Jim Dandy, Diana, and Haskell Previews
Network Hits Diana / Jim Dandy Daily Double for $15.60, but Longshot of the Day Starts Saratoga's SENSATIONAL SEVEN Program with Our Edge as a $77.00 winner ($38.80 to place).
The Saratoga Sensational Seven Continues Today With 6 more Days of racing action plus FREE bonus days...all for less than $10 per day.
Network nails another HUGE exacta Friday in race 8 at Arlington! Stanley G / Nic The Quick pays $339.40.
Thurday in race 8 at Saratoga, Artest / Drago's Best / Gentleman's Code cashes $76.50 exacta and $424.50 trifecta!
Matz trainee looking to sink his 'Teeth' into Jim Dandy
Eight evenly matched three-year-olds hoping to step into the void left by the stars of the Triple Crown will gather at Saratoga Saturday afternoon for the 49th running of the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy.
"With I'll Have Another, Bodemeister and Union Rags not being around, that leaves the door open for one of them," said Michael Matz, who will saddle Teeth of the Dog in the 1 1/8-mile race, the traditional prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers on August 25. "There's not one horse that's a standout going into the race."
Teeth of the Dog comes into the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy riding a two-race win streak at Belmont Park, having taken the Easy Goer on the same day that recently retired stablemate Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes and next triumphing in the Grade 2 Dwyer. The Bluegrass Cat colt broke his maiden on February 4 at Gulfstream Park, followed by a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and a fifth in the Preakness Stakes.
"His last two races were good, more so being that in one of then he was on the pace and in the other he came from behind," Matz said of Teeth of the Dog, the 5-1 fourth choice on the morning-line. "We've asked a lot of him this year, and he's handled himself pretty well. One of the great things about this horse is that he's got a big heart and will give us his all. We'll wait and see if he can propel himself into the Travers."
Joel Rosario will ride Teeth of the Dog from post position 6.
Returning to the site of his very first victory is 5-2 morning-line favorite Alpha, who is 3-2-0 from five starts in the Empire State. Last seen finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, Alpha opened his 2012 campaign with victories in the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct before being beaten by just a neck in the Wood Memorial. The Bernardini colt had been scheduled to run in the Belmont, but was declared from the race after developing a fever.
Alpha returned to the worktab on June 30, and on July 14 zipped five furlongs in a bullet :58 4/5. Most recently the bay colt went a half-mile in :49 2/5 on July 21
"Alpha's doing great," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We're all set."
The Godolphin Racing colorbearer will leave from the rail with Ramon Dominguez in the irons.
At 3-1 on the morning line is Neck 'n Neck, who took four tries to break his maiden in 2011 but appears to have turned it around midway through his three-year-old campaign. After finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and the Grade 1 Florida Derby, the Flower Alley colt next beat older horses in an allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 10 and gained his first stakes win by 7 1/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Matt Winn on June 16.
"Just the way he did it and how he executed, and you know, to win by seven and beat those horses with authority, you have to go to the next level.," trainer Ian Wilkes said. "You've got to give them a shot to get against the big boys."
Leandro Goncalves, aboard for all three of Neck 'n Neck's victories, will ride the dark bay colt from post position 4.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, whose Bodemeister finished second to I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, will be represented by Liaison, the lone Grade 1 winner in the field. The Indian Charlie colt, who capped a three-race winning streak in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity to close out his 2011 campaign, is 0-for-6 this year, most recently finishing third as the favorite to stablemate Blueskiesnrainbows and Nonios in the Grade 2 Swaps at Hollywood Park.
Liaison will be regain the services of jockey Martin Garcia, who was aboard for his most recent work in 1:12 2/5 at Del Mar on Monday. The pair will will leave from post position 7 as the 7-2 third-choice on the morning line.
Another Hall of Fame trainer, Nick Zito, is hopeful Fast Falcon will continue his forward progression. Off-the-board in his first two races, the Awesome Again colt broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico on May 11, and next was a late-running second to Teeth of the Dog in both the Easy Goer and Dwyer.
