3-year-olds return to the spotlight
By Bob Ehalt
Hello …. Good Magic? …. Vino Rosso?
With Triple Crown winner Justify heading to a well-deserved life at stud, there is currently a leadership vacuum among the 3-year-old male division.
The group’s Eclipse Award is already Justify’s personal property but someone will eventually emerge as the big horse in upcoming Grade 1 races such as the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby and this weekend will provide us with a preview of what to expect in those Grade 1 stakes.
Saturday’s Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga and Sunday’s Haskell at Monmouth Park will start that process – with some additional help from Friday’s Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.
The $600,000 Grade 2 Jim Dandy attracted an abbreviated field of five topped by Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso. Ninth in the Kentucky Derby, he was fourth in the Belmont Stakes on June 9, which was his most recent start.
A stretch runner who may be hurt by a slow pace in a small field, Vino Rosso was pegged as an even-money favorite. Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Mike Repole, Vino Rosso has won three of seven career starts.
“I think he’s doing well. He’s had a good time since the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “He seems to be showing good energy, and he’s been pointing to the Jim Dandy since then. We’re looking to get him on track, and get a good race into him before the Travers.”
The second choice figures to be Tenfold (8-5), who was third in the Preakness, in just his fourth career start. He then took a slight step backwards in the Belmont, finishing fifth, and has not raced since then.
Flameaway (7-2), who was sixth in the Ohio Derby and 13th in the Kentucky Derby in his last two starts, will try to regain his top form for trainer Mark Casse.
“I gave him a lot of time off after the Derby because the Derby was hard on everybody,” Casse said. “I think I probably gave him a little too much time, but Flameaway is Flameaway now. Whether he’s good enough I don’t know, but he’s as good as he can get right now. Where that puts him I’m not sure, but if you look at some of his races they’re really good. He’s as good as he’s going to get.”
Reride (12-1) and Sporting Chance (8-1) round out the field.
The $1 million Haskell, with a larger purse and Grade 1 status, attracted more star power in 2-year-old champion and Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic and Preakness runner-up Bravazo heading a field of seven.
Good Magic (6-5 morning line) was probably Justify’s toughest rival on the Triple Crown trail. He took a strong run at Justify turning for home in the Kentucky Derby, but settled for second. He then battled with the undefeated star on the front end in the Preakness. Good Magic wound up fourth for trainer Chad Brown, just a length behind Justify, but in the process, he gave a helping hand to the closers, Bravazo and Tenfold, who finished a half-length and three-quarters-of-a-length behind, respectively.
“He definitely had those two tough races back-to-back and we gave him a little time off. He needed that to recharge his batteries,” Brown said. “We had the Haskell in mind for him right after the Preakness and he’s been training very well for it. Running off a layoff doesn’t bother him.”
While Good Magic skipped the Belmont, Bravazo (3-1) tackled Justify in The Test of The Champion and was a non-threatening sixth.
Since then, he has been working sharply for legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
“This is the next logical spot, a major Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds, so if you’ve got a horse who is healthy and ready to run this is the spot,” Lukas said. “Not every horse makes it through the whole Triple Crown unscathed. He made all three races. He’s a very tough, nice horse. He’s actually getting better with maturity and I expect a very good effort from him.”
Deep closers have fared well in the Haskell lately, with the winners coming from last in the two most recent editions, and that role should be filled by Lone Sailor (5-1). The son of Majestic Warrior rallied from sixth to miss by a nose in the Ohio Derby, and was last in the Preakness and 15th in the Kentucky Derby before finishing fifth and eighth, respectively.
The race, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, also includes Navy Commander (12-1), winner of the Long Branch at Monmouth, Roaming Union (10-1), Ohio Derby winner Core Beliefs (7-2), and the New Jersey-bred Golden Brown (15-1).