Jim Dandy field firming up

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – While the connections of Exaggerator continue to mull over whether to run in Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, the connections of other 3-year-olds finalized their plans and preparations for what will be a busy weekend in the sophomore division.

Creator, the Belmont Stakes winner, and Gun Runner, who won the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs in his last start, both breezed Monday morning at Saratoga in preparation for weekend stakes races.

Creator, preparing for the $600,000 Jim Dandy, went a half-mile in 49.49 seconds, getting his final quarter in 24.60 under exercise rider Abel Flores. Twenty minutes earlier, Flores guided Gun Runner through a four-furlong workout in 49.67 seconds, with a final quarter of 24.58, in preparation for Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park

Creator will be part of a Jim Dandy field that is likely to include Belmont second- and fourth-place finishers Destin and Governor Malibu as well as the maiden Laoban and Easy Goer Stakes runner-up Race Me Home.

On Sunday, Governor Malibu breezed five furlongs in 1:01.50 over the Oklahoma training track. Trainer Christophe Clement said Governor Malibu deserves a chance in the Jim Dandy after getting beat just four lengths when fourth in the Belmont and finishing second in the Peter Pan Stakes.

“The bottom line is he ran a very good race in the Belmont, he ran a very good race in the Peter Pan, and it’s not really fair to take it away from him,” Clement said. “Maybe he’s not as good as some of them, but as of now, he seems to belong in that group.”

Preakness winner Exaggerator was “50-50” to run in the Jim Dandy following a so-so workout Saturday, Sol Kumin said on Monday. Kumin’s Head of Plains Racing is partial owner of Exaggerator. Kumin, his partners, and trainer Keith Desormeaux are trying to determine whether to run Exaggerator in the Jim Dandy, train him up to the Travers, or try another plan altogether.

Meanwhile, Gun Runner, third in the Kentucky Derby, was expected to ship to New Jersey on Tuesday for the Haskell, where he will face Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Blue Grass Stakes winner Brody’s Cause, Iowa Derby winner American Freedom, and Awesome Slew.

“I think he’ll benefit from settling in there, walking over there more than once,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He likes to know where he’s at. We’ve avoided a lot of travel with him. When he shipped up here, it took him two or three days to drop his head and act like he knew where he was going.”

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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