"I ran him Belmont Stakes day to see what I had," Zito said. "Boy, did he come with a great run that day. In his next start, he got closer to Teeth of the Dog again, and here we are again. Hopefully, he can do the same thing -- hang around these horses and keep moving up. It's an extra sixteenth of a mile and he certainly has everything going for him distance-wise."
Rosie Napravnik will ride Fast Falcon, 10-1 on the morning line, from post position 2.
Completing the field are Grade 2 hero Prospective, most recently victorious in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby; Atigun, third in the Belmont Stakes; and My Adonis, who rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the Belmont to take the Long Branch at Monmouth Park on July 8.
Zagora seeks title defense in Diana against five rivals
Zagora will take on the top three finishers from the Grade 1 Just a Game and a pair of runners from Europe when she aims for a title defense in the Grade 1, $600,000 Diana going 1 1/8 miles on the turf Saturday at Saratoga.
Last year's Diana marked the first Grade 1 win for both Zagora and trainer Chad Brown, a native of nearby Mechanicville, New York. Since that race, Zagora is 3-0-0 in five starts, with her three wins all coming in Grade 3 contests.
So far in 2012, Zagora swept Tampa Bay Downs' Endeavour and Hillsborough in February and March, respectively, before failing to fire when fifth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April at Keeneland. The Martin Schwartz colorbearer regained the winning thread in her most recent start, rallying from last of seven to take the Gallorette on May 19 on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
"She came out of the Gallorette with a popped splint, and we freshened her for a couple of weeks to fix that," explained Brown, who since last year's Diana has added Grade 1 wins in the Beverly D., Flower Bowl Invitational and Gazelle. "She caught a slow pace (in the Jenny Wiley), and she's 0-for-3 at Keeneland. It's not her course. Otherwise, she's been perfect this year."
Ramon Dominguez will ride Zagora, the 5-2 second favorite on the morning line, from post position 3.
Zagora's assignment will not be easy as she will have to track down Tapitsfly, who blazed on the lead and rebuffed Winter Memories in the stretch to win the one-mile Just a Game on June 9 at Belmont. Trainer Dale Romans expects Tapitsfly to employ similar front-running tactics on Saturday.
"I hope that she'll relax as well as she did in the Just a Game," Romans said of the five-year-old Tapit mare. "Our plan for her this year was to get her to really relax and come from a little off the pace, and then we got to the Just a Game, a Grade 1, and there was no speed, so we threw that out the window. And I doubt there will be enough speed to run with her here, so she'll probably do the same thing."
Tapitsfly, the 7-2 morning-line third choice, will depart from the rail with Joel Rosario aboard.
Trainer Jimmy Toner fears his charge, Winter Memories, will once again have to try to track down a free-running Tapitsfly in the Diana.
"You have to give (Tapitsfly) a lot of credit (for her Just a Game win)," Toner admitted. "She was on the lead, nice and comfortable, and we just couldn't catch her. When they asked her, she had plenty enough to kick in. We just couldn't catch her. No excuses.
"I don't know if Tapitsfly will go (1 1/8 miles in the Diana), but if you have the same scenario as last time, she will go that far. And I don't see any pace in the race, truthfully. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, it could be the same scenario all over again."
The Just a Game marked Winter Memories' first loss at Belmont, the site of her score in last September's Grade 1 Garden City. She has won six total graded stakes, including last summer's Grade 2 Lake George at the Spa.
Javier Castellano has the call aboard Winter Memories, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 5.
Also exiting the Just a Game is Hungry Island, who picked up the pieces to finish third after racing farther off the pace than usual.
"She broke fine (in the Just a Game), but then (John Velazquez) had to ride her to get her into the race," Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said of the More Than Ready filly. "You kind of have got to get her covered up. Nobody was going to beat (Tapitsfly) that day as fast she ran, but I think stretching (Hungry Island) out is going to help her.
