SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a race that was supposed to be a duel between this year’s first two Classic winners, a Good Samaritan had other ideas.
The Harlan’s Holiday colt closed late to beat the dueling favorites in deep stretch to claim the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. An annual tradition at Saratoga, trainer Bill Mott once again won on his birthday, this time on the biggest race of the day. Joel Rosario won his first Jim Dandy aboard the winner.
The Derby winner Always Dreaming set honest early fractions of 24.13 and 43.53 for the first quarter and half-mile and hooked up with Preakness winner Cloud Computing heading into the far turn. The Preakness winner headed him momentarily and they went head-to-head down the stretch before tiring and letting Good Samaritan cruise by.
Giuseppe the Great swept past the duo and finished ahead of Always Dreaming, to finish second. The win was Good Samaritan’s debut on the dirt after six straight turf races. Owned by WinStar Farm and the China Horse Club, the connections decided to try to shake up the 3-year-old division after a solid finish in the mile-and-a-quarter Belmont Derby on the turf.
The upset winner finished the 1 1/8-mile trek in 1:50.69 and will likely point to the Travers Stakes on Aug. 26. Good Samaritan paid $19.20 for the win, $5.60 for the place and $3.50 to show. Second-place finisher Giuseppe the Great paid $8.50 for second and $3.90 to show. Always Dreaming paid $2.90 to show.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won four races on the Jim Dandy undercard, was confused by Always Dreaming’s trip but did not count out a return in the Travers next month.
“Johnny said even though the fractions were reasonable and he pulled him off the rail a little bit, he said he really never dropped the bridle and relaxed for him,” said Pletcher. “Normally in that position he would prick his ears and come off the bridle a little bit.”
“The thing that confused me it looked like when he got to the far turn he flattened out a little bit, then he fought on and then after the wire he got back out front. Johnny said he could hardly pull him up around the turn. I don’t know we just need to work on getting him to settle during the first part of the race,” said Pletcher.
Cloud Computing looked like he was going to turn in on going around the far turn and put away the competition, but when Always Dreaming fought back he folded in the stretch to finish last in the five-horse field. Before the race, owner Seth Klarman was overheard asking trainer Chad Brown, “You’ve won this race before, right?” Brown’s retort was quick, succinct and continues to be true. “Uh, no,” said Brown.
The race put an already jumbled 3-year-old division into further chaos. With the Haskell Invitational looming tomorrow at Monmouth Park, with six of the seven horses returning from the Derby, it’s anybody’s race.
Depending on the results of tomorrow’s Haskell, it looks like next month’s Travers could be one of the deciding factors in determining the 3-year-old champion.
This wild, erratic 3-year-old season continues to throw curveballs at Eclipse voters trying to sort out who is going to emerge on top by year’s end.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.