The weekend was one of the bigger weekends at the Saratoga meeting with the Whitney Handicap
and the Jim Dandy, the major prep race for the Travers Stakes. Also the Haskell was run at Monmouth and a
few horses exiting that race are going to be pointed to the Travers on August 28th.
On Saturday August 7th Saratoga hosted the Whitney Handicap. The highweight in the race and the
slight favorite was PEACE RULES. This was trainer Bobby Frankel’s second choice to run in this spot. He had
first thought about running GHOSTZAPPER but settled on PEACE RULES. With a field of nine horses this was
one of the most competitive Whitney Handicaps we have seen in a while. With outsider YESSIRGENERALSIR
quickly clearing to the lead through swift fractions this put others in the race on the chase. The fractions of
22:3, 45:1, 1:08:4, through the first six furlongs were excruciating and they got to the leader in the stretch as
he faded to finish 8th. The winner of the race ROSES IN MAY, was right up on the pace chasing the leader
throughout while traveling in second until the stretch. He made a strong move to the lead but was quickly
challenged by closer PERFECT DRIFT, who had the best trip in the race. Those two battled toward the wire
with PERFECT DRIFT actually taking the lead before ROSES IN MAY battled back for the nose victory.
Another two lengths back in third was BOWMAN’S BAND who also won a nose photo for the show spot.
The time of the race was 1:48:2 which was a decent time but the final 1/8th of a mile took almost 14 seconds.
ROSES IN MAY is only four years old and is lightly raced, it will be interesting to see how he comes
out of this race and if he has enough to challenge the top handicap horses in the country.
The following day at Saratoga they hosted the Jim Dandy Stakes. The Grade II race had a purse of
$500,000 and is the traditional prep race for the “Midsummer Derby” the Travers Stakes.
With only a field of six horses entering the starting gate the favorite in the race was THE CLIFF’S EDGE,
who was coming off a second place finish to MEDALLIST in the Dwyer on July 11th. MEDALLIST, was also
entered in this race and it would be his first try at two turns. He has runaway speed and trying to get him
to rate going two turns was going to be a difficult task. After a first quarter in 23 flat he ran the second
quarter in 22:3 to reach the half in 45:3, the ¾ time was 1:09:3 and MEDALLIST was finished, tiring
badly to finish fifth. The winner of the race was PURGE, who stalked the leader in second and took over
the lead entering the stretch. He widened that lead and scored easily by four and ½ lengths in a very
solid time of 1:47:2. This 3YO colt by PULPIT, is trained by Todd Pletcher and is going to be tough to down
in the Travers Stakes. THE CLIFF’S EDGE closed to finish second but was well beaten. He is also expected
to make it to the Travers and would have to improve to defeat PURGE under similar conditions.
On the same day as the Jim Dandy, Monmouth Park in New Jersey hosted the $1 million dollar
Haskell Stakes. The favorite in the field of eight was ROCK HARD TEN, who was coming off a win in the
Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. The second choice was LION HEART who finished second in the
Kentucky Derby, he was coming off a head win in a prep for the Haskell. When the gates opened he was
quickly clear to the lead, he laid down reasonable fractions and continued on well to the wire to score by
a length. The second place horse was MY SNOOKIE’S BOY who had finished second to LION HEART
in his prior start. ROCK HARD TEN finished a well beaten sixth but he came out of the race with an illness.
He came out of the race full of mucous and will stay at Monmouth Park until he recovers.
With LION HEART, THE CLIFF’S EDGE, PURGE and the Belmont winner BIRDSTONE expected
it should be a very interesting Travers. The 3YO division has some horses on the verge of being superstars
and that is not counting the already retired SMARTY JONES. It should make for an interesting Summer.