A pair of sprint stakes of interest, the $350,000 A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) for older horses and $200,000 Amsterdam (G2) for 3-year-olds, will be offered on Saturday’s Jim Dandy (G2) undercard at Saturday.
The biggest standout comes in the 6 ½-furlong Amsterdam where the exciting Coal Front will make his stakes debut as the expected prohibitive favorite. A.P. Indian, the top sprinter based on the East Coast last year, will make a title defense in the 6-furlong Vanderbilt but appears to be facing a more difficult task as he tries to snap a three-race losing skein against a solid group of rivals.
Along with the Vanderbilt, A.P. Indian posted a comfortable victory in the Forego (G1) last summer at Saratoga and brought a five-race win streak into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). He didn’t fire his best shot at Santa Anita, checking in a well-beaten fourth (elevated to third after a rival’s positive drug test), and the 7-year-old gelded son of Indian Charlie returned this year with a non-threatening second in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland in April.
Conditioned by Arnaud Delacour, A.P. Indian just missed last time in the Maryland Sprint (G3) on the Preakness undercard, recording a half-length second to Whitmore and garnering his ninth consecutive triple-digit BRIS Speed Rating (103) in the process. Regular rider Joe Bravo will be for the mount and A.P. Indian figures to be up close stalking the leaders before being asked for his best.
Limousine Liberal dropped his first 10 stakes attempts but has turned things around during his 5-year-old season, recording consecutive tallies in the Churchill Downs Sprint (G2), Aristides (G3) and Kelly’s Landing. The Ben Colebrook trainee showed an affinity for Saratoga two years ago, finishing second to eventual champion sprinter Runhappy in the King’s Bishop (G1), and the Successful Appeal gelding adds the services of leading rider Jose Ortiz.
Making an interesting cutback in distance is Bird Song, who rolled to a wire-to-wire victory in the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba (G2) two starts back on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. The 4-year-old has come up short in a pair of 9-furlong starts, including a disappointing eighth most recently in the Stephen Foster (G1), and trainer Ian Wilkes believes one-turn distances may be a better fit, with the colt capturing the one-mile Fred Hooper (G3) at one turn earlier this season and a pair of 6-furlong starts last year, including an entry-level allowance at Saratoga. Julien Leparoux retains the mount aboard the speedy son of Unbridled’s Song.
Awesome Banner is another contender of note in the eight-horse field. A five-time stakes victor, the 4-year-old colt exits a good second to Imperial Hint in the Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream Park and promises to bring high speed to the Vanderbilt with new rider Jose Lezcano. Carter H. (G1) winner Green Gatto will try to reverse course following three straight unplaced finishes and El Deal faces a class check after a pair of convincing wins over lesser rivals for Jorge Navarro. Ready for Rye and Spartiatis complete the line-up.
In the Amsterdam, Coal Front will put a 2-for-2 mark on the line against five foes. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt opened his racing career with a 6 ½-length maiden romp at Keeneland and exits a facile 2 ¾-length allowance score at Belmont Park on June 8. From the first crop of Stay Thirsty, Coal Front registered excellent BRIS Speed numbers (101 and 102) in those starts and will keep John Velazquez in the saddle.
Candidates for second choice in the wagering include Carry Back (G3) runner-up Mo Cash; Toga Challenger, who has won his last two outings at Belmont Park; and Singing Bullet, who recently opened his 2017 season with a sharp three-length allowance/optional claiming triumph at Churchill Downs. Keeneland allowance winner Excitations will be looking to rebound following a pair of unplaced efforts in graded stakes.