Saratoga Weekend Feature Preview: Curlin, Diana, Jim Dandy, Amsterdam
The second weekend of action from the Saratoga Race Course is upon us. It's a weekend ripe with quality feature races, headlined by the Grade II Jim Dandy and the Grade I Diana.
Friday - The 100K Curlin Stakes: Expect a quick pace in this mile and an eighth stakes. The field is book-eneded by speed in Politically Correct and Morgan's Guerrilla, and those two should be pressed by three foes who figure to sit close to the front - Ever So Lucky, Easter Gift, and Love To Run. The Rosie Napravnik mount Five Sixteen, and Chad Brown's favorite, Street Life, will be the early trailers. Brown has been encouraged by how his colt has looked since his fourth place finish in the Belmont, but he knows he'll need pace to score the win. "He obviously doesn't have a lot of early speed, so that's always a concern...I hope to get a little more pace," he said. If he does - and there's a good chance he will - expect Street Life to be the one to hit the wire first. If the pace is slow however, Easter Gift, Politically Correct, or Ever So Lucky could be there to score the win from near the front. Look to Morgan's Guerrilla as a possible long shot.
Saturday - Grade I Diana: It's a clash of the titans here, with several of the game's best turf fillies taking to the Saratoga track in Saturday's ninth race. Winter Memories trainer James J Toner sized up the race, saying, "It's a deep field...it's a tough race, there's no question about it." His filly sits as the favorite, though to score the win he'll have to track down the Dale Romans trained Tapitsfly - who beat Winter Memories in the pair's last race. Like the Curlin, a lot will rely on pace here. Romans will want the front running Tapitsfly to claim an early lead and settle into a relaxed pace - as she did a month ago. Said Romans, "I'd like for her to open a couple of lengths and just get into a nice rhythm." Conversely, perennial closers Zagora - the defending Diana champion - and Winter Memories will hope the leaders set a hot pace, allowing them to run on at the end and pick off tired foes. In the end, I expect Tapitsfly to get the relaxed pace she wants, but on an inner turf surface that has seen some thundering late runs this season, the closers will be heard from. Zagora will likely sit too far back, so look for Winter Memories to be the late runner making waves on the line.
Saturday - Grade II Jim Dandy: The Jim Dandy is often used as a prep race for quality colts pointed toward the Travers, and Saturday's edition will continue that trend, featuring six Triple Crown participants. They'll be lead - both on the morning line and in the post parade - by Alpha, a Kiaran McLaughlin trained colt who figures to sit near the lead. It's a lead that Nick Zito, the trainer of closer Fast Falcon, figures to be an easy one. "There's not much speed in there, it looks like everyone has kind of the same gate," Zito commented. Likely, it will be My Adonis going to the lead, trailed by the six, Teeth of the Dog. Those two should settle in front, though they won't press the action. As such, I'm not sure deep closers like Fast Falcon, Atigun, and the Bob Baffert trained Liason will figure in the end. Instead I look at Neck 'n Neck to sit close to the front and be with the leaders on the wire. He's won his last two races in impressive fashion with consecutive speed figures over 100. He's one of several possibilities, but may be most likely.
Sunday - Grade II Amsterdam: This six furlong sprint will have all of the pace that Saturday's features won't. Of the seven stepping to the starting gate in Sunday's tenth, five have the speed to make the lead - and I'd expect them all to go after it. Todd Pletcher's Doctor Chit may very well be the one to claim such a lead but this winner of his last three will have to wrestle it away from the likes of Politically Incorrect, morning line favorite Currency Swap, Gun Boat, and Nick Zito's own winner of three straight, Fort Loudon. Any of those could be the one to clip the wire, but I'd circle Fort Loudon - the only horse in the field to boast three straight speed figures north of 100 - the aforementioned Doctor Chit, and Laurie's Rocket as most likely. The latter - a D Wayne Lukas trainee - is the most qualified closer of the bunch, making him a good bet versus the plethora of early speed.