Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tonalist is back in action on Saturday, facing six foes in the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, a steppingstone to the marquee event of the Spa meeting, the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 23.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Tonalist comes into the Jim Dandy off back-to-back wins, taking the Peter Pan (G2) in his stakes debut on May 10 before pulling off the mild upset in the third jewel of the Triple Crown where he paid $20.40. The colt got up in the final jump over Commissioner, who was our top pick in the Belmont and was 28-1.
Wicked Strong is the only other Grade 1 winner in the field. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee won the Wood Memorial (G1) on April 4, and then was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.
Kid Cruz is coming in off a win in the Dwyer (G3) last out, but may end up scratching in favorite of the West Virginia Derby (G3).
Completing the field are Cousin Stephen (12-1), Legend (12-1), Ulanbator (15-1), and Commanding Curve (5-1).
The co-feature on Saturday’s card at the Spa is the $200,000 Amsterdam (G2) for three-year-olds going 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.
The Todd Pletcher trained Rock Fall is the 9-5 morning line favorite and is making his stakes debut. The colt trounced maidens by 9 ¼ lengths in his second career start earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure and then beat first level allowance foes by 3 ¼ lengths in his most recent outing.
Pletcher has won the Amsterdam in three of the last five years including last year with Forty Tales. Leading jockey Javier Castellano gets the return call.
Captain Serious brings some serious speed to the race. The Michael Hushion trainee set the rly fractions and was run down late by Kid Cruz in the Dwyer in his last outing. The gelding is 4-1 on the morning line.
Second choice on the morning line is the Larry Jones trained Coup de Grace, a winner of four of his six career starts. The colt won the Oh Say at Delaware Park in his last start.
The stakes action and my strongest plays will be included in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
The Jim Dandy G2 Post time 6:01 ET
4 Tonalist 8-5
5 Kid Cruz 8-1
7 Wicked Strong 2-1
2 Legend 12-1
Tonalist makes his first start since getting up in the final jump and beating our top pick Commissioner in the Belmont Stakes (G1). The colt earned the top last out speed figure in the effort and actually had a bigger number two back in his win in the Peter Pan (G2) which was in the slop off a 2 ½ month break. The Peter Pan form has held up well as third place finisher Irish You Well broke his maiden in his next outing and then took the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 5.
The colt cuts back to nine furlongs which should suit and he is working sharply in the mornings. He is giving our second choice four pounds, but looks capable of overcoming that slight disadvantage and the colt actually looks as if he may still have some upside.
Kid Cruz bounced out of his disappointing eighth in the Preakness Stakes (G1) with sharp wins in the Easy Goer and Dwyer (G3) in his last two starts. Trainer Linda Rice is thinking about skipping this race and going to the West Virginia Derby (G2) next week.
That race is worth $750,000 and it looks as if it might be a softer spot. If he goes here, the 8-1 morning line sure looks generous. The main question mark is whether he gets enough early speed to run at here.
Wicked Strong earned a career top winning the Wood Memorial (G1) back in April and then had a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1) where he checked in fourth. He was not serious a threat in the Belmont, coming with a very wide late run to finish fourth, beaten 1 ¾ lengths for the top spot.
He will be tough if he runs back to his Wood effort, but not sure he is going to offer much value for the top spot.
WIN: Tonalist to win at 8-5 or better.
EXACTA: 4,5 / 2,4,5,7
TRIFECTA: 4,5 / 2,4,5,7 / 2,4,5,6,7
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