SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- While Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice battle for divisional supremacy in Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, seven lesser accomplished but not necessarily inferior 3-year-olds will clash in Saturday's $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.
The goal for runners in both races is the $1 million Travers Stakes here on Aug. 27. Seven of the last 12 Travers winners have prepped in the Jim Dandy, run at 1 1/8 miles.
Stay Thirsty, who fell one-half length shy of Ruler On Ice in the Belmont on June 11, is part of a competitive Jim Dandy field that also includes Blue Grass winner and Belmont third-place finisher Brilliant Speed, Peter Pan winner Alternation, Dwyer Stakes winner Dominus, Matt Winn Stakes winner Scotus, and Victoria Park Stakes winner Moonshine Mullin. Will's Wildcat, who is entered in Friday's Curlin Stakes, was cross-entered in the Jim Dandy
The Jim Dandy will go as race 10 on an 11-race card that begins at 1 p.m. and also includes the Grade 1 Diana Stakes for older fillies and mares on the turf. Both races will be televised live on the cable network Versus beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Stay Thirsty, owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, returns to the track where he won a maiden race last August by 5 1/2 lengths and where he finished second to Boys At Tosconova in the Grade 1 Hopeful. Pletcher is hoping that his affinity for the track comes into play in the Jim Dandy.
"I don't think it hurts," said Pletcher, a four-time Jim Dandy winner. "He trained well here, I thought he trained well at Belmont, Churchill I thought he just trained okay."
Churchill is where Stay Thirsty ran fifth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and 12th in this year's Kentucky Derby.
Stay Thirsty, who began his 3-year-old season with a victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, drew post 6 and will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who was aboard for his Belmont Stakes runner-up finish.
Dominus, who won the Dwyer Stakes in front-running fashion at Belmont on July 2, was looming as the potential main speed again in the Jim Dandy until trainer Jim Baker entered Will's Wildcat. Baker also has Will's Wildcat in Friday's $75,000 Curlin Stakes here and said Wednesday that he wants to evaluate both fields before deciding in which race to run.
Brilliant Speed is the lone Grade 1 winner in the field having taken the Blue Grass Stakes over a synthetic surface in April. Since then, he finished seventh, beaten only 5 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths in the Belmont, run over a sloppy track. Though Brilliant Speed has won on synthetic and turf, trainer Tom Albertrani believes surface is a non-factor.
"Every time the horse runs you see his numbers get better and better," said Albertrani, who won this race in 2006 with Bernardini. "I'm thinking surface is hopefully a dead issue."
The Jim Dandy field, from the rail out, is: Moonshine Mullin (Emma-Jayne Wilson), Dominus (Julien Leparoux), Brilliant Speed (John Velazquez), Scotus (Alan Garica), Will's Wildcat (Robby Albarado), Stay Thirsty (Javier Castellano), and Alternation (Ramon Dominguez).