Scratches enhance Japan’s Jim Dandy chances; Macho West Virginia pick

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 1st, 2015

Short but sweet pretty much sums up Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, with a small but select field of four three-year-olds. Grade 1 winners Frosted & Texas Red are the likely first two wagering choices and an improving Japan can’t be dismissed as a wire-to wire threat.

I’ll admit to flip-flopping when it comes to my thoughts surrounding the race. I’ve been impressed by Frosted’s form since undergoing a minor surgical procedure to improve his breathing in March, with the Tapit colt registering a 107 BRIS Speed rating for a TwinSpires Wood Memorial (G1) victory and a 104 for a runner-up to American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes (G1). He sandwiched those high-class efforts with a respectable fourth in the Kentucky Derby, rallying well late.

But upon closer inspection, one can also recognize that Frosted has become much more relaxed during the early stages of a race, waiting for the cue to offer his best. And the scratches of Competitive Edge, Tekton and Upstart – three forwardly-placed runners eligible to display high speed from the starting gate – eliminates any suggestion of a legitimate pace.

Frosted will likely be closer than his recent performances, along with the capable Texas Red, a last-to-first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner, but circumstances couldn’t have worked out better for Japan in his graded stakes debut.

Japan is trained by Bill Mott, who recently saddled three-year-olds Speightster and Tiz Shea D to their first graded wins, and the Medaglia d’Oro colt possesses enormous potential. He figures to receive a dream trip up front.

Japan probably wouldn’t be showing the way without the scratches but there’s little doubt now of the pacesetter’s role. He broke his maiden by seven lengths in front-running fashion two starts back at Churchill Downs and exits a nice win in the June 6 Easy Goer in which he raced up close. In post position 2 on Saturday, with confirmed plodder Frammento to his inside, jockey Junior Alvarado and Japan will grab the mantle at the break and try to lead all the way.

Other Saratoga Saturday thoughts

I was impressed by the last-out performances by Holy Boss and Rock Fall, and give them the edge in the Amsterdam (G2) (Race 5) and A.P. Vanderbilt (G1) (Race 8), respectively.

Golden Soul, 12-1 morning line, offers much better value in the Bowling Green (G2) (Race 8) and I’m going to play the late runner in a 1 3/8-mile turf affair that surprisingly came up loaded with early speed.  

He’s mostly disappointed since finishing second at 34-1 in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1), but Golden Soul had no pace to run at in his last two, a fourth in the San Juan Capistrano (G3) and a third in the Louisville (G3).

Trainer Dallas Stewart shipped him early to Saratoga to get a work over the course and adds blinkers. And Dramedy, Iron Power and War Dancer figure to guarantee the proper set-up. Golden Soul can finally earn an elusive graded victory.

West Virginia Derby

The $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2) at Mountaineer lost a couple of runners, Stanford and Tekton, to Friday’s Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, but a solid field of nine sophomores remains in the 1 1/8-mile event.

Tommy Macho, who starts from the rail, drew better than stablemate and main rival Madefromlucky, who must break from the far outside, and I’m giving the former the edge.

A son of Macho Uno who cost only $25,000 at auction, Tommy Macho was transferred to Pletcher after his February career bow and won his first outing for the new barn on May 2, rallying to a narrow score at Belmont Park. He followed with a highly impressive entry-level allowance tally on the Belmont Stakes undercard, trouncing runner-up Tiz Shea D by an easy 3 ¼-length margin. That rival flattered him when coming back to comfortably capture the Indiana Derby (G2).

Tommy Macho was not disgraced finishing third to Speightster and Texas Red in the Dwyer (G3) last out, a race that continued to provide more seasoning to the inexperienced colt, and he’s posted excellent BRIS Speed ratings of 99 and 98 in his last two outings. He can prove best on Saturday with Edgar Prado.

Japan photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography