By Dave Litfin, NYRA
Seven weeks after Creator scored a narrow win against Destin in the final U.S. classic of the season, those two are set for a rematch in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) July 30 at Saratoga Race Course.
Creator and Destin, who were separated by inches at the end of a grueling 12 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, hook up again at Saratoga Race Course in Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes – the key local stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes August 27.
Also looming large in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy is Mohaymen, who finished ahead of Creator and Destin when fourth in the Kentucky Derby for streaking trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who saddled six winners from just eight starters opening week.
Creator and Destin have had a brief freshening since their memorable stretch battle in the Belmont, as has Jim Dandy hopeful Governor Malibu, trained by Christophe Clement, who was a troubled fourth in the “Test of the Champion” on June 11.
Also making his first appearance since Belmont Stakes Day is Race Me Home, who was a rallying second in the Easy Goer Stakes for Dale Romans.
The pace will likely be set by Laoban, a maiden who has nevertheless had the lead in several graded stakes, most recently when fifth in the Dwyer three weeks ago for trainer Eric Guillot.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Creator, owned by WinStar Farm and Bobby Flay, worked out a ground-saving trip after breaking from post 13 in the Belmont and found a seam in the lane under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to catch Destin in the final strides.
“[Ortiz] saved yards and won by inches,” said Asmussen, who will be inducted into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame next Friday.
“Creator has trained really well since his little break at WinStar [Farm in Kentucky],” he added. “It’s exciting to be running him here at Saratoga, and he’s doing really well. Backing up from the mile and a half in the Belmont to this mile and an eighth, obviously the Travers is the major goal for him here this summer, but I think he’ll represent himself well in the Jim Dandy.”
By design, Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Destin has raced only twice since winning the Tampa Bay Derby in mid-March. He was then sixth in the Kentucky Derby, and a tough-luck second in the Belmont for Todd Pletcher.
“I thought his race was sneaky good in the Derby, and I think the Belmont solidified his status as one of the top colts in this crop,” said Pletcher. “He gives us the impression he’s in the process of taking that step to the next level, and we’ve always felt like he’s the kind of horse that’s going to improve once he gets a little older. Being a [son of] Giant’s Causeway, they tend to improve with experience and age. The Travers at a mile and a quarter should suit him well, so we’re hoping to win the Jim Dandy, but we’ve kind of got our eye on the Travers as well.”
Even though Saturday will mark 12 weeks since Mohaymen ran in the Kentucky Derby, the $2.2 million son of Tapit could be the “now” horse based on his trainer’s 6-for-8 start to the meet.
Mohaymen reeled off five straight wins to begin his career, including four Grade 2 stakes, before fourth-place finishes in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
“He’s doing great, ready to go, and hopefully it doesn’t rain at five o’clock on Saturday, like it did the last two times he ran,” said McLaughlin. “He ran very well last time. I think a repeat of that race puts him right there.”
Several of McLaughlin’s winners last week were returning from layoffs as well. “We’re happy that he had some time off,” he said.
The Jim Dandy, one of four graded stakes Saturday, will be the tenth of 11 races with a post time of 6:18 p.m. and is the third leg of a Late Pick 4 with a $500,000 guaranteed pool.
1 1/8mDirt $600,0003 yo6:18 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Creator (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 123 Steven M. Asmussen 3/1
2 Laoban (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 117 Eric J. Guillot 20/1
3 Mohaymen (KY) Junior Alvarado 121 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 9/5
4 Destin (KY) Javier Castellano 121 Todd A. Pletcher 2/1
5 Governor Malibu (NY) Joel Rosario 117 Christophe Clement 9/2
6 Race Me Home (IRE) Luis Saez 117 Dale L. Romans 15/1