Saturday’s 58thJim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is the local prep for Saratoga’s signature race, the Runhappy Travers Stakes Aug. 28, and gets added luster this year due to the presence of Essential Quality, who is making his first start since winning the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 5.
That colt sits atop the 3-year-old dirt male division according to most prognosticators, and he figures to be a short-priced favorite come post time in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy against five opponents.
Still, at the “Graveyard of Favorites,” nothing’s taken for granted.
1. Dr Jack (15-1): He ran well in his last race when stepping up in class but was no match for Mandaloun and Weyburn in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Jim Dandy will be only his fourth career start and he’s eligible to improve. Filling out the trifecta as he did in the Pegasus should be considered a success.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz; Trainer: Todd Pletcher
2. Masqueparade (4-1): He’s blossomed this summer with two impressive wins in a row, blowing out an allowance field at Churchill Downs and then showing toughness in deep stretch to take the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. He should be stalking right alongside Essential Quality through the backstretch and figures get a call at the top of the lane, although he’ll have to take it up another notch (or two) to defeat Essential Quality.
Jockey: Miguel Mena; Trainer: Al Stall Jr.
3. Weyburn (6-1): Irad Ortiz Jr. gets aboard the Gotham Stakes winner, who came up a neck short to Mandaloun in the Pegasus Stakes in his most recent start. He could very well set the pace in the Jim Dandy and, if he gets a free lead, he could hang around for a long while in the stretch.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.; Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens
4. Keepmeinmind (6-1): This pure closer ran his best race since last November when a rallying third behind Masqueparade and King Fury in the Ohio Derby. He gets top-flight finishing rider Joel Rosario aboard for the first time in the Jim Dandy and figures to be charging late. He’s been entered in many of the most prestigious races for his age group but only has one win to show for it, however, and it’s doubtful he gets another one here.
Jockey: Joel Rosario; Trainer: Robertino Diodoro
5. Essential Quality (1-2): He’s a length shy of being undefeated through seven starts and comes in off of arguably the best race of his career, outfinishing Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes. Look for Luis Saez to keep him in touch with the front rank of horses and make a winning move at the top of the stretch. He’ll be very tough to beat, but keep in mind that the main prize for his connections is the Travers next month.
Jockey: Luis Saez; Trainer: Brad Cox
6. Risk Taking (15-1): After an eye-catching win in the Withers Stakes in February, he disappointed when well beaten in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and the Preakness Stakes. Even if he recaptures his early 2021 form, he’s a longshot win candidate against this group. His pedigree and connections are pluses, though.
Jockey: Manny Franco; Trainer: Chad Brown
The Pick: Essential Quality
Live Longshot: Keepmeinmind
The Trifecta: 5-3-4