Horse Racing

Posted: July 29, 2012

The Jim Dandy (Saturday)

Saratoga, Race 