by Jeremy Plonk
July 28, 2021
Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, the reigning 2-year-old champion and leader of the 3-year-old division, headlines the field of six entered today for Saturday’s Grade 2 $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes. The 1-1/8 miles test is Saratoga’s principle local prep for the Grade 1 $1,250,000 Travers Stakes on Aug. 31. Essential Quality will start from post 5 under regular rider Luis Saez.
The Jim Dandy is named after the 1930 Travers winner who upset Triple Crown champ Gallant Fox at 100-1 odds. An upset of that measure isn’t likely Saturday, but knocking off odds-on favorite Essential Quality will prove no easy task. He’s won 6 of 7 career starts with a close, fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby the only blemish on his record. The Jim Dandy will be the first Saratoga start for Essential Quality.
Opposition could come from the likes of Gotham Stakes upsetter Weyburn, most recently a game second to top divisional player Mandaloun in Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes, where he outfinished Todd Pletcher’s Jim Dandy rival Dr. Jack. Weyburn is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, who won this race in 2014 with Wicked Strong. But it’s Dr. Jack who could be the speed of the Jim Dandy from an advantageous rail draw with a short run into Saratoday’s clubhouse turn. He’ll try to give Pletcher a record-padding seventh Jim Dandy win. Expect Essential Quality to settle just off Dr. Jack in a pressing position from post 5.
Deep-closing Preakness Stakes fourth-place finisher Keepmeinmind looks to snap a 5-race losing streak on the year with a change of rider to Joel Rosario. He’s sired by 2016 Jim Dandy winner Laoban. Withers winner Risk Taking is back for a hot-again Chad Brown barn, but was nowhere to be found in the Preakness and Belmont. He, too, is a Jim Dandy legacy, sired by 2002 winner Medaglia d’Oro.
Masqueparade, a winner of three straight including the Ohio Derby last out, is the Jim Dandy X-factor. He’ll make his first appearance against the top of the division while red-hot for Al Stall, Jr. He’s by Upstart, a horse who won twice at Saratoga and was third and fourth over this track in the Whitney and Travers.
For more handicapping analysis of this year’s Jim Dandy, be sure to check back Friday at Xpressbet.com and news.1st.com for Eddie Olczyk and Jeff Siegel’s exclusive handicapping video preview, which also will include the Vanderbilt. Also, Johnny D’s On Track blog will look at the Saratoga late pick five races and this week’s Fun In The Sun handicapping contest.
SARATOGA // RACE 9 (5:39PM ET) // GRADE 2 JIM DANDY STAKES // 1 1/8 MILES (DIRT)
1. Dr. Jack (Jose Ortiz)
2. Masqueparade (Miguel Mena)
3. Weyburn (Irad Ortiz Jr.)
4. Keepmeinmind (Joel Rosario)
5. Essential Quality (Luis Saez)
6. Risk Taking (Manny Franco)