Considering the last three winners of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga—Flower Alley, Bernardini, and Street Sense —have gone on to capture the $1-million Travers (gr. I) , Dallas Stewart’s trainee Macho Again has a lot of hope resting on his shoulders.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, the tough-spirited son of Macho Uno held on for a half-length triumph over grade II winner Pyro in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy to secure his spot in the Aug. 23 Travers, and Stewart said he has really taken to his surroundings at Spa.
“He likes the track, he’s taken to the course, and my horse has done very well since he’s been here,” said Stewart during an Aug. 19 National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference. “His appetite has increased since he ran, his weight has gotten better, and he seems to have really taken to Saratoga.”
Stewart said the large field that is shaping up for the 1 1/4-mile Travers is likely to set up a favorable pace.
“I’m sure it will develop,” he said. “I’m sure it will be good race-horse time, and hopefully, we’ll be able to have some good racing luck and be strong in the last part.”
Stewart said he certainly wasn’t ruling out some of the other tough competitors in the race, such as Pyro and Tale of Ekati, who finished fourth in the Jim Dandy.
“If they happened to have an off race in the Jim Dandy, then we need to be ready,” said Stewart, adding that he had not yet touched base with Terry Finley of West Point about the possibility of Macho Again running in a Breeders’ Cup World Championship race on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface Park Oct. 24-25.
In Macho Again’s two other starts on all-weather surfaces at Turfway and Keeneland, he finished off the board. The colt, who has won four of 11 starts, took the April 26 Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs, and was the runner-up in the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) behind Big Brown.
“He still has some developing to do; we think his best race is still ahead of him,” said Stewart.
Another contender in the Travers that was on hand during the teleconference was Eoin Harty, trainer of this year’s Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and Sham Stakes (gr. III) winner Colonel John.
Colonel John, a son of Tiznow, was highly regarded leading up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but a troubled trip resulted in a sixth-place finish.
A WinStar Farm homebred, Colonel John comes into the Travers off a third-place effort in the July 12 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park. He boasts an overall record of 4-2-1 from eight starts.
“The Travers, with the exception of the Kentucky Derby is a 3-year-old race to win,” said Harty, adding that he thought the 10 furlongs of the Travers was right up Colonel John’s alley. “It’s important to a stallion’s career, and from a personal standpoint, I think it’s an important race to define a horse’s and a trainer’s career.”
According to New York Racing Association officials, other 3-year-olds expected for the Mid-Summer Derby are Robert LaPenta's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Da' Tara, and Cool Coal Man from trainer Nick Zito's barn; Swaps winner Tres Borrachos; Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Tale of Ekati; and William Farish and Mrs. William Kilroy's Mambo in Seattle.
On the Travers undercard, Golden Spikes, owned by Rob Murphy Jr. who is the president of M375 Thoroughbreds and a former major league baseball pitcher, will run in the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I).
Golden Spikes, who experienced a five-race losing streak this year, more than redeemed himself in winning his last two races, the June 14 Unbridled Stakes and the July 12 Carry Back Stakes (gr. II), both at Calder Race Course at six-furlong distances.
“We knew he could step up in class in the Carry Back, and I think (the King’s Bishop) will be the real test,” said Murphy. “I have to hope he comes down the lane and finishes as well as he did in his last couple races.”
Murphy, who has recently delved in to the breeding side of the industry with his M375 Thoroughbreds partners, said Golden Spikes was “born to be a sire” because of his impressive female family, and he is already in negotiations with several Central Kentucky farms to stand him as a stallion.
A $250,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase, Golden Spikes will enter the King’s Bishop with four wins from 10 starts. By Seeking the Gold, he is out of the A.P. Indymare A. P. Interest.