Essential Quality has already taken the first of New York’s two most prestigious races for 3-year-olds, outdueling Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes. His next major target is next month’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
But before Essential Quality takes on the “Midsummer Derby,” he has a test Saturday over the same Saratoga track.
Essential Quality is 1-2 on the morning line for the 1 1/8-mile, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). Post time from the Spa is 5:39 p.m. EDT, with FS2 to broadcast all of Saturday’s 11-race card.
The Tapit colt Essential Quality is 7: 6-0-0 in his career, with his lone defeat a fourth-place finish in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The Godolphin homebred bounced back from that loss by winning the Belmont and earning trainer Brad Cox his first win in a Triple Crown event.
Essential Quality has worked three times since moving this month from Churchill Downs to Saratoga, including a five-furlong move in 1:00.9 last Saturday. Jockey Luis Saez will look to guide the colt Saturday to a sixth graded stakes win.
The primary challengers to Essential Quality in the Jim Dandy are Ohio Derby (G3) winner Masqueparade (4-1), Gotham Stakes (G3) victor Weyburn (6-1) and 2020 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) hero Keepmeinmind (6-1).
Here is a look at the 2021 Jim Dandy Stakes field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Dr Jack (Todd Pletcher, Jose Ortiz), 15-1
2. Masqueparade (Al Stall Jr., Miguel Mena), 4-1
3. Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 6-1
4. Keepmeinmind (Robertino Diodoro, Joel Rosario), 6-1
5. Essential Quality (Brad Cox, Luis Saez), 1-2
6. Risk Taking (Chad Brown, Manny Franco), 15-1
TimeformUS’ pace projections show Weyburn going out to a lead under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., followed by Masqueparade and Dr Jack. Favorite Essential Quality is projected to sit fourth through the early stages.
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on Saratoga’s Jim Dandy, Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) and Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Stakes (G1).
Jim Dandy links
Matt Shifman analyzes all six Jim Dandy runners, identifying who to bet on top, who to use underneath and who to toss.
Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis also go head-to-head handicapping the Jim Dandy, offering analysis on all six runners. See who Ross picks to upset Essential Quality.
Essential Quality can further cement his status as division leader with a Jim Dandy victory Saturday. Trainer Brad Cox told the New York Racing Association notes team that his Belmont Stakes winner has put on weight since relocating to Saratoga and is primed for a big effort.
Can Masqueparade build off an Ohio Derby (G3) win and upset Essential Quality? Trainer Al Stall Jr. told Matt Stahl that he is “just trying to see where (Masqueparade) stacks up” to last year’s juvenile champion.
This week on HorseCenter, hosts Shifman and Brian Zipse preview Saturday’s biggest stakes at Del Mar and Saratoga, including the Jim Dandy.
The Jim Dandy is the second of two Travers Stakes preps to run this weekend at Saratoga. In the first, Dynamic One scored in the Curlin Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Bernardini, the 2006 Jim Dandy Stakes winner, was euthanized this week due to complications from laminitis. Read about his legendary career.
The Jim Dandy is part of an intriguing late Pick 5 sequence at Saratoga. Joe LaCorte offers tickets both big ticket and thrifty ticket options for the afternoon.
Saturday’s Jim Dandy is also part of the weekend’s Cross Country Pick 5 sequence.
Other Saturday stakes
Courtesy of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, here is a look at other graded-stakes action taking place Saturday across the U.S. All times are EDT.
4:33 p.m. – $250,000 Monmouth Oaks (G3), Monmouth Park, TVG
The John Servis-trained Pennsylvania breds Midnight Obsession and Leader of the Band lead nine 3-year-old fillies in a wide-open Monmouth Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. Midnight Obsession, owned by Main Line Racing Stable, and Leader of the Band, owned by SMD Limited, finished second and third, respectively, in the Delaware Oaks (G3) on July 3. Both runners have won two starts this year. Paco Lopez rides Midnight Obsession from post 2, while Frankie Pennington has the mount on Leader of the Band from post 3. Allworthy, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., comes north after four starts at Gulfstream Park, breaking her maiden and winning an optional allowance claiming race in her last two starts. Gerardo Corrales rides from post 6. Maryland-bred Edie Meeny Miny Mo, trained by Miguel Vega and ridden by Victor Espinoza from post 9, steps into graded-stakes company for the first time after winning his first two races, both at Pimlico.
