07/28/2013 9:42AM

Saratoga: Jim Dandy's top three likely to return in Travers

Tom Keyser
Palace Malice (center), the winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday, will point for the Grade 1 Travers on Aug. 24, as will second-place finisher Will Take Charge (left) and third-place finisher Moreno (right).

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Palace Malice fired the first salvo in the battle for 3-year-old divisional honors in Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy and now will await the results of Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and next weekend’s Grade 2 West Virginia Derby to see who his competition will be in the $1 million Travers Stakes here Aug. 24.

Palace Malice ran the second-fastest Jim Dandy (1:41.37) in 42 runnings at the 1 1/8-mile distance and earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his one-length victory over Will Take Charge. Trainer Todd Pletcher – who won his sixth Jim Dandy – said, “So far, so good,” Sunday morning when asked how Palace Malice came out of the race.

Both Pletcher and jockey Mike Smith thought Palace Malice’s effort in the Jim Dandy was even better than his 3 3/4-length score in the Belmont Stakes last month.

“Just a very professional effort, got a great trip,” Pletcher said Sunday. “It seems like he’s learning how to run, learning how to finish off a race. He came back and showed everybody that the Belmont was real.”

Palace Malice had seven weeks between the Belmont and the Jim Dandy and will have four weeks between the Jim Dandy and the Travers. Pletcher doesn’t think that will be an issue “as long as he acts like he does.”

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Will Take Charge, racing with blinkers off for the first time, rallied from fifth to finish second, a length behind Palace Malice. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said after the race that Will Take Charge would be aimed at the Travers and that he looked forward to running him 1 1/4 miles. Lukas was at Monmouth on Sunday to saddle Preakness winner Oxbow in the $1 million Haskell Invitational.

Moreno, who finished third in the Jim Dandy after setting the pace, had eaten all of his dinner by 8:30 p.m. Saturday, according to trainer Eric Guillot, who plans to run the Dwyer Stakes winner back in the Travers.

Noting that Palace Malice had seven weeks between the Belmont and Jim Dandy and Moreno was running back three weeks after winning the Dwyer, Guillot said, “Now it’s an even playing field. I think the horse ran huge, don’t you? He beat the rest of the field by five. I’m here. I can’t be scared of one horse.”

Guillot also said Moreno, who can be easily distracted, should benefit from having a race at Saratoga, where the crowd is closer to the track than at Belmont Park.

“That’s been our problem all along,” Guillot said. “That’s why he’s got earplugs and blinkers to begin with. He’s got a half-cup. I don’t want to put a full cup on and make him too fresh on the front end.”