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Post Time: Major Travers prep highlights Saturday at the Spa

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Like the race’s namesake, the Jim Dandy Stakes has produced a long-shot winner or two in its 56-year history.

In 2016, Eric Guillot’s Laoban shocked the Spa faithful at odds of 27-1 and the following year, Good Samaritan won over a five-horse field at the longest price on the board at 8-1.

Could there be a long shot looming over the prohibitive favorites in this year’s running of the Dandy?

The race itself is named in honor of the 1930 Travers Stakes winner who defeated Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox at the Graveyard of Favorites at odds of 100-1. The major prep race for the midsummer Derby at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday has produced 18 Travers winners, of which 12 completed the Dandy-Travers double.

This year’s edition looks fairly formful, highlighted by Preakness winner War of Will (5-2) and Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus (7-5).

Tax (8-1) could be that long shot. Trained by Danny Gargan, Tax returned from his dismal performance in the Derby to run a sneaky good fourth in the Belmont Stakes, beaten just 2 3/4 lengths by eventual winner Sir Winston.

The Preakness winner will be the only horse carrying 124 pounds, Tacitus will carry 122 while Tax and Global Campaign (2-1) will carry 120 based on the race’s conditions.

While Maximum Security’s win in the Haskell at Monmouth last Saturday likely puts him atop the division, the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes has attracted three horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby.

For the third year in a row, the $600,000 Jim Dandy drew a field smaller than six for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Post time for the Jim Dandy is 6:51 p.m. and is slated for Race 11 on the 12-race card. The entire card will be televised live on FS2 from 1-7:30 p.m. EDT.

Race 2 on the Jim Dandy undercard is the John Cansdale Memorial, named after the Buffalo native and former executive director of the New York Racing and Wagering Board who died in October.

Let’s take a look at the field from top to bottom (post position, trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):

1 – Laughing Fox (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 15-1). Off since the Preakness, the chestnut son of Union Rags is still looking for his first placing in a graded stakes race. The connections have been strong at the Spa on the dirt. Santana comes off a win at Fort Erie on Tuesday night in the Prince of Wales on Tone Broke for Steve Asmussen. Only horse in the field that ran at the Spa as a juvenile, finishing seventh in his debut race. He has a win at the distance at Oaklawn Park and the well-traveled colt will need to step up to compete. Useful underneath in the exotics.

2 – Tax (Gargan, Ortiz, Jr., 8-1). Trainer Gargan has been hot early in the meet and the son of Arch had a lights-out workout July 20 in preparation for the race. He should be somewhat under the radar with the two classic-placed horses in the race taking most of the money along with Global Campaign, who defeated the Belmont winner in the Peter Pan. Part-owned by Reeves Thoroughbreds, owners of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, they keep Irad in the irons after his ride in the Belmont. The upset pick.

3 – Mihos (Jerkens, Alvarado, 15-1). Son of Cairo Prince has struggled since winning the Mucho Macho Man in January at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, winner of the 2014 Jim Dandy with Wicked Strong. Still looking for his first graded stakes win, the Centennial Farms colt looks to be up against it against this field.

4 – Global Campaign (Hough, Saez, 2-1). Likely the wise-guy horse after winning the Peter Pan over Belmont winner Sir Winston. The son of Curlin’s work tab suggests he is fit and ready to roll for Stanley Hough. Curlin also sired last year’s Dandy winner Tenfold. Concerned with him running back to his top speed figure, but figure he’ll be in the mix.

5 – Tacitus (Mott, Ortiz, 7-5). Trainer Bill Mott has won the Dandy three times and has the morning-line favorite in this year’s race in the Belmont runner-up. Quality horse that could easily win the race with red-hot jock Jose Ortiz in the irons. His workouts at the Oklahoma training track hint he is ready to roll. Predict another duel with Tax, who he headed in the Wood Memorial at the Big A in April. Major contender.

6 – War of Will (Casse, Gaffalione, 5-2). A race that has eluded Mark Casse, who is faring much better this year than he was in 2018 at the Spa. The Preakness winner received a well-deserved break after being the only horse to complete every race in the Triple Crown series. This will be his seventh race of the year and he has yet to post a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. Casse is likely pointing at the big prize in the Travers and he is using this as a tune-up for that race. Playing against.

Outlook: Putting a lot of stock in Tax’s work tab and fitness, look for him to hold off a late closing Tacitus at the wire after putting away Global Campaign in the stretch.

Post Time Selections: 1 – Tax; 2 – Tacitus; 3 – Global Campaign; 4 – War of Will

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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