Belmont winner Da' Tara Returns in Jim Dandy.

Belmont winner Da' Tara Returns in Jim Dandy.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Da' Tara Returns in Jim Dandy

Da’ Tara, who shocked the nation when he wired the field at odds of 38-1 in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and denied Big Brown the Triple Crown, returns to the racetrack July 27 in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.

Owned by Robert LaPenta and trained by Nick Zito, Da’ Tara will have no easy task in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, as he will have to face four 3-year-olds who started in Triple Crown events this year, including multiple graded stakes winner Pyro. Newcomers Mint Lane and Tiz Now Tiz Then also present a stiff challenge.

Overshadowed by Big Brown’s stunning loss, Da’ Tara is out to prove his 5 1/4-length Belmont victory was no fluke. A win on Sunday could help the son of Tiznow  jump into the mix for champion 3-year-old colt, especially if he comes back to Saratoga next month to repeat in the $1 million Travers Stakes (gr. I). Three years in a row horses have completed the Jim Dandy-Travers double – Flower Alley, Bernardini and Street Sense.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and out of the Pirate's Bounty mare Torchera, Da’ Tara has won just twice in eight starts, the other coming at nine furlongs in maiden special weight company back in January.

Da’ Tara, who will retain jockey Alan Garcia, probably will not have the luxury of assuming the early lead like he did in the Belmont. That honor is likely to go to Pinebloom Stable’s Mint Lane, who enters off a wire-to-wire victory in the grade II Dwyer Stakes at Belmont July 6.

Zito will also send out Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anal Nakal, who has not won since taking the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) last November but dead-heated for third in the Belmont. John Velazquez gets the mount for the first time on the son of Victory Gallop.

“Both horses need to run in the Jim Dandy, and they need to run well,” said Zito. “They are both a bit behind Birdstone as far as training goes at this point, but if they can both run well on Sunday, it would put them right where they should be to be sharp for the Travers.”

One horse with big expectations for the second half of the season is Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro. The Pulpitcolt turned in disappointing performances in both the April 12 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), where he finished tenth and eighth, respectively. Trainer Steve Asmussen thinks he knows where things went wrong.

“I don’t think he ran well on the synthetic in the Blue Grass and I did too much immediately off of it, and shook his confidence,” Asmussen said. “Now we’ll get that bad training job out of the way and get him back to who he is.”

Pyro, who became a Derby contender after finishing second to War Pass in last year’s Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and then winning the Risen Star (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, took a big step towards returning to form June 14 when he scored by 1 3/4 lengths in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill.

Regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan will get the mount on Pyro, who could go off as the favorite.

Also in the field are Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati, who was fourth in the Derby and sixth in the Belmont, and Macho Again, a distant runner-up to Big Brown in the Preakness before coming in fifth in the Belmont. Neither has started since the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Zabeel Racing International’s Tiz Now Tiz Then makes his graded stakes debut for trainer Eoin Harty. The son of Tiznow has won three in a row, including a 2 1/4-length score in the June 27 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.

$500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II, Race 10, 5:53 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tiz Now Tiz Then (KY), 117, Miguel Mena
2. Anak Nakal (KY), 119, John R. Velazquez
3. Mint Lane (KY), 121, Eibar Coa
4. Pyro (KY), 121, Shaun Bridgmohan
5. Tale of Ekati (KY), 123, Edgar S. Prado
6. Da' Tara (KY), 123, Alan Garcia
7. Macho Again (FL), 115, Julien R. Leparoux
8. Alaazo (KY), 115, Kent J. Desormeaux