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Strathnaver [GB]

Whitney on Saturday

This will be my third STRAIGHT year attending the lovely Whitney Handicap (I) at Saratoga this Saturday, and naturally I am excited about the undoubtedly blockbuster day that will be on tap. I made sure to reserve a [better] lens for Saturday so I can finally snag photos of Will Take Charge and others who have managed to evade me! AND I will be taking another shot at that late pick 4 for the third straight year… three IS my “lucky” number…

I’m nearly done with my Saratoga opening weekend recap (thanks dog/horse-sitting and work) so I hope to have that up later today.

Mike Repole’s 2-year-old colt Blame Jim looked the best in the paddock and flew home easy enough in his debut. The Sharp Humor colt is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez.

Mike Repole’s 2-year-old colt Blame Jim looked the best in the paddock and flew home easy enough in his debut. The Sharp Humor colt is trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez.

The Diana Stakes (I) was the result of a horse trying her hardest and winning, an honest trainer believing in her, and an oft criticized jockey proving his worth… and of course, all of her caretakers and connections! Congrats to Somali Lemonade!

Fidelius, a 3-year-old Pure Prize colt

Fidelius, a 3-year-old Pure Prize colt

Tonalist Back in Action in Jim Dandy

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Image credit: ESPN.com

With the Triple Crown season over, the summer three-year-old preps are underway this weekend to cast light on the late improvers as well as the classic victors from the springtime. Wood Memorial (I) winner Wicked Strong and Belmont Stakes (I) winner Tonalist headline the Jim Dandy Stakes (II) at Saratoga as the two G1 winners with the rapidly improving Kid Cruz leading the improving colts en route to the Travers Stakes next month.

$600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Post Time: Saturday, July 26 at 5:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Cousin Stephen - John Velazquez, 117 lbs, Chad Brown - G3-placed and lightly-raced, the Proud Citizen colt improved recently to capture his first win as a three-year-old last month at Parx, wiring an allowance field to win the hard-fought contest by a nose. He stretches from that mile race back out to 9 furlongs here, a distance he dominated once before as a two-year-old. Trainer Chad Brown has gotten off to a slow start at the Spa, but Johnny V is as hot as ever and Brown sports some good stats turning in great performers 2nd off the layoff. Look for him to jet right off that rail and try to set a comfortable pace.

2) Legend - Luis Saez, 117 lbs, H. James Bond - The Tiznow-Storm Cat cross has worked well in the past, and Legend has proven to be a pretty fair sort of horse thus far with just one race finished out of the top 3. He made his stakes bow in the Easy Goer on Belmont Day last out, unable to catch the late-flying Kid Cruz, beaten 3 1/4 lengths. Ideal exotics horse with 3 places in 5 starts. Overall class is questionable.

3) Ulanbator - Julien Leparoux, 117 lbs, Ian Wilkes - The Offlee Wild colt has had the misfortune of running into many a star in his past races from Tapiture to Ring Weekend to Constitution. He broke poorly and went wide last out in the Dwyer (III), finishing 3rd beaten some 5 lengths. A fairly reliable exotics horse. Bettor beware of his current form.

4) Tonalist - Joel Rosario, 123 lbs, Christophe Clement - It’s tough to find a horse in better shape and in finer racing fettle than this Tapit colt, who is fresh off his career-defining win in the Belmont (I). He’s had some time off since that win and the Peter Pan (II) win, but has shown he’s still quite responsive off the layoff. Rosario has a positive ROI with dirt routers and his running style could be favorable.

5) Kid Cruz - Irad Ortiz Jr, 119 lbs, Linda Rice - A growing force since his Preakness (I) horror show, the Lemon Drop Kid colt has won the Easy Goer and the Dwyer (III) since shipping back to New York, both captured in determined closing style. Linda Rice is hot on returning winners in graded events and has kept this colt pretty sharp with 4 wins in 6 starts this year. Irad Ortiz Jr has been red hot at ‘Toga.

6) Commanding Curve - Shaun Bridgmohan, 117 lbs, Dallas Stewart - Winless this year but G1-placed in the Kentucky Derby, the Master Command colt has not started since bombing in the Belmont, keeping fit at Churchill Downs before shipping up to Saratoga. A deep to mid-pack closer with a soft success rate, Curve’s class became questionable with that 9th place finish in the Belmont, and will need some type of pace and strategy if he hopes to do remotely well. Not a 5-1 horse.

