The final weekend of in July will showcase thoroughbred racing’s best three year old horses at two key east coast tracks — Saratoga and Monmouth. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing will face each other Saturday July 29th in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (Gr. 2) at Saratoga. On Sunday, July 30th, Monmouth hosts the Grade I Haskell Stakes. In addition to the Jim Dandy, there are three other stakes on Saratoga’s card that Saturday — the $1.2 Million Alfred G. Vanderbilt and a pair of Grade 2 events. Monmouth has an additional four graded stakes on the Haskell under card.
Racing fans can wager the action at an OTB in the Richmond area — at Breakers Sports Grille or Ponies & Pints. Virginia residents can also bet on line via TVG.com, XpressBet.com, NYRABets.com and TwinSpires.com. Here’s a story from Bloodhorse.com previewing the Jim Dandy from July 21st.
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.71 over the Oklahoma training track July 22 at Saratoga Race Course, in preparation for the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) July 29.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez guided the Bodemeister colt through furlong splits of :13.93, :25.86, and :37.52. Always Dreaming galloped out to six furlongs in 1:14.79 and seven furlongs in 1:27.83.
“I thought Always Dreaming went real well—a good, steady five-eighths,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “It’s the first time John Velazquez breezed him since the Derby. I thought he went well. He was relaxed. He started off easy, went :13 3/5 for the first eighth (of a mile), and gradually picked up from there. (He) went 1:01 and galloped out in 1:27 4/5, so it was what we wanted to do with him. We felt like he needed a good, solid breeze with a solid gallop out, and I’m happy with the way he did it.”
Initially scheduled to work on the main track, Pletcher opted to take his set to the nearby Oklahoma track instead.
“Originally we were going to go at 8:45 (a.m.) on the main track. As everyone can see, yesterday the track seemed to change a little bit,” Pletcher said. “It was pretty slow yesterday morning, and it was slow during yesterday’s races. I worked a few horses on the main track early and was scheduled to go back over there. I guess there was a breakdown and the track was closed for a little while, so I took a set to the Oklahoma track while the main track was closed, and I thought those horses worked well. That surface was a little bit tighter.
“That’s why I made the adjustment. I worked some other horses on the main track, and for whatever reason it’s on the slow side, but I wanted to get an accurate line on where I was with Always Dreaming, especially from a fitness standpoint. I wanted to do it on a track where I felt like I knew how it was playing, which I felt a little more comfortable on the Oklahoma track.”
Velazquez, aboard for all but two of the colt’s races through his seven starts, said he was pleased with the workout as well.
“He went good—very good,” Velazquez said. “That’s all we have to hope for. At least he wasn’t too aggressive like he was in Kentucky. So that was good.”
Saturday’s work—Always Dreaming’s second at Saratoga—gave Pletcher continued confidence heading to the Jim Dandy after the colt’s disappointing eighth-place finish in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1).
“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,” Pletcher said. “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.”
Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) winner and Travers Stakes (G1) hopeful Tapwrit was another from the busy Pletcher barn to work Saturday. He breezed four furlongs over the Oklahoma track with Jose Ortiz aboard in :48.88 in company with Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (G1T) winner American Patriot.
“I was really pleased with Tapwrit,” Pletcher said. “I thought, for his first work since the Belmont, he was very good. I was surprised how easily he worked and how strong he galloped out. He really maintained his fitness level well, which makes me feel good about the Travers.”
Ortiz had an easy trip around the famed training course aboard the Tapit colt.
“He went very easy and comfortable,” Ortiz said. “He was very happy all the way around. He always works well, but today I felt (he was) happier. He wanted to do it today. I didn’t even have to tap him on the shoulder. He just picked up really nicely. I was happy with the way he did it today.”
Suburban Stakes (G2) winner Keen Ice put in a four-furlong breeze in :48.75 over the Oklahoma to prepare for the $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1) Aug. 5.
“I thought Keen Ice looked really good this morning,” Pletcher said. “Seems like he’s come out of the Suburban great. I thought he was training really well coming in to the Suburban. I think that race gave him some of his confidence back, and you can just tell around the barn he’s just full of himself. I thought his breeze was exceptional.”
Also on the Saratoga work tab Saturday was Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Cloud Computing, who put in his final work for the Jim Dandy. He breezed four furlongs over the Saratoga main track in :49.09 with regular exercise rider Peter Roman aboard for trainer Chad Brown.
Brown reported that Cloud Computing, who earned his first graded win in his fourth start with a victory in the Preakness, has acclimated to his new surroundings.
“He looked really good today,” Brown said. “I thought the horse breezed great and, coming off this work, remains on target for the Jim Dandy.”
Another notable worker Saturday was Marylou Whitney Stable’s homebred Bird Song, who posted a half-mile bullet work over the Saratoga main track. He covered the distance in :47.33, ahead of his likely start in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) July 29.
The fastest of 99 at the distance, the 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song went a quarter-mile in :12 1/5 and a half in :23 4/5, according to NYRA clockers. He galloped out to five furlongs in 1:00 flat.
“I was very pleased with the work,” said trainer Ian Wilkes. “He worked really good this morning. He did it on his own and he did it very easily. He’s just naturally a fast horse.”
Bird Song will shorten up to the Vanderbilt’s six-furlong distance for the first time since he won an allowance race in July of 2016 at the Spa. The gray colt has tested out longer two-turn distances this spring, including the Alysheba Stakes Presented by Big Fish Casino (G2) at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, where he posted a 1 1/2-length, front-running victory May 5.
“I think he’s going to be a one-turn horse,” Wilkes said. “This may be a little too short for him, but I’ll try it. He’s won going two, but I think his strength is going to be around one turn.”