Tony Dutrow could not have been any happier with the way A Little Warm was coming into the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO). The 3-year-old son of Stormin Fever confirmed his trainer’s confidence with a determined performance July 31 at Saratoga, as he outlasted 15-1 longshot Miner's Reserve to score his first graded stakes win under John Velazquez.
Receiving a perfect stalking trip, A Little Warm sat just off pacesetter Miner’s Reserve for a mile, wore him down in upper stretch, and went on to post a 1 3/4–length victory for owner/breeder Edward Evans. Runner-up in a pair of graded stakes earlier this season, A Little Warm is now on his way to the Travers (gr. I) later this month.
“Absolutely. If he comes out of this race great, count us in," Dutrow said.
There was never really any other threats in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, as Miner’s Reserve and A Little Warm raced one-two all the way around the oval. Afleet Express, sent off as the second choice, closed well to get third under Javier Castellano but was still three-quarters of a length back of Miner’s Reserve.
Friend Or Foe finished fourth, one spot in front of disappointing favorite Fly Down, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) runner-up last out. Nick Zito trains both Miner’s Reserve and Fly Down.
“Throw out that race, I guess," Zito said. "(Fly Down) just didn’t fire. Jose (Lezcano) said he didn’t give him what he usually gives him. Hopefully he comes back well and we’ll try to regroup for the next race.
"Miner’s Reserve is a good horse. I’m happy for Miner’s Reserve and sad for Fly Down. We’ll just regroup and hopefully come back in the Travers, I hope.”
Miner’s Reserve set a quick pace under Calvin Borel, carving out splits of :23.32, :46.80, and 1:10.82. A Little Warm was just too much in the final furlong. The final time for nine furlongs was 1:47.98 on a fast track.
A Little Warm entered the race off an impressive 2 1/4-length optional claiming win June 29 at Delaware Park, which came after a three-month freshening. Earlier in the season, the bay colt won the Spectacular Bid Stakes in his season debut at Gulfstream Park, then finished a close runner-up in both the Hutcheson (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
“I rode him down at Delaware, and he impressed me a lot with the way he did it, especially against the horse who was on the lead today (Miner’s Reserve)," Velazquez said. "I liked that horse a lot, and we had beaten him at Delaware. He came back today and did it the same way. You can place him wherever you want and let the speed go. When you ask him, he’s there for you. That’s what I like about him. I don’t think he’ll have a problem (with a mile and a quarter) if he rates like he did today.”
The winner improved to 4-4-0 from nine starts with earnings of $608,880. Bred in Virginia, he is out of the Alydar mare Minidar.
“I felt strongly he was going to run a terrific race, but I didn’t know if that was going to be good enough to win," Dutrow said. "We work so hard with these animals, and when you achieve a race like this, it’s bigger than life.
"He ran the way we wanted him to run at Delaware last time, and my feeling was that he was not 100% for that race. When we came up here to Saratoga shortly after that race, he really went over the moon. He loved the racetrack. I told Johnny to ride him with confidence."
A Little Warm paid $10.20, $5.50, and $3.80. The exacta (5-6) returned $96 and the trifecta (5-6-2) was $344.50.