Historical trends favor Cloud Computing over Always Dreaming in Jim Dandy

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

July 28th, 2017

The clash of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming and Preakness (G1) hero Cloud Computing has elevated Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga above the typical Travers (G1) prep. Although both have an eye toward that “Midsummer Derby” in a month’s time, the rematch here could end up having long-term significance in the divisional pecking order.

In analyzing their respective claims, you could emphasize Always Dreaming’s greater depth of experience, including a close second in a maiden at the Spa last summer, and four-race winning streak highlighted by romps in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby. Clearly he was below form in the Preakness, so his tired eighth behind Cloud Computing isn’t a true bill.

From the Cloud Computing corner, you could counter that the late bloomer may well get the same kind of garden trip he received in the Preakness. With Always Dreaming on the rail, and speedy California shipper Pavel likely to go forward in his two-turn debut, a contested pace appears to be in the offing. Even if Always Dreaming is much better than at Pimlico, he may still have a less than advantageous trip, giving Cloud Computing perhaps the tactical edge once again.

Their merits are not easily distinguished on paper. Even their BRIS Speed ratings are closely aligned, with Cloud Computing’s 103 from the Preakness barely ahead of Always Dreaming’s top of 102 from the Florida Derby. The Derby victor has an advantage in BRIS Prime Power (149.8), but Cloud Computing has come a long way in the span of only four races since his career began in February. Thus his 145.3 Prime Power ranking is hardly a ceiling.

But there is one analytical tool that points strongly in favor of Cloud Computing: the historical trends of Derby and Preakness winners in their first start back from the Triple Crown, and particularly versus each other.

The last five times that Derby and Preakness victors clashed after the Triple Crown, the Preakness winner prevailed in the head-to-head: i.e., Exaggerator over Nyquist in last summer’s Haskell (G1); Lookin at Lucky over Super Saver in the 2010 Haskell; Curlin over Street Sense in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1); Tabasco Cat finished ahead of Go for Gin in both the 1994 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic, albeit in defeat himself; and Hansel likewise lost the 1991 Travers but still beat Strike the Gold. (Of course, Tabasco Cat and Hansel had also beaten the Derby winners when taking the Belmont S. [G1], but I’m focusing on their later summer/fall rematches.)

In 1990, Derby star Unbridled and Preakness scorer Summer Squall didn’t meet again as sophomores, but they split decisions at four. Summer Squall outfinished Unbridled in two of three meetings in 1991, notably when they produced the exacta in the Fayette H. (G2).

In 1986, Derby winner Ferdinand gained revenge on Preakness winner Snow Chief at the very end of the season in the Malibu (G2), proving an exception in the overall pattern. But Snow Chief re-asserted himself in their 1987 clashes, coming out ahead of Ferdinand in three of four, most famously in their Strub (G1) photo finish.              

The 1982 case study is slightly different, in that Derby upsetter Gato Del Sol skipped the Preakness won by Aloma’s Ruler. Neither could cope with Conquistador Cielo in the Belmont, where Gato Del Sol was best of the rest, but Aloma’s Ruler turned the tables in both of their ensuing meetings, memorably when they were second and fifth, respectively, in the Travers.

Even if you broaden the historical lens to consider just how Derby winners themselves have fared when kicking off the second half of their campaign, the recent trends are against Always Dreaming. Five of the last six Derby winners have lost, the exception in that span being Triple Crown star American Pharoah in the 2015 Haskell. Aside from the aforementioned Nyquist and Super Saver, California Chrome was off form in his fall return in the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby (G2), Orb was gallant in defeat in the 2013 Travers, and Mine That Bird lost the 2009 West Virginia Derby (G2).

Always Dreaming fans can take some consolation in the fact that the last Derby winner to open his second half in the Jim Dandy won – Street Sense (2007). Indeed, that came during a more favorable patch for returning Derby winners. Others prevailing in their post-Triple Crown comebacks in the millennium’s first decade included Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Jerome (G2), War Emblem in the 2002 Haskell, and Big Brown in the 2008 Haskell.

Still, in recent years, when the Derby and Preakness have gone to different horses, the Preakness winners have generally performed better in their summer launching pads. Four of the last seven in this category have won, from Bernardini in the 2006 Jim Dandy and Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Mother Goose (and then the Haskell), to the aforementioned Lookin at Lucky and Exaggerator. The latter is the only one of the quartet who’d contested the Belmont too. The three in this category who lost – Shackleford, who came close in the 2011 Haskell; Oxbow, who sustained an injury in the 2013 Haskell and never ran again; and Curlin, third in his Haskell – were all coming off the Belmont.

Since Cloud Computing skipped the Belmont, he’s following the itinerary that worked for Bernardini and Lookin at Lucky. (Rachel’s a little different since she also raced in June.)

Always Dreaming received the same freshening in bypassing the Belmont, replicating Street Sense’s schedule. Yet Street Sense was far and away the class of the field in his Jim Dandy, while Always Dreaming must renew rivalry with a fellow classic winner, and a horse on the rise whose full potential arguably remains untapped. 

And speaking of untapped potential, there are three other Jim Dandy contenders.

Good Samaritan tries dirt after a solid turf career so far. The winner of the Summer (G2) at two, he hasn’t had the best of trips when placing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), American Turf (G2), and Pennine Ridge (G3), and the race shape was all against him in his rallying fourth in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). At least he stands to get a genuine pace set-up here, and as a son of Harlan’s Holiday and a Pulpit mare from the family of Wiseman’s Ferry, Outstandingly, and Sky Mesa, Good Samaritan has a fighting chance to like the surface.

Giuseppe the Great has shown ability around one turn, demonstrating a strong closing kick to break his maiden at Keeneland and finish second to American Anthem in the Woody Stephens (G2). He might have preferred a more patient trip than he got in the Dwyer (G3), where he ended up fourth, and the blinkers-off move might help. By Lookin at Lucky, Giuseppe the Great is eligible to step up going a route.

Pavel is being set a wickedly tough task in his second start, and two-turn debut. But the Creative Cause half-brother to Caracortado survived an intense early duel to graduate handsomely at Santa Anita, and considering the rollercoaster of the 2017 Triple Crown trail, why can’t someone come out of left field?

But for all the merits of the other trio, the Jim Dandy overwhelmingly tilts in favor of horses who have competed in a Triple Crown race. Over the last 20 runnings, 14 Jim Dandy winners had lined up in at least one classic. Even last year’s maiden-breaking shocker Laoban had been ambitiously spotted in the Preakness.

That leaves, over the past two decades, only six Jim Dandy winners who had not participated in any of the three classics, and in circumstances that arguably don’t resemble this year’s edition. Texas Red (2015) would have been a Triple Crown player as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner, if he hadn’t been sidelined through the spring. A Little Warm (2010) and Kensei (2005) both stepped up in less-than-stellar renewals of the Jim Dandy. Strong Hope (2003) and Scorpion (2001) upset high-class opponents in Empire Maker and Congaree, respectively, but tactical issues for both favorites likely played a hand in their downfall – a cautionary tale for the “big two” here. Finally, Awesome Again (1997) starred in a Jim Dandy that lacked any of the principals from the Triple Crown, and as a devastating Queen’s Plate winner, brought his own Canadian classic form to bear.

So if history is your guide, Preakness victor Cloud Computing shapes up as the top choice.