Five Key Takeaways from Jim Dandy Stakes Weekend

Champion Essential Quality, above, prepped for the Runhappy Travers Stakes with a win in the Jim Dandy Stakes July 31 at Saratoga Race Course. (Joe Labozzetta/NYRA)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $600,000, Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and other major developments this weekend:

IDEAL TIGHTENER: Leading 3-year-old male Essential Quality again displayed great determination when he eked out a victory by half a length in the Jim Dandy to ensure that the Godolphin homebred will go on to the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes as an overwhelming favorite on Aug. 28. Trainer Brad Cox expects the gray or roan son of Tapit to be even tougher in his next start. “I think he’s carrying a little more weight now than he was leading up to the  [Kentucky] Derby or Belmont [Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets],” Cox said. “I think this was a good tightener for him four weeks out.” Jimmy Bell, who heads Godolphin’s operations in the United States, viewed the result the same way. “It was probably good for him, which is easier to say after the race than when they’re at the sixteenth pole,” he said.

TRAVELIN’ GAL: Shedaresthedevil, visiting her fourth track in as many starts this season, again took her game with her when she controlled the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths at Del Mar on Sunday to secure a fees-paid spot when the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff is held in November at that iconic venue.

Shedaresthedevil scored previous victories this year in the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March and in the La Troienne Stakes Presented by at Churchill Downs in April. She came in third behind victorious Letruska in the one-turn Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park in June. “I’d have to say she’s up there with the best mares I’ve ever ridden, and this is her third Grade 1,” winning rider Florent Geroux said. “And the fact that she showed she can run well on the track where the Breeders’ Cup will be held, that’s a good thing, too.” 

BREAKTHROUGH SUCCESS: Mark Glatt became the first trainer in the 76-year history of the tradition-rich Bing Crosby Stakes to win consecutive editions with a 3-year-old facing older males when Dr. Schivel followed Collusion Illusion, Glatt’s winner last year. The secret to pulling that off at Del Mar? “When you have a really good 3-year-old, like this horse and Collusion Illusion last year, going against older is not that big a factor,” the conditioner said. “When you have just an average horse, I think [age] comes into play a lot more.” Dr. Shivel’s victory, in his second start after a nine-month layoff, secured a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, which will be held at Del Mar Nov. 6.

GEARING UP: Swiss Skydiver, who will bid to become the first female to win the Whitney Stakes since undefeated Personal Ensign conquered males in 1988, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.21 on Sunday on a Saratoga main track rated fast. Irad Ortiz Jr., who will ride the 2020 Preakness Stakes winner, was aboard for the drill. “He loved her and said she felt great,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “We’re excited. We should be ready.” Swiss Skydiver has won at six different racetracks, including a triumph in the Alabama Stakes last August at Saratoga. Ortiz Jr. will become the sixth rider to pilot her. “She’s adaptable to racetracks and jockeys,” McPeek said. “It doesn’t really matter.” The 4-year-old daughter of Daredevil will chase her fourth Grade 1 success in the Whitney next Saturday.

BACK TO BACK: Essential Quality’s victory provided Godolphin with a second consecutive triumph in the Jim Dandy and its third win overall in the key Travers prep. Mystic Guide prevailed last year while Godolphin’s Alpha reached the winner’s circle in 2012. Alpha, incidentally, is the last Jim Dandy victor to go on to success in the Travers, the famed “Mid-Summer Derby.” Alpha finished in a dead heat with Golden Ticket, only the second such dramatic ending in Travers annals. Mystic Guide did not compete in last year’s Travers. He instead went on to face older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he finished second to Happy Saver, then also a 3-year-old.

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