Short but select field expected for Jim Dandy

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 25th, 2017

Triple Crown race winners Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing will bring star power to Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga. A prep for the $1.25 million Travers (G1) on August 26, the 1 1/8-mile event is often overshadowed by the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park a day later but both races are of high importance this year.

With victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Florida Derby (G1), Always Dreaming rates as the pro tem leader of the 3-year-old division but the front-running colt faces doubts about his sovereignty heading into the second half of the season. The son of Bodemeister caught a wet track in the Kentucky Derby that played favorably to his front-running style and must bounce back from a disappointing eighth as the favorite in the Preakness (G1).

He has the right connections, with Todd Pletcher winning a record six editions of the Jim Dandy and jockey John Velasquez tied for the most triumphs with four, and Always Dreaming displayed a winning attitude prior to the second leg of the Triple Crown with four consecutive tallies. But he needs to keep moving forward because the competition won’t remain stagnant. The dark bay shows a 5-furlong bullet drill over Saratoga’s main track in preparation and I’m intrigued to see what Always Dreaming has to offer.

Cloud Computing made his career debut in February and in just his fourth start, he courageously ran down champion Classic Empire to post a head win in the Preakness. That marked the first stakes victory for the long-striding son of Maclean’s Music and Cloud Computing has the potential to keep blossoming for Chad Brown.

The dark bay colt bypassed the Belmont Stakes, with connections opting to focus upon a late summer/fall campaign, and Cloud Computing shows six published workouts since mid-June. With good tactical speed, the exciting sophomore figures to be stalking behind the early leaders before offering his best stride beneath Javier Castellano.

A small group of rivals are expected to challenge the top pair. Doug O’Neill will ship in Pavel, a son of Creative Cause who will face a steep class test following an eye-catching debut maiden score at Santa Anita July 1. And Belmont Stakes third-placer Patch is under consideration.

Sunday’s Haskell promises to be a good measuring stick as well in a contentious 3-year-old male division and should provide a fair number of starters for the Travers. The 1 1/8-mile race is expected to feature Belmont Stakes runner-up Irish War Cry, Kentucky Derby third-placer Battle of Midway, multiple graded stakes winner Girvin, last-out Iowa Derby (G3) scorer Hence, last-out Matt Winn (G3) victor McCraken, multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke and unbeaten Timeline.

Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tapwrit and Classic Empire will skip the weekend entirely and train up to the Travers.

At Del Mar on Saturday, champion sprinter Drefong will make his highly-anticipated 2017 bow $300,000 Bing Crosby (G1) at 6-furlongs. Last seen posting a 1 ¼-length victory in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), the 4-year-old son of Gio Ponti has won five straight for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert since breaking his maiden in November 2015.

Stellar Wind, the 2015 champion 3-year-old filly and a five-time Grade 1 winner for John Sadler, will make a title defense Sunday in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at 1 1/16 miles. The daughter of Curlin has captured four of her last five starts, opening this year with wins in the Apple Blossom (G1) and Beholder Mile (G1), and Stellar Wind possesses a 2-for-2 mark at Del Mar.

The Haskell, Bing Crosby and Clement L. Hirsch serve as “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on November 3-4.