Following Cloud Computing’s upset victory in the 2017 Preakness, Chad Brown gave the 3-year-old son of Maclean’s Music two months off before his return in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Cloud Computing hooked Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming on the clubhouse turn and appeared ready to pull away for the victory in the Jim Dandy race, before fading to fifth down the stretch. Cloud Computing then returned to Saratoga weeks later in the Grade I Travers, finishing a non-threatening eighth — more than 12 lengths behind winner West Coast.
Five years later, Brown will try again with Early Voting, a surprise winner of the Preakness over favorite Epicenter in May. The two horses will duel in Saturday’s Jim Dandy, though Zandon, another Brown entrant, may just be primed to steal the show. Zandon, the winner of the Grade I Bluegrass Stakes in April, has not raced since a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby behind Rich Strike and Epicenter.
Known for his closing kick, Zandon could capitalize from an early speed duel between Epicenter and Early Voting. While Epicenter rallied late in the Preakness, he could not overcome traffic issues in the 1¼-length defeat to Early Voting.
“I really believe that they both have established themselves for quite some time now to be two of the top-five 3-year-old dirt colts in the country, pretty consistently throughout most of the year,” Brown told NYRA.com of his two entrants.
Brown, who grew up several miles from Saratoga in Mechanicville, New York, has yet to win the Jim Dandy or the Travers in his distinguished training career.
Small but talented field
The Jim Dandy has been reputed for small fields over the last decade, and this weekend’s edition will not be an exception. Only five horses are entered for Saturday’s Travers prep, equaling the number in last year’s race won by Essential Quality in 1:49.92 seconds. The field could be whittled to four if Western River trainer Rodolphe Brisset opts instead to run in Friday’s Curlin Stakes. Western River, which has morning line odds of 15/1, is cross-entered in both races.
Either way, it will be difficult to find a fat price in Saturday’s ninth race even beyond the accomplished Triple Crown runners. Tawny Port, the winner of last month’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby, might provide value at 8/1 on the morning line. Trained by Brad Cox, Tawny Port earned a Beyer speed figure of 90 in his one-length victory over Florida Derby winner White Abarrio.
Like Early Voting, Epicenter returns on Saturday from a two-month layoff. During a July 18 workout at Saratoga, Epicenter breezed five furlongs in 1:01.13. He raced by stablemate Flute Master, finishing approximately two seconds ahead of the 3-year-old son of Gun Runner. Epicenter has two wins this year in five starts, including a victory in the Grade I Louisiana Derby when he set a track record at Fair Grounds at a distance of 1 3/16 miles.
Epicenter, the second-place finisher in each of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, is the morning line favorite at 3/2. Saratoga oddsmaker David Aragona pegged Early Voting as the second choice at 8/5, followed by Zandon at 2/1.
Jackie’s Warrior highlights undercard in Vanderbilt
Last August, Jackie’s Warrior won both of his starts at Saratoga, including a thrilling stretch duel against Life Is Good in the Grade I Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes. Undefeated in three starts this year, Jackie’s Warrior returns to the Spa in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up.
Jackie’s Warrior, who went off at short odds in his last start in the True North at Belmont, pulled away for an easy five-length victory. With morning line odds of 1/5 in the Vanderbilt, Jackie’s Warrior will be a popular single in multi-race exotic tickets on Saturday. A 4-year-old son of Maclean’s Music, Jackie’s Warrior has been assigned the highest weight in the field at 127 pounds.
He will be giving up six pounds to Ny Traffic, the second choice at 6/1. Ny Traffic, a 5-year-old son of Cross Traffic, has won two straight since cutting back from longer distances. Willy Boi is the third choice in the six-horse field at 8/1. Willy Boi is coming off a career-best 98 Beyer in the Smile Stakes, a six-furlong sprint at Gulfstream.
NYRA moves Belmont fall meet to Aqueduct
The New York Racing Association announced Thursday that it is moving the fall meet at Belmont Park to Aqueduct Racetrack due to construction issues.
Belmont Park, a 117-year-old facility, will begin construction on a series of tunnels to its 45-acre infield later this year. The comprehensive redevelopment plans will feature the reconstruction of the main track at Belmont, as well as two turf courses. NYRA intends on returning to Belmont for the 2023 spring meet in April leading up to the Belmont Stakes next June.
“This investment in the future of Belmont Park will transform our racing operations and pave the way for a broader re-imagining of the facility,” said Dave O’Rourke, NYRA CEO and president. “The shift to Aqueduct this fall will minimize the overall impact on the racing schedule, and ensure continuity for the Belmont spring/summer meet and Belmont Stakes. We appreciate the patience of our horsemen and fans as we enter this period of transition at Belmont, and look forward to an exciting fall at the Big A.”
Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY