Race of the Week 2017

Fly Down Tops Jim Dandy

Some familiar faces from the Triple Crown trail and a handful of up-and-coming colts looking to make their mark in the division are among the 3-year-olds who will assemble at Saratoga Race Course Saturday afternoon for the 47th edition of the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy.


Named for the 100-1 shot that scored one of racing's most istoric upsets, the defeat of Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in the 1930 Travers,, the 1-1/8th mile Jim Dandy is a crucial prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers, to be run on Saturday, August 28, and with good reason: Of the 14 Travers winners to run in the Jim Dandy since 1964, eight have completed the double, most recently Flower Alley (2005), Bernardini (2006) and Street Sense (2007).


Perhaps the best-known competitor from the Triple Crown races in the Jim Dandy is the Nick Zito-trained Fly Down, the Grade 2 Dwyer winner who finished second in the Belmont Stakes on June 5. The son of Mineshaft, owned by Richard C. Pell, came charging hard only to fall less than a length short of Drosselmeyer at the end of the 1 ½ miles.


Fly Down, the 3-1 morning line favorite, signaled his readiness for his first start since the Belmont by drilling a half-mile in a bullet 47.30 on Monday.


“He’s coming off a 1 ½ mile race and you have to do things like that,” said Zito, who will also saddle Robert LaPenta’s Miner’s Reserve in the Jim Dandy. “Obviously, we know his fitness level. We’re hoping he’s a little sharp for the race. He’s a very good horse. He looks good.”


Fly Down will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from the outside, while Miner’s Reserve, 10-1 on the morning line, has the services of Calvin Borel from post position 6.


Another who stepped onto the Triple Crown trail, albeit just as briefly, is Dogwood Stables’ Aikenite, who was 10th behind Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness. Having returned to win a one-mile allowance race at Belmont on June 19, the Yes It’s True colt will be testing the waters for a possible start in the Midsummer Derby.


“We’re still trying to find his best distance,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the Jim Dandy including a string of three straight from 2003-5 with Strong Hope, Purge, and Flower Alley. “This will be a race that determines what he’s going to do down the road. He did very well at a one-turn mile; whether that’s going to translate into a top-class mile and an eighth effort, that’s what we’re getting ready to find out.”


Aikenite, 10-1 on the morning line, will be ridden by David Cohen from post position 4.


Trainer Tony Dutrow has entered a pair in the Jim Dandy whom he had hoped would make the Kentucky Derby: A Little Warm, the Hutcheson and Louisiana Derby runner-up who lacked sufficient earnings, and Winslow Homer, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture following his victory over Jackson Bend in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.

Winslow Homer, third in the Iowa Derby in his return on June 26, will go in the Jim Dandy only if the Curlin on Sunday fails to fill, said Dutrow.


“We want to put both of them in a position to run in the Travers,” said Dutrow. “With the one race in January and one in June, Winslow Homer does not have the seasoning, and the Jim Dandy is a much tougher race.


“That being said, I am ecstatic over the way A Little Warm is coming into the race.”


John Velazquez rides A Little Warm, 7-2 on the morning line, from post 5 while Ramon Dominguez is named aboard Winslow Homer, who drew post 7 at 12-1.


Two of the more intriguing entrants in the Jim Dandy are the lightly raced duo of Afleet Express, who has won his past two starts in eye-catching fashion, and Friend Or Foe, undefeated in three starts.


Afleet Express, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, came off a three-month layoff to score a 7 ¾- length allowance win at Belmont Park on June 23, and followed that with a nearly two-length victory in the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth Park in his first start around two turns.


“We all wanted to see if he could stretch out,” said Jerkens of the Afleet Alex colt, owned by Gainesway Stable. “Talent-wise, he’s as good as they come, but he is lightly raced. He’s had just one start as a 2-year-old, and one start going long, but he’s improved by leaps and bounds.”


Javier Castellano is aboard Afleet Express, who drew post 2 at 4-1.


Friend Or Foe, a New York-bred son of Friends Lake owned by Chester and Mary Broman, broke his maiden in open company and then dominated in his next two starts against state-breds, including a 2 ½-length win over General Maximus and Ibboyee in the Mike Lee.


“It’s asking a lot,” admitted trainer John Kimmel. “This will be his first start around two turns, but it’s time to see what he’s got.”


With Rajiv Maragh aboard, Friend Or Foe was listed at 8-1 on the morning line from post 8.


Friend Or Foe is not the only undefeated New York-bred in the Jim Dandy field; he will be joined by Majesty Stud’s Stormy’s Majesty, who has won all three of his starts against state-breds by a combined margin of 12 lengths and who will be making his stakes debut in the race. Hall of Famer Edgar Prado is in the irons of the 15-1 longshot from post 3.

Completing the field is Michael Tabor’s Irish-bred Steinbeck, who will be making his American debut in the Jim Dandy. The son of Footstepsinthesand has one win in four starts, and most recently finished eighth to Canford Cliffs in the Group 1 St James Palace Stakes at Ascot on June 15.


Garrett Gomez rides the 6-1 morning-line choice from the rail.


The field for the Grade 2 Jim Dandy:








Steinbeck (IRE)

G K Gomez


A P O'Brien



Afleet Express (KY)

J Castellano


J A Jerkens



Stormy's Majesty (NY)

E S Prado


D G Galluscio



Aikenite (FL)

D Cohen


T A Pletcher



A Little Warm (VA)

J R Velazquez


A W Dutrow



Miner's Reserve (KY)

C H Borel


N P Zito



Winslow Homer (KY)

R A Dominguez


A W Dutrow



Friend Or Foe (NY)

R Maragh


J C Kimmel



Fly Down (KY)

J Lezcano


N P Zito






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Older Comments about Fly Down Tops Jim Dandy...

While I loved Fly Down in Baltimore and the Belmont, his front end dominance here is likely to be challenged by both A Little Warm and Miner's Reserve early and Friend or Foe late. and AGAIN who knows about the import.

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