga’s main track, where he won his debut last September by six lengths.

Alpha will break from the rail under Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard for his wins in the Count Fleet and Withers.

Teeth of the Dog, trained by Michael Matz, is coming off wins at Belmont Park in the Easy Goer and Grade 2 Dwyer, both over Fast Falcon, who also is in the Jim Dandy. Those wins came after a fifth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes on May 19.

“I think you certainly got to be happy with him running three races in six weeks and winning two of the three,” said Matz, who along with owner Jose Singer chose the Jim Dandy over the West Virginia Derby.

Joel Rosario will ride Teeth of the Dog from post 6.

Neck ’n Neck, a son of 2005 Jim Dandy and Travers winner Flower Alley, has won two straight, including the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths. Leandro Goncalves, who has never before ridden at Saratoga, rides Neck ’n Neck from post 4.

Atigun, the third-place finisher behind Union Rags and Paynter in the Belmont, is another who will deserve consideration in the Jim Dandy. He will break from post 3 under Julien Leparoux.

Completing the Jim Dandy field are Liaison, a Grade 1-winning 2-year-old who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby; Prospective, winner of the Ohio Derby; and My Adonis, who won the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth last out after finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes.

The Jim Dandy will go as race 10 on an 11-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.