5:03 p.m. – $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), Saratoga, FS2
Three of North America’s top sprinters – Whitmore, Firenze Fire and Mischievous Alex – are set to battle among nine runners entered in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, going six furlongs. Robert La Penta, Ron Moquett and Head of Plains Partners’ 7-year-old gelding Whitmore, the champion male sprinter of 2020, has been winless in three starts since capturing last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland. Trained by Moquett, Whitmore finished second in two straight stakes races to C Z Rocket at Oaklawn Park and then was third, beaten less than a length, in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) on May 1. Ricardo Santana Jr. rides Whitmore from post 6. Mr. Amore Stable’s 6-year-old Firenze Fire, is 2-for-3 this year, capturing the Runhappy Stakes (G3) and the True North (G2), both at Belmont Park this spring. Trained by Kelly Breen, and ridden from post 3 by Jose Ortiz, Firenze Fire finished a head behind Mind Control in the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) at Belmont on July 4. Mischievous Alex, owned by Cash is King and LC Racing, and trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., has won three of four starts this year, including one of the highest-rated performances of the year in the Carter Handicap (G1) on April 3 at Aqueduct. He finished third in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on June 5 in his most recent start. Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride from post 2. Paradise Farms Corps’ and David Staudacher’s 5-year-old gelding Special Reserve has won four of five starts this year for trainer Mike Maker, including the Maryland Sprint Matchmaker Series Stakes (G3) at Pimlico, and the black-type Iowa Sprint Stakes at Prairie Meadows in his last two starts. Joel Rosario rides from post nine.
6:13 p.m. – $600,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2), Saratoga, FS2
Last year’s champion turf male, Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s 7-year-old gelding Channel Maker, leads eight older horses in the Bowling Green Stakes at 1 3/8 miles on turf. Grade 1 wins in the Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf propelled the Bill Mott-trained Channel Maker to the 2020 Male Turf Eclipse Award. On Saturday, Channel Maker will be making his first start since finishing eighth in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) at Meydan, after prompting the pace through the top of the stretch. Mott, who is tied with Todd Pletcher with four Bowling Green wins, is also starting Summer Wind Equine’s Moon Over Miami (Junior Alvarado, post 7), third in the Grade 1, 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont, and Trinity Farm’s New York-bred Red Knight (Tyler Gaffalione, post 6), second in the Louisville Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. Channel Maker, who will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 5, finished third in last year’s Bowling Green to Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat. Trained by Jack Sisterson, the 6-year-old Channel Cat has one win in four starts in 2021, taking the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont on May 8. John Velazquez has the mount, breaking from post 1. Pletcher is starting Donegal Racing’s 4-year-old Florida-bred Shamrocket (Irad Ortiz Jr, post 8), who has made his last two starts at Belmont, winning an allowance race and finishing third in the black-type Grand Couturier Stakes on July 5.
9:36 p.m. – $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1), Del Mar, TVG
7-year-old gelding C Z Rocket is the one to beat in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar, a “win-and-you’re-in” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which also will be run at six furlongs when Del Mar hosts the World Championships in November. After defeating Whitmore in the listed Hot Springs Stakes and the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), C Z Rocket, trained by Peter Miller, was upset by 23-1 Mo Mosa over a sloppy track in the Steve Sexton Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park on May 31. Florent Geroux rides from post 2. Trainer Mark Glatt could have two solid chances, beginning with defending Bing Crosby winner Collusion Illusion, who is making his first start of the year for owners Dan Agnew, Jerry Schneider, Rodney Orr and My Racehorse.com. A winner five times in nine starts, the California-bred Collusion Illusion will be ridden from post 6 by Tyler Baze. Glatt’s second runner is 3-year-old Dr. Schivel, who is unbeaten at Del Mar, having broken his maiden there last year and capturing the Del Mar Futurity (G1). Dr. Schivel won a six-furlong allowance optional claiming race June 18 at Santa Anita in his 2021 debut. Alfred Pais’s 4-year-old Backyard Ride has won three of five races this year for trainer Craig Lewis, including a last-out 4¾-length score in the black-type Thor’s Echo at Santa Anita on June 12. Breaking from the No. 9 post, Backyard Ride will be ridden by Juan Hernandez.
Jim Dandy preview
From the New York Racing Association Press Office:
The top contenders in the 3-year-old division usually sojourn to Saratoga in August for the Travers. But top-caliber sophomores will be competing at the historic racetrack in July, with Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) attracting a talented six-horse field headlined by Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality.
The 58th running of the Jim Dandy, contested at 1 1/8 miles, is slated as Race 9 and is one of three graded stakes on Saturday’s 11-race card, joining the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs in Race 8 and the $250,000 Bowling Green (G2) for 4-year-olds and up going 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf in Race 10.
The Jim Dandy, a prep race for the $1.25 million Travers (G1) at 1 1/4 miles Aug. 28, will mark the Saratoga debut of Godolphin’s Essential Quality. The reigning Champion 2-Year-Old for trainer Brad Cox has already proved he was more than a talented juvenile, starting his sophomore campaign with wins in the Southwest (G3) and Blue Grass (G2) while on the Kentucky Derby trail this spring.
Following a competitive fourth in the “Run for the Roses” on May 1 in which he earned his first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, Essential Quality outdueled Hot Rod Charlie to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes on June 5 at the Triple Crown race’s famed 1 1/2-mile distance. The Tapit colt earned Cox his first career win in an American Classic and has registered three works at Saratoga since shipping from Churchill earlier this month.
“He likes it up here big time,” Cox said. “We take him out in the afternoons when it’s not raining and let him graze. He’s a lawnmower. He’s real focused here. He’s doing well.”
