Horse racing's summer season is underway with three-year-old stakes action in Saratoga Springs, New York and Oceanport, New Jersey. That's a far cry from Louisville, Kentucky, but many of the horses running in this weekend's featured stakes races at Saratoga Race Course in New York and Monmouth Park in New Jersey became household names the first week in May when all eyes centered on Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.
We'll have to wait to see Kentucky Derby winner Orb make his summer return. After a freshening at Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center in Maryland, he's begun working toward a run in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes (Saratoga Aug. 24).
The Preakness winner and sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher, Oxbow, will go after the Grade 1 William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday. Palace Malice, who set a blazing pace early in the Kentucky Derby only to finish 12th, but redeemed himself and his sire, Curlin, when he won the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes in June, will attempt the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday. An analysis of the Jim Dandy follows. Click here for Haskell analysis .
Installed as the morning-line favorite in the 10-horse field for Saturday's Grade 2 $600,000 Jim Dandy, Todd Pletcher's Palace Malice should be able to sit comfortably just behind the speed duel likely to set up between the front-running Dwyer winner, Moreno, and Peter Pan winner, Freedom Child. This pair should be no contest for the talented Palace Malice who, if like his father, should continue to improve as he gets older. It doesn’t hurt that Palace Malice broke his maiden last August at Saratoga.
Mike Amoss’s Mylute returns from a third place finish in the Grade 2 Preakness Stakes. Jockey Rosie Napravnik has guided this son of Midnight Lute to his best speed figures. Although Mylute is winless in four starts this year—two Grade 1s and two Grade 2s—he’s earned monster speed figures in defeat. He’s been a competitive foe in his last three starts and is likely Palace Malice’s greatest competition in the Jim Dandy.
Code West was an early Kentucky Derby contender as the preps began, but a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby put an end to his Derby dreams. He ran in an allowance race on the Kentucky Derby undercard to finish a neck behind Bellarmine. He later went on to win the Grade 3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs, a head in front of Uncaptured. After that race he shipped to Santa Anita and later Del Mar, both on the west coast, and now to Saratoga. Although it’s common for horses to ship frequently and trainer Bob Baffert must certainly know what’s best for his horse, one might wonder how much the travel has taken out of him. He's likely to hit the board, but Code West would be a surprise to win the Jim Dandy.
The complete field, from the rail out, is Bashaar, Code West, Will Take Charge, Moreno, Palace Malice, Perfect Title, Freedom Child, Mylute, Looking Cool, and Vyjack, who will likely scratch in favor of Sunday's Haskell Invitational.
The race is the tenth on Saturday’s Saratoga card with a scheduled post time of 5:45 EST. It can be seen on HRTV and TVG.
Photo: Courtesy BelmontStakes.com