Richard Pell’s Fly Down, who turned in a huge effort in the Belmont Stakes last out in his grade I debut, returns as the horse to beat in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) July 31 at Saratoga.
Fly Down will try to give trainer Nick Zito his first Jim Dandy win since Louis Quatorze in 1996 against a deep field that includes graded winners Winslow Homer, Afleet Express, as well as the multiple graded stakes-placed Aikenite and A Little Warm, and Irish shipper Steinbeck. Undefeated New York-bred Friend Or Foe also takes his shot in the nine-furlong Jim Dandy, which shares top billing with the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) on an 11–race Spa program.
Fly Down turned heads in the May 8 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont with a six-length romp over a field that included runner-up Drosselmeyer. The son of Mineshaft was solidly backed in the Belmont Stakes one month later, but fell three parts of a length shy of longshot Drosselmeyer despite charging willingly in the late stages.
The chestnut colt has worked steadily for Zito at Saratoga for the Jim Dandy, where he was tabbed as the 3–1 favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds. On July 26, he fired a bullet half-mile over the Oklahoma Training Track, stopping the clock in :47.30 under Jose Lezcano, who will have the mount on Saturday.
“It was exactly what I wanted,” said Zito. “He’s coming off a 1 1/2-mile race and you have to do things like that. Obviously, we know his fitness level. We’re hoping he’s a little sharp for the race. He’s a very good horse. He looks good.”
Fly Down, bred in Kentucky by Broadway Thoroughbreds and William, S. Farish, and out of the Fly So Free mare Queen Randi, is 3-1-1 from six starts with earnings of $382,070. He will break from post 9.
Zito will also saddle Robert LaPenta’s speedy Miner's Reserve, who might have been entered to ensure a decent pace for Fly Down. Miner’s Reserve has failed badly in both of his graded starts this year. He won an allowance at Belmont on May 31 and was runner-up in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer last out at Delaware Park while setting a quick pace and tiring late. Calvin Borel will ride.
Tony Dutrow will send out Winslow Homer and A Little Warm in a bid to win the Jim Dandy for the first time. Fox Hill Farm’s Winslow Homer ran third in the Iowa Derby (gr. III) on June 26 in his first start back from an injury. The son of Unbridled's Song undoubtedly needed a race in returning from a five-month layoff. He won the Holy Bull (gr. III) in January before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his cannon bone. Ramon Dominguez will have the mount.
Edward Evans’ homebred A Little Warm won the Spectacular Bid in at Gulfstream in January for his lone stakes triumph. The Stormin Fever colt was then runner-up in both the Hutcheson (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II), and after a layoff returned to win an optional claimer at Delaware on June 29.
“I don’t think I could be any happier with him,” said Dutrow of A Little Warm. “He went into his last race well, but not as good as I’ve seen him. He was going the right way, and right now, I’m very pleased.
“We want to put both of them in a position to run in the Travers. With the one race in January and one in June, Winslow Homer does not have the seasoning, and the Jim Dandy is a much tougher race."
Todd Pletcher will attempt to win his fourth Jim Dandy with Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite, who has been graded stakes placed four times in his 10-start career. He tuned up with an impressive allowance win on June 19 going one mile at Belmont.
“As a younger horse, he wasn’t a particularly ambitious work horse, and to me, he’s gotten more aggressive,” said Pletcher. “We’re still trying to find his best distance. This will be a race that determines what he’s going to do down the road.”
Also coming off an impressive win is Gainesway Farm and Martin Cherry’s Afleet Express, who won his stakes debut June 19 in the Pegasus (gr. III) at Monmouth Park. That was also the first two-turn effort for the Jimmy Jerkens trainee. He will be ridden by the red-hot Javier Castellano.
“We all wanted to see if he could stretch out,” said Jerkens. “Talent-wise, he’s as good as they come, but he is lightly raced. He’s had just one start as a 2-year-old, and one start going long, but he’s improved by leaps and bounds.”
The wild cards in the race are Irish-bred Steinbeck, who ships in for trainer Aidan O’Brien after a runner-up effort in a group III turf race at Leopardstown, and will make his debut on dirt; and Friend Or Foe, unbeaten in three starts in New York, including the restricted Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont June 20.
$500,000 Jim Dandy (gr. II, Race 10, 5:48 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Steinbeck (IRE), G K Gomez, 115, A P O'Brien
2. Afleet Express (KY), J Castellano, 119, J A Jerkens
3. Stormy's Majesty (NY), E S Prado, 115, D G Galluscio
4. Aikenite (FL), D Cohen, 115, T A Pletcher
5. A Little Warm (VA), J R Velazquez, 115, A W Dutrow
6. Miner's Reserve (KY), C H Borel, 115, N P Zito
7. Winslow Homer (KY), R A Dominguez, 119, A W Dutrow
8. Friend Or Foe (NY), R Maragh, 115, J C Kimmel
9. Fly Down (KY), J Lezcano, 121, N P Zito