Texas Red back on top form in Jim Dandy
However, even with moderate splits of :24.37, :48.15, and 1:11.92, Japan was virtually a spent force at the quarter pole as Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) Texas Red ranged up alongside him, with Wood Memorial (G1) hero Frosted not far behind. The two class horses left Japan, and the straggling Frammento, far behind and exerted their superiority to the wire.
Prevailing by a half-length while under hand urging by Kent Desormeaux in the final yards was Texas Red, who was scoring his first win since that 6 1/2-length Breeders' Cup romp at Santa Anita last November, a victory so stylish it nearly stripped champion juvenile honors out of the proverbial hands of one American Pharoah, who had beaten Texas Red by a margin of 4 3/4 lengths in the preceding FrontRunner (G1).
While American Pharoah eventually recovered from the injury that cost him a chance at the Breeders' Cup and went on to make history as the 12th horse to sweep the Triple Crown, the colt that could have been his most serious rival in the classics, Texas Red, spent much of the spring convalescing from a foot abscess that forced him to miss the Triple Crown entirely. After finishing a neck second in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) on February 1, Texas Red was not seen again until July 4, when he was a clear second to the exciting sprinter/miler Speightster in the Dwyer (G3) at Belmont.
The patience trainer trainer Keith Desormeaux showed in not pressing Texas Red to make the Kentucky Derby (G1) is now paying off following this Jim Dandy score, which should set the son of Afleet Alex up for a strong performance in the Travers (G1) four weeks from now.
It is far too early to speculate whether the 1 1/4-mile Midsummer Derby will prove to be a second showdown between he and American Pharoah as the latter's future schedule will not be known until after Sunday's Haskell Invitational (G1). Suffice it to say if the Triple Crown hero does decide to contest the Travers, Texas Red could prove a formidable rival as the gap between them is probably not as large as it was last September.
Frosted, literally the last remaining obstacle for American Pharoah in the final quarter-mile of the Belmont S. (G1) in June, was making his first start since the "Test of the Champion" in the Jim Dandy and ran credibly. Hurt more by the lack of a stronger pace while conceding Texas Red several lengths down the backside, he nonetheless cut into the deficit late and posted a top effort. He, too, will benefit from it going forward to the Travers.
Japan is not quite of this class, at least not yet. The Bill Mott trainee only broke his maiden April 30, and preceded this with a 1 1/4-length win in the $132,000 Easy Goer on Belmont Day against a mere two rivals. His connections might also point him toward the Travers, where he could be one of the hunters rather than the hunted, although a race like the $300,000 Smarty Jones (G3), at Parx on the same day as the Travers, would arguably be a better option.
For the record, Texas Red completed the nine-furlong Jim Dandy in a time of 1:48.77 over a fast track and paid $5.70 as the 9-5 second choice.
(Texas Red photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)