7) Wicked Strong - Rajiv Maragh, 123 lbs, James Jerkens - The Hard Spun colt draws outside in this race following a decent run in the Belmont, dead-heating for 4th with California Chrome. Plagued by a lot of hard luck, he has won and been up for the show in his 2 starts at 9 furlongs. Jerkens adds blinkers after not seeing the colt fire like he should have in the Belmont, a move that has seen mixed results in the trainer’s past attempts. With most horses gunning to the front here, Wicked Strong’s mid-race rallying cry ought to move him up into at least the top three. Layoff should not be an issue whatsoever with him, however I question his sharpness right now.

Top 3 Picks in Order (with preferred win odds)

1) Tonalist (4-5)

2) Kid Cruz (5-1)

3) Cousin Stephen (10-1)

Tonalist looks very tough to be all-around in this race and is arguably the best three-year-old colt in the country right now. Especially if the slight speed bias holds, Tonalist ought to jet off right off whatever pacesetter sits in front of him, and may even go right to the front. I have a newfound love for Kid Cruz, who has been looking great lately with Irad Ortiz, and the pair look to make yet another gutsy late run. I’ll close out this “trifecta” with Cousin Stephen, who probably can’t win but could hold on for some money. Wicked Strong probably needs a race, probably.

Value Pick: Statistics point out that Kid Cruz (5-1 or better) could be a big threat. He’ll need every ounce of him to improve to beat Tonalist, but he’s a real good colt. Favorites love to die at the Spa.

Horizontals: Tonalist may be singled here. Add in Kid Cruz and possibly Wicked Strong to spread.

Discreet Marq

Discreet Marq

When 3 horses scratched from the 8-horse field of the 4th race, I decided against betting on In the Dark, who I unsuccessfully bet on last year when he was a super-longshot who wound up finishing last! And of course, because Denzel and Glickman decided to duel, it set up perfectly for him to win and #1 Carolinian to storm up to close. D’aww! 

When 3 horses scratched from the 8-horse field of the 4th race, I decided against betting on In the Dark, who I unsuccessfully bet on last year when he was a super-longshot who wound up finishing last! And of course, because Denzel and Glickman decided to duel, it set up perfectly for him to win and #1 Carolinian to storm up to close. D’aww! 

A ‘Dance’ to Remember Always

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Last year, there weren’t very many horses who popped onto my radar as good two-year-olds. Of that amount, fewer kept my interest in them strong enough to track them throughout their current three-year-old year. And even fewer (and perhaps what makes this scenario so unique), are the ones I began tracking simply because I loved their butt. I wrote about Dance With Fate back in January, when Kentucky Derby horses are just beginning to take form, listing him as #8 in my first top 10 list of the Derby season. Besides Honor Code, I do believe he was the only horse to stay on that Derby Top 10 list in February and March while serving as my #1 pick in both the El Camino Real Derby (III) and the Blue Grass Stakes (I). I then gave him the thumbs up upon entering the gate for the Kentucky Derby, listing him as my #2 pick. He ran a respectable 6th after a rocky trip, all after being pretty much ignored at the windows at 16-1.

In July, I mentioned on Twitter that I was excited to finally photograph the black beauty, but unfortunately, he was scratched from the Belmont Derby (I) after getting a little colicky. If it was fate that intervened in our meeting, I damn Lady Destiny even more than I have before, as yesterday it was announced that Dance With Fate was dead.

I’m upset that it happened, sad that I never got to see for myself the horse I believed in and followed for so many months, but happy that his pain was kept short. He was not only a beautiful horse, but an animal that was loved dearly by those who cared for him and followed him. Every now and then, tragedy strikes, but in this case I am glad to see the departure of Dance affect so many and on such a deep level. It inspires faith in humanity and the potential for continued years of greatness in Thoroughbred horse racing. Dance may not have lived long enough to reach his full potential, but he managed to show us a piece of his being that one spring day at Keeneland.

Thank you, Dance.

The ultra impressive half sister to Royal Delta: Crown Queen

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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