October 22, 2018

Looking forward to the Haskell & Jim Dandy

Tapwrit will stretch out in his second start off the layoff in the Suburban (Photo by NYRA/Coglianese/Chelsea Durand)

The depth of the 3-year-old division was on display last weekend at Belmont Park as notables such Always Dreaming, Classic Empire and Cloud Computing remained on the sidelines. Let’s review the performers.

Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit established himself as a major player in the 3-year-old championship race, registering a 107 BRIS Speed Rating for his 2-length score in the final jewel of the Triple Crown. He was wiped out at the start when finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby in his previous outing and captured the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) earlier this season.

Todd Pletcher also saddled the relatively inexperienced Patch to a respectable third-place outing and the unraced juvenile appears poised to step forward in the second half of the season as he continues to improve. Along with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, Pletcher will aim his prized sophomores toward either the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park or $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga later this summer.

The Jim Dandy will be run on July 29 and the Haskell takes place the following afternoon.

Runner-up Irish War Cry could not withstand Tapwrit’s late surge in the 1 ½-mile Belmont, but I exited the weekend thinking he’s the horse to beat in the Haskell. He must knock off what promises to be a dynamite cast, but the 1 1/8-mile distance should hit the New Jersey-bred right between the eyes and the Haskell serves as the biggest race on the calendar for owner/breeder Isabelle de Tomaso. Irish War Cry recorded dominant wins in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Holy Bull (G2) earlier this season and talented conditioner Graham Motion has seven weeks to get him primed for an optimal performance.

Smashing undercard stakes victors American Anthem and West Coast will bring peaking form into upcoming class tests and I won’t dismiss their chances for eight-time Haskell winner Bob Baffert. American Anthem has developed nicely in recent months after not being ready for the Triple Crown trail earlier this season, winning the 7-furlong Woody Stephens (G2) for fun, and the silver-haired conditioner said his pupil is headed back to routes. West Coast has never been worse than second in five starts and made short work of opponents in his second stakes attempt, the 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer. They each posted a 102 BRIS Speed number and appear to have bright futures.

It’s shaping up to be a fantastic competition for divisional honors, with Battle of Midway, Lookin at Lee, McCraken, No Mo Dough and Timeline also looking to step up in the coming months, and I’m excited to see compelling match-ups in the Haskell and Jim Dandy.

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