When six proven stakes winners assemble for Saturday’s $600,000, Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Saratoga, handicappers will be hard-pressed to split these evenly-matched contenders and identify the most likely winner.
The 1 1/8-mile race serves as a local steppingstone toward the prestigious Grade 1 Runhappy Travers Stakes Aug. 24 at Saratoga, a race that serves as an informal fourth leg of the Triple Crown. The best 3-year-olds in North America are aiming for the Travers, and several of them are using the Jim Dandy as a springboard to the “Midsummer Derby.”
First and foremost is War of Will (#6), winner of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes and a competitor in all three legs of the Triple Crown. A three-time graded stakes winner, War of Will was a speedster who preferred racing outside of runners early in his career, but he showed a new dimension in the Preakness, rating 3 ½ lengths off the lead before rallying up the rail to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
War of Will’s tactical speed and versatility should make him dangerous in the Jim Dandy, but he’ll need to rebound from a disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, in which he faded steadily to finish ninth. Maybe he was tired from his Triple Crown campaign, or maybe the 1 ½-mile distance was too far for him. In any case, 1 ½ months of rest — coupled with the shorter distance of the Jim Dandy — should help War of Will regain his best form.
The tougher part will be getting the best of Tacitus (#5), who finished ahead of War of Will in both the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and the Belmont Stakes. Winner of the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets during the winter and spring, Tacitus endured difficult trips in the Derby and Belmont, but performed admirably under challenging circumstances.
In the Kentucky Derby, Tacitus seemed uncomfortable racing between and behind horses on a sloppy, sealed track. But instead of throwing in the towel, the son of Tapit rallied resolutely to finish fourth, beaten just 3 ¼ lengths. In the Belmont Stakes, Tacitus raced wide on both turns, but still managed to finish second by a length against the ground-saving winner Sir Winston.
The Belmont Stakes has been a productive prep for the Jim Dandy, producing four of the last eight winners, and Tacitus should receive a better trip on Saturday while facing a much smaller field. Trainer Bill Mott is off to a sharp start at Saratoga with four wins from 18 starters, and jockey Jose Ortiz has been riding well on the main track with nine victories from 31 mounts. For all these reasons, I’m expecting a winning effort from Tacitus in the Jim Dandy Stakes.
Tax (#2), runner-up behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial, is another runner to consider. Tax never fired in the Kentucky Derby (perhaps he didn’t care for the sloppy track?), but he rebounded to finish fourth in the Belmont Stakes after pressing the pace. Tax has tactical speed and should be forwardly placed on Saturday, an asset in this small Jim Dandy field.
lobal Campaign (#4), who easily defeated future Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes, should also show speed. My only concern with Global Campaign is his 2 ½-month layoff —he’s been dealing with hoof issues throughout the year and missed a scheduled start in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby. This well-bred son of Curlin absolutely has the talent to challenge for victory in the Jim Dandy, but considering the issues he’s faced, I’m hesitant to play him on top against this competitive field.
Instead, let’s bet Tacitus to win and play him on top in the trifecta. Underneath, we’ll require Tax to finish second or third, an opinion that should help boost the prospective payoff:
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$11 to win on #5 Tacitus
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 11th race, $11 to win on 5
$1.50 trifecta: 5 with 2 with 1,4,6 ($4.50)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 11th race, $1.50 trifecta, 5 with 2 with 1,4,6
$1.50 trifecta: 5 with 1,4,6 with 2 ($4.50)
What to say at the betting window: Saratoga, 11th race, $1.50 trifecta, 5 with 1,4,6 with 2
Good luck, and enjoy the race!