Essential Quality earned a 109 Beyer for his Belmont win and has posted six wins in seven career starts, with five of those victories in graded stakes, encompassing three winner’s circle trips in Grade 1s after winning the Breeders’ Futurity in his second career start in October at Keeneland before winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over the same track in November to close out his 2020 award-winning campaign.
“I’m very anxious to see him race again just for the simple fact of how he’s training and how he’s filling out,” Cox said. “He’s a very intelligent horse. He’s been wanting to do more. He came out of last work great. He’s been very sharp, and his energy has been great. The cooler weather is playing a role in that. But he’s ready to run. I’m very excited.”
Jockey Luis Saez, aboard for all six of Essential Quality’s stakes races, will have the return call from post 5.
Chiefswood Stables’ Weyburn, a resurgent winner of the Gotham (G3) going a one-turn mile in March at Aqueduct, will be making his first start since running a game second to Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus on June 13 at Monmouth Park.
The Jimmy Jerkens trainee’s lone off-the-board finish in five starts since his debut in October was a fourth-place effort in the Wood Memorial (G2) in April going the Jim Dandy distance at the Big A.
Weyburn has worked three times at Saratoga this month since shipping from Belmont and will look to again show a competitiveness that has seen him demonstrate marked tenacity in the stretch run.
“He's a big dude; big and long,” Jerkens said. “He's a massive horse. When they come back fighting like that, that's what you want.”
After stepping up to two turns the last two races, Jerkens said Weyburn is learning how to navigate the longer distances.
“He still acts like he's a little confused by two-turn racing,” Jerkens said. “He breaks on his own and then gets on the bridle and then he was a little keen down the backside (in the Pegasus). The pacesetter (Lugamo) stopped abruptly, and he ended up on the lead by himself, and he looked like he spit the bit out a little bit Mandaloun made a big, sweeping move past him and then he went after him again. He did that in the Gotham, when he lost the lead, he came back on. I guess it's like a little game with him.
“I think the last race did him a lot of good,” Jerkens added. “His only two-turn race before that was the Wood Memorial and there was a big gap from that race. He should get better with more seasoning.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., the defending three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, will ride Weyburn for the first time, drawing post 3.
“Irad is going to have to figure it out. He's got enough natural speed to where you can pretty much put him wherever you want,” Jerkens said. “I just hope instead of running spotty like that, l just hope he runs a little more even all the way and still has it for the end.”
Harrell Ventures’ Dr Jack was third in his stakes debut in the Pegasus and will now step up to graded stakes company for the first time. Dr Jack’s conditioner is Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Jim Dandy six times, with his last victory with Palace Malice in 2013.
Dr Jack won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs in April at Gulfstream Park and handled a stretch out to 1 1/16 miles by posting a three-length victory May 14 at Pimlico. After competing in the Pegasus last month, the son of Pioneerof the Nile will again face talented competition, drawing post 1 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
“He's lightly raced, but he was able to break his maiden first time out and step up into an allowance,” Pletcher said. “I thought he ran a respectable race in the Pegasus and certainly Mandaloun coming back to win the Haskell makes that look to be a good race. It looks like a very competitive field, but not a large field, so we'll take a shot.”
Pletcher said Dr Jack, after facing a string of more seasoned horses, is looking to continue the improvement he’s shown throughout his first three starts.
“For his third start and his first try in a stakes, to be beaten a little more than two lengths to a horse like Mandaloun, who has been through a good series of Derby preps, it was a tall ask and he ran credibly,” Pletcher said.
FTGGG Racing’s Masqueparade handled the step up to stakes company with aplomb last out, posting a half-length win in the Ohio Derby (G3) going 1 1/8 miles at Thistledown on June 26. The Upstart colt has improved his speed figures in four consecutive starts, going from a 74 for a third-place maiden finish in February at Fair Grounds to a 98 for his last-out graded win.
Trainer Al Stall Jr. said Masqueparade earned an opportunity to compete against the division’s upper echelon.
"Our horse is on the upswing, so if he keeps improving, he could be there or thereabouts. He deserves a shot,” Stall said. “His last two races have been very good, and he handled graded competition. The numbers are fine but stepping up to those proven competitors is more a test to me than running against the clock. I think he deserves a chance.”
Miguel Mena will ride from post 2.
Klaravich Stables’ Risk Taking will be running for the first time since an eighth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes on May 15. After starting his sophomore campaign with a 3 3/4-length win in the Withers Stakes (G3) in February at Aqueduct, Risk Taking will be competing at Saratoga for the first time.
Risk Taking, trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, ran a dull seventh in the Wood Memorial before the off-the-board Preakness effort in a 10-horse field. The Medaglia d’Oro colt has won twice in three starts at the Jim Dandy distance and will look to use that to his advantage with Manny Franco set to ride out of post 6.
Keepmeinmind competed in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, running seventh in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness, before garnering a 97 Beyer for a third-place finish in the Ohio Derby. Owned by Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm, the Laoban colt earned black type in two Grade 1s as a 2-year-old, running second in the Breeders’ Futurity and third, two lengths back to Essential Quality, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
Joel Rosario will be in the irons from post 4.
Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.