"She's going to be back (in the field), but she's got to be back the right way. She had a pretty quick work earlier in the week (prior to the Just a Game), and maybe that took some of the sting out of her."
Hungry Island owns a pair of graded victories, having defeated Winter Memories in last year's Grade 2 Lake Placid and taking the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile in May at Churchill Downs.
Hungry Island, who will leave from post 6 at 5-1 on the morning line, will once again have Velazquez's services.
The Diana will be Dream Peace's first start in North America since she finished third, beaten a head, as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor last October at Woodbine. She raced twice this year, reporting home fourth in the Group 3 Prix Allez France at Chantilly in April and eighth against males in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji on May 20. Her top victory to date is a score in the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville last August.
Dream Peace, trained by Robert Collet, was installed at 6-1 on the morning line. Julien Leparoux has the call from post 4.
Rounding out the Diana field is Law of the Range, who was a listed winner and Group 3-placed in England. She enters the Diana off a sixth in the Group 2 Windsor Forest on June 20 at Royal Ascot. Rajiv Maragh rides the 15-1 shot from post 2.
Haskell lures respected trio of Paynter, Dullahan & Gemologist
Three-year-olds are back in the spotlight Sunday at Monmouth Park as a strong field of six will contest the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational. Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter has been established as the 3-2 favorite on the morning line for the 1 1/8-mile event, with Grade 1 winners Dullahan and Gemologist the 3-1 co-second choices.
Grade 3 hero Nonios, who invades from California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer off a close second in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes, comes next at 7-2 on the morning line. Multiple Grade 3-placed outsiders Stealcase (8-1) and Handsome Mike (15-1) round out the field.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who owns a record five wins in Monmouth's signature event, will send out the speedy Paynter. A debut winner at Santa Anita in mid-February, the Zayat Stables colorbearer followed with a fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and a second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial. He returned to the win column with an impressive 5 3/4-length allowance score on the Preakness Stakes undercard and the Awesome Again colt nearly stole the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on the lead, losing in the final strides by a neck to the now-retired Union Rags.
Paynter has recorded four consecutive "bullet" workouts in advance of the Haskell, drilling six furlongs in 1:11 4/5 most recently at Del Mar, and Rafael Bejarano will pick up the mount on the likely controlling speed.
Baffert's previous Haskell winners are Coil (2011), Lookin at Lucky (2010), Roman Ruler (2005), War Emblem (2002) and Point Given (2001).
Dullahan captured both the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity last fall and the Grade 1 Blue Grass this spring on Polytrack, but the Dale Romans-trained colt distinguished himself on dirt when recording a fast-finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, overcoming an extremely wide trip to miss by only 1 1/4 lengths on the wire. The chestnut half-brother to 2009 Derby hero Mine That Bird turned in a disappointing seventh as a favorite last time in the Belmont Stakes, but Dullahan appears to be training forwardly for the Haskell, recording a five-furlong work in :59 4/5 last week at Churchill Downs. Kent Desormeaux regains the mount on the late runner.
Gemologist entered the Kentucky Derby with a perfect ledger, posting notable wins in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, and was bet down as the 8-1 third choice among 20 rivals. The bay son of Tiznow was in perfect position to challenge before inexplicably fading to 16th in the stretch, and it turned out that he had bruised a foot during the race. Gemologist will look to make amends off the freshening for Todd Pletcher and shows a pair of swift works at Saratoga in preparation. He figures to be up close tracking the pace with Javier Castellano.
Nonios is an up-and-coming colt who has run well in his first two stakes performances. He rallied to a half-length decision in the Grade 3 Affirmed two back, comfortably holding Grade 1 winner Liaison in second that afternoon, but could not overcome a tedious pace in the Swaps last time, finishing less than a length back of the front-running Blueskiesnrainbows. Corey Nakatani takes over the reins aboard the stalker.
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