The Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga has a fascinating history. It’s been won seven times by Triple Crown race winners and even by a maiden, Laoban, just a year ago. Another chapter in the race’s history will be written Saturday when a clash generally reserved for a race like the Travers (G1) pits Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Always Dreaming against his Preakness (G1)-winning nemesis, Cloud Computing, in the $600,000, 1 1/8-mile fixture.
Always Dreaming, who won the Florida Derby by five lengths before skipping over an off track to garner the roses at Churchill Downs by 2 3/4 lengths, maintains decent claims as the pro tem leader of the three-year-olds despite his effort in the Preakness. The Todd Pletcher charge was hounded by Classic Empire into setting a fast pace in the Preakness, which eventually took its toll as the son of Bodemeister approached the quarter pole. Fading quickly out of contention, Always Dreaming suffered his worst career defeat in the Pimlico classic crossing the wire in eighth, 14 lengths in back of Cloud Computing.
“Anytime you have the Kentucky Derby winner running you don’t want to get beat,” Pletcher said. “But it’s something we thought a lot about between the Preakness and now and we wanted to get here not just with a fresh horse, but a horse hopefully fit enough to run a mile and an eighth.
“It’s always a delicate balance when you’re trying to freshen a horse up, and have him ready for a race like the Jim Dandy,” he added. “You know you have to be fit and prepared for it, but you also want to hopefully have something to build on, and something left in the tank for the Travers. I think we’ve been able to accomplish that in the time off after the Preakness.”
Cloud Computing was a relatively fresh horse in Baltimore. Winning on debut February 11, the Chad Brown trainee ran second in the Gotham (G3) and then a distant third in the Wood Memorial (G2). Bypassing the Kentucky Derby, the son of Maclean’s Music tracked in third behind the dueling Preakness pair and eventually wore down a game Classic Empire to win by a head. Neither he nor Always Dreaming contested the Belmont S. (G1).
Whether the Jim Dandy plays out like the Derby or the Preakness may depend to a large extent on Pavel, who trainer Doug O’Neill has entered off a 4 1/2-length debut win earlier this month in a Santa Anita sprint. The gray colt has early foot, enough to potentially give Always Dreaming enough fits if the Derby winner is sent from post 1. On the other hand, Always Dreaming could instead sit chilly just off of Pavel and wait for the right time to take over, much as he did in Louisville when staying within a length of front-runner Irap.
“We are definitely going into deep waters,” O’Neill said. “But that obviously shows what we think about him.”
The remaining two colts in the Jim Dandy are both looking to expand their existing portfolio. Giuseppe the Great is running around two turns for the first after crashing the exacta at 30-1 in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens (G2) with a follow-up fourth in the Dwyer (G3) over a mile at Belmont. Good Samaritan has been one of the better grass-based sophomores in the country since last fall, but is looking for a turnaround in his first try on dirt after losing his last four. Three of those losses have come against the speedy Oscar Performance, most recently in the Belmont Derby (G1).
“I think we have enough reasons to try it,” trainer Bill Mott said of the surface switch. “Pedigree (by Harlan’s Holiday), and the fact that if you don’t try it you never know. We talked about it earlier in the year. We had to lay him up so we missed the whole Triple Crown because of the timing of everything so I kind of put everything off until the Belmont Derby. He’s doing well.”