D. Wayne Lukas-trained Scorpion ran down Free of Love in the shadow of the wire to win the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. I) by a half-length on Saturday at Saratoga. 9-20 favorite Congaree dueled with 30-1 longshot Free of Love on the second turn before tiring to finish third, 5 3/4 lengths behind Free of Love. A P Valentine, Indygo Shiner, and Kid Rigo completed the order of finish. Windsor Castle was scratched due to a minor injury.
Free of Love settled into the lead during the short run to the first turn and held a one-length lead over Congaree after an opening quarter-mile run in :24.37. Scorpion raced in third around the first turn, with A P Valentine fourth. Congaree moved up to challenge Free of Love on the backstretch and claimed a short lead following a :47.85 half-mile. Free of Love proved up to the challenge, fighting gamely against Congaree's bid to reclaim the lead while running six furlongs in 1:10.93 on the track listed as good. Free of Love drew away from Congaree in the stretch, opening up a 3 1/2-length lead before Scorpion began to rally outside of Congaree. The effects of the mid-race duel with Congaree showed on Free of Love in the final furlong as Scorpion surged by in the final sixteenth-mile.
"I couldn't believe how much they quickened leaving the four and a half furlong marker; I was very happy at that point," said winning jockey Jerry Bailey. "I knew it would take its toll on them. I had Congaree in my sights pretty much the whole time and knew he was done turning for home. My horse worked hard, and inside the sixteenth pole, I had a pretty good feeling that we would get up. Free of Love hung in tough."
Scorpion completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.90.
"You're not supposed to be disappointed when your horse runs this well," said Free of Love's trainer Richard Violette Jr. "He ran a huge race. He just got beat and he beat some very good horses. If Gary (Stevens, on Congaree) doesn't get so brave going down the backstretch, we win it. If Congaree was that good and they could draw away from us early in the race, there was no point in going with him and using your horse up. You have to save him to beat the rest of the field. Richie (Migliore, on Free of Love) did the right thing. At the head of the lane, I though we had a huge shot. I don't know if we want to go in the Travers (gr. I), since he is going to pick up 12 pounds."
Trainer Bob Baffert said Congaree also is not likely to run in the Travers.
"It looked like he was cruising fine, but then all of a sudden he ran out of horse," said Baffert. "Gary (Stevens) thinks he might have bled. Maybe the humidity got him. It looked like he was in hand. On this track, you don't know what easy is in the fractions. We'll take him back to the barn and scope him. Congaree just took off with Gary and then he quit running. He didn't show up. When that horse came back on the inside of him, I knew he was in trouble. I knew something was wrong, I just hope it's bleeding. It looked like he came back strong. That wasn't him today. This track is weird track. A lot of good horses get beat here. I think he handled the track fine, I thought he couldn't lose today. We'll take him back to California. I doubt we'll run him in the Travers."
Trainer Nick Zito, though disappointed, said A P Valentine remains on course for the mid-Summer Derby.
"I'm very disappointed. He was too wide and had no pace to run into," said the conditioner. "When Victor (Espinoza) moved out, Bailey moved too. That forced my horse even wider. I thought he handled the track okay. We'll still point for the Travers with this horse."
Scorpion earned $360,000 for owners Robert C. Baker, David Cornstein, and William L. Mack with the win, his fourth in 13 starts and first in a stakes race. Scorpion entered the race following a 1 1/2-length win in a six-furlong allowance race at Belmont Park on the Fourth of July. His best previous showing in a stakes race was a second-place finish in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) as a juvenile. 3-yer-old Scorpion (Seattle Slew - Petiteness, by Chief's Crown) was bred in Kentucky by W Lazy T Ltd.
Scorpion returned $25, $10, and $2.10. Free of Love paid $19.20 and $2.10. Congaree paid $2.10 to show. The winning exacta combination paid $369.50.
"We'll definitely point for the Travers," said Lukas. "He's earned his shot at it. He obviously likes the track here; he's run some very good races as a two-year-old here. This horse was training very well in the spring, and he got a quarter-crack that started out small, but in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), it blew completely. He was running right there with Point Given on the far turn with three-eighths of a mile to go, when the quarter-crack let loose." (Chart, Equibase