Jim Dandy's Top Trio Expected for Travers

(from Saratoga stable notes)
The top three finishers in Saturday's Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga are all expected to return in a month's time for the track's signature race, the $1 million Travers (gr. I).

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Flower Alley is on his way to the Aug. 27 Travers at 1 1/4 miles after a smashing victory in the nine-furlong Jim Dandy. It was the colt's first stakes win since taking the Lane's End (gr. II) March 26.

"He seemed to bounce out of the race real well," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I'm pretty confident (in his ability to get the distance). He ran a respectable race in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) after chasing fast fractions. He's by a horse (Distorted Humor ) that sired a Derby winner (Funny Cide in 2003), and he's got some stamina on the bottom side."

Pletcher, who has won the Dandy the past three years, was a big proponent of moving the Jim Dandy up a week on the calendar so it would be 28 days before the Travers instead of 20, as it had been in the past.

"The last couple of years, I didn't think we had enough time to rebound after the Jim Dandy," Pletcher said. "Strong Hope ran such a big race in the Jim Dandy to hold off Empire Maker and Purge is one of those horses that I think does better with a little more time. Ironically enough, Flower Alley is the one horse I would be most confident leading over there in three weeks."

Also heading for the Travers is Jim Dandy runner-up Reverberate for Centennial Farms and trainer Sal Russo. Coming off an extremely disappointing race in the Belmont (gr. I), Reverberate challenged Flower Alley heading for the top of the stretch.

"We were second best to Flower Alley," Russo said. "Reverberate came back to the barn in good shape. With the Travers nearly a month away, that will give him plenty of time to rest and train for the race. Those four weeks will definitely help us."

Reverberate is still seeking his first stakes win. He also finished second in the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont at the end of May.

Trainer Nick Zito said Andromeda's Hero, owned by Robert LaPenta, is a likely candidate for the Travers with his third-place finish to Flower Alley. In his fifth graded-stakes attempt, Andromeda's Hero gave the field five lengths before making a charge around the far turn. But he was outrun in the stretch.

"He's a one-run horse," Zito said. "I cannot change his running style. We'll get lucky with him someday. One of the ways to look at his racing career is, if Afleet Alex wasn't in the Belmont, he would have won it."

Not only was Andromeda's Hero second to Afleet Alex in the Belmont, he was third behind Afleet Alex and Flower Alley in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II).

Zito is trying to make a plan for My Meadowview Farms' Noble Causeway after the son of Giant's Causeway  was scratched less than two minutes before post time of the Jim Dandy.

Jockey Jerry Bailey told the track veterinarian that he didn't think Noble Causeway was warming up well before the race. After the colt was examined, the decision was made to declare Noble Causeway from the race.

"Jerry said something wasn't quite feeling right with the horse, and he didn't want to take that chance to run him," Zito said. "I have to take Jerry's word. The horse appears to be fine. All we can do now is regroup and try to figure out what to do from here."

Zito suggested he would give Noble Causeway a workout sometime this week to make sure the colt is sound before determining a race schedule for him. Noble Causeway, who was one of Zito's Triple Crown candidates earlier this year, has not run since the Preakness (gr. I), where he finished sixth.