May 27, 2024

Essential Quality faces five in Jim Dandy

Essential Quality and jockey Luis Saez win the Belmont Stakes (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)

Jim Dandy S. (G2) — Race 9 (5:39 p.m. ET)

Champion and Belmont S. (G1) winner Essential Quality figures to be an overwhelming favorite on his return to action in Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy S. (G2) at Saratoga, a 1 1/8-mile tune-up for next month’s Travers (G1) over 1 1/4 miles.

Fourth when suffering his first career defeat in the Kentucky Derby (G1) back in May, Essential Quality re-established himself as arguably the leading three-year-old male in the country with a decisive 1 1/4-length win over Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont. It was more than 11 lengths back to Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer.

“I’m very anxious to see him race again just for the simple fact of how he’s training and how he’s filling out,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He’s been very sharp and his energy has been great. The cooler weather is playing a role in that. But he’s ready to run. I’m very excited.”

The Jim Dandy serves as a big step up in class for Masqueparade, but the Al Stall trainee is deserving after he followed up a blowout Churchill allowance with with a half-length score in the Ohio Derby (G3) last month.

“Our horse is on the upswing, so if he keeps improving, he could be there or thereabouts. He deserves a shot,” Stall said.

Gotham (G3) winner Weyburn took it to Mandaloun in the June 13 Pegasus S. at Monmouth, losing by only a neck to one of the division’s best. A little farther back in third was the lightly-raced Dr Jack.

“He still acts like he’s a little confused by two-turn racing,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said of Weyburn. “He breaks on his own and then gets on the bridle and then he was a little keen down the backside (in the Pegasus). The pacesetter stopped abruptly and he ended up on the lead by himself, and he looked like he spit the bit out a little bit Mandaloun made a big, sweeping move past him and then he went after him again.”

Keepmeinmind placed for the first time in five starts this season when a half-length third in the Ohio Derby, while Withers (G3) winner Risk Taking looks to bounce back after sub-par showings in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Preakness (G1).