I've been fortunate enough to attend several big race days - a couple of times at the Kentucky Derby, two different Breeders' Cups, a Queen's Plate, and more. In terms of a single memory, though, the 2006 Jim Dandy stands out above all of them. As it usually is in the east during the summer, it was stunningly hot and humid that late August day at Saratoga. It was my first time there, and there was no doubt it matched its reputation as the best place on the planet to watch races. Not long before the Jim Dandy the skies opened up and rain fell like you only rarely see. The track instantly went from very fast to sloppy. Preakness winner Bernardini was the heavy favorite in the Jim Dandy, and he sure didn't disappoint. The conditions didn't bother him at all. Like you get to see only when you are very lucky, Bernardini flexed his muscles and showed that he was so much better than the rest of the field that he was almost another species. He won by 10 lengths and could have won by 30 if he had needed to. Of all the great horses I have seen in person, I have never seen one so casually dominant as him on that day.
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Will we see a race half as memorable this year in the Jim Dandy? We'd be very lucky if we did. Just like the other big race for three year olds this weekend, the Haskell Invitational, there are six horses entered, and four of them are very strong and competitive. Here's a look (odds are track morning lines):
Destin (2/1): Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race a record six times - most recently in 2013. I didn't like how he handled this horse this spring, though. After winning the Tampa Bay Derby he avoided another start and instead rested for almost two months before the Derby. History suggested it was too long, and history was right. He was a flat sixth in the Derby. He was a much more impressive second in the Belmont, but again he hasn't raced since then. I didn't like him off a layoff last time, so I'll pass on him here at this price.
Mohaymen (9/5): Up until April or so I was very confident that Mohaymen was the class of the three year old field. He hadn't lost in five starts and looked like he had much more to give. But then he was humiliated by Nyquist in their big showdown in the Florida Derby, and then he lost again in the Derby. He was fourth both times, but those results understated the truth - he just didn't look very ferocious all of a sudden.
He's had some time to regroup now. So can he get back on track and return to his form? Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been red hot early on at Saratoga. That's good news in that he'll have this horse ready, but it also means that the horse will be more heavily bet than he might otherwise have been as a result.
I like the horse still, but not enough to trust him here at this price. My biggest concern was seeing him walk off the track after a work the other day. He was always a small colt - his body wasn't nearly as muscled as some of the best. That's not a big deal - these horses are young and will fill out as they mature. The problem, though, is that he still looks now like the scrawny youngster that he was back then. I find it hard to trust that the horse has returned to form when he hasn't evolved physically.
Creator (3/1): I'll admit that this was far from my favorite Triple Crown season. The horses didn't particularly capture my imagination, and I had big issues with both Nyquist and Exaggerator coming off their wins. I just wasn't inspired. The closer we got to the Belmont, though, the more I warmed up to Creator. He rewarded my growing faith with a very nice win at a fat price. The price won't be nearly as big here, but he's not going to get the betting attention of Mohaymen or Destin - even though he beat the latter in the Belmont. He's a closer, so there is some concern about getting the trip he needs here. He's going to have all the room he needs to move, though, and that should be enough. Creator is again my pick here.
Governor Malibu (9/2): This Christophe Clement trainee got a whole lot of attention heading into the Belmont even though he had run in only one graded stakes and finished second. It was, as much as anything, because Clement had won the Belmont with Tonalist in not dissimilar circumstances. This is this horse's first time back since the Belmont. I expect him to break through and get a nice win at some point. I'm just not at all convinced that this is when it will happen.
Tough spot for him to get a win, though he could be a piece of the action.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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