SARATOGA SPRINGS –Spooked by the television monitors in the infield, Tenfold took a right turn approaching the eighth pole when he wasn’t supposed to.
With the quickest of reflexes, jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. controlled his mount and steered the son of Curlin back on course to run down the front-running Flameaway to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course.
Tenfold runs down Flameaway in the Jim Dandy! pic.twitter.com/0rNw3A8K8w
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) July 28, 2018
With the afternoon shadows of the grandstand cascading down on the lightly-raced 3-year-old, Tenfold took a big step forward in the main prep for the biggest race on the Saratoga schedule. Next month’s Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 will now feature Friday’s Curlin Stakes winner Hofburg, the likely winner in tomorrow’s Haskell, and possibly Gronkowski.
What racing fans didn’t figure to come out of Saturday evening was a surprise entry to the Midsummer Derby.
The biggest story coming out of the race didn’t even have to do with a horse in the Dandy, and to boot it has a local flavor.
In response to The News asking trainer Mark Casse if he would run second-place finisher Flameaway in next month’s Travers, he dropped a bomb.
“As of right now about an hour ago Wonder Gadot is going to run in the Travers,” said Casse. “I’m fairly certain if everything stays the same, we’re going try the Travers with her. She likes a mile-and-a-quarter as good as anybody,” said Casse.
The filly captured Tuesday night’s Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track, her second consecutive leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Not only will she be skipping a shot at Canadian history, but she’ll also pass on the Grade 1 Alabama to take on the boys in Saratoga’s most prestigious race.
Winning the Alabama likely would still keep her behind division leader Monomoy Girl, owner Gary Barber knows her only shot at a possible 3-year-old championship would be through a win in the Travers against the colts.
“We figure it’s one of our only shots, so why not go for it? He (Barber) said if you win the Alabama you’re just like any other filly, but if you win the Travers?” said Casse.
She’ll have to take on Saturday’s winner Tenfold, who showed his youthfulness as he jetted out to about the eight-path in the final furlong, but turned on the jets to beat the Ontario-bred Flameaway.
Ironically, Casse passed on the Prince of Wales for Flameaway in favor of Wonder Gadot, but hasn’t ruled out a Travers run which will be decided by owner John Oxley.
Tenfold, trained by Steve Asmussen, was a couple jumps away from winning this year’s Preakness, finishing third at Pimlico. He finished a disappointing fifth in the Belmont, but has trained lights out up to the Jim Dandy.
The winner finished the 1 1/8-mile trek in 1:50.69 and his backers were paid $5.50 for the win, $2.80 for the place and $2.30 to show. Second-place finisher Flameaway paid $3.90 for second and $2.70 to show. Post time favorite Vino Rosso paid $2.10 to show.
Saturday, he established himself as one of the top colts still in training after this week’s retirement by Triple Crown winner Justify.
Santana, Jr.’s past experience with the colt was the difference maker in coming out on top of the $600,000 race before an announced attendance of 37,189.
“I put him close to the speed, turning for home he opened up,” said Santana, Jr. “I had plenty in the tank and he watched the TV and got a little scared. I controlled him and we passed the wire first. He’s still a baby at three years old, he never has run here,” said Santana, Jr.
Asmussen and Santana, Jr. have been wildly successful in the first eight days of the Saratoga meet, so seeing them win the Jim Dandy was no surprise. He praised his jockey’s effort to the media throng surrounding him in the Saratoga winner’s circle.
“He’s got a tremendous amount of talent,” said Asmussen of his jockey. “I really think that his experience, especially here in New York over the last few years has got him to the next level,” said Asmussen.
Asmussen credited workouts over the surface and prepping here for the Travers as a key to furture success.
“Obviously I’m glad that we ran him over this racetrack, because he finds something new every time,” said Asmussen. “Ricardo said when he moved away from that horse (Flameaway) he got a view of the screen in the infield and he couldn’t get him to quit looking at it,” said Asmussen.
Race favorite Vino Rosso was never a factor, jockey John Velazquez laying last and well off the pace for most of the race before making a late run in the lane. "We made up ground down the lane, not much more to say than that. That's just his style [to come from far back]," said Velazquez.
Vino Rosso owner Mike Repole was disappointed in his colt’s lackluster effort. “The biggest key now, if we decide to go to the Travers, is to get him to run 100 percent of the race and not 50 percent of the race.”
Asmussen has had to deal with a bunch of curveballs with this horse and figures that his late start in early February has a lot to do with it.
“He’s three-quarters of a length off winning the Preakness and he lays in that day and doesn’t finish it off. And you see when he gets there today, he goes the other way. He doesn’t know how good he is. He needs to start taking it serious and make the most of it.”
Horse racing's verison of Wonder Woman will be laying in wait at the Travers, for Tenfold and the remaining colts in this 3-year-old crop, to make for an extremely intriguing race next month.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.