On Friday morning, trainer Christophe Clement stressed the importance of a good effort from Tonalist in Saturday’s Grade II Jim Dandy, then a healthy return to the barn.
A win would have been very nice, but he spoke about the race strictly in terms of preparing for the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 23.
He got a nice effort from the Belmont winner, though it was good enough only for second place to Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong. Still, a good effort. Check that off the list.
As for his health, Clement said he “came back in good order; a touch stiff, but not bad.”
He will walk for a couple days, then head back to the track on Tuesday, Clement said, to begin gearing up to the Travers.
“He was second-best [Saturday] with the trip that he had,” Clement told the New York Racing Association on Sunday morning. “Wicked Strong ran a really nice race, and we live to fight another day. We will do everything we can to be back in the Travers.
“The main thing is to focus on the future. We’ve got four weeks. We’ve got two breezes, and we will do everything we can to have him at his best on Travers Day.”
Third in the Jim Dandy, Kid Cruz also came out well for trainer Linda Rice. The son of 1999 Travers winner Lemon Drop Kid, Kid Cruz had a trip that was a bit unusual for him, a little unsuited to his style.
The closer ended up too forwardly placed, was taken back, then fired again late, but couldn’t catch Wicked Strong and Tonalist.
“It wasn’t the plan [to send him to the front],” Rice said after the Jim Dandy. “They just weren’t going very fast, so Irad [Ortiz Jr.] got after him early and then he got shuffled back, and then he took himself out of it, and then he came again. He was running at the end of it, and we’re very happy with this race. I think it sets us up well for the Travers.”
Kid Cruz ended up six lengths behind Wicked Strong. He emerged from the race in good health and will begin working toward the Travers. The way he found a good second effort reinforces Rice’s belief in the colt’s talent.
“It says a lot,” she said Sunday morning. “He’s a nice horse. Frankly, if that happens to most horses, they’re going to trail the field and run last. I think this allows us to move into the Travers. I think that’s what we were really looking for. I was hoping for a closing second, beaten a length and a half, but it is what it is. If we’re going to have a trip that doesn’t work out, I’m glad it was in the Jim Dandy and not the Travers.”
Lemon Drop Kid also ran third in the Jim Dandy before winning the Travers.
Winner of 2013’s Grade II Jerome and Grade III Gotham, Vyjack shortens up Saturday to run in the six-furlong Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Vyjack has never run so short a race since his debut was a win at 61⁄2 furlongs at Aqueduct on Nov. 10, 2012, and he has twice run at seven furlongs, winning both.
His last start came in the Grade II Suburban at Belmont on July 5, when he tired and was eased.
“We’re going to shorten him up, and hopefully, that works for us,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “We don’t lose anything by trying.”
Vyjack has been working in company here, and it has produced a couple bullets. Two works back, he was fastest of 75 horses working four furlongs on the main track on July 18, covering the ground in 47.18. On Friday, he worked five furlongs in 59.03, the fastest of 31.
The Big Beast posted a Beyer speed figure of 100 in his six-furlong allowance race win on Saturday, winning by 61⁄4 lengths over Gombey Dancer in Race 7, just one race before the Grade II Amsterdam.
Trainer Anthony Dutrow was left to ponder the “what-ifs” after seeing Coup de Grace win the Amsterdam with the exact same speed figure.
“I don’t know if I made the right decision,” he said Sunday. “We may have run lights-out in the Amsterdam. When you think your horse is really,
really good, you want these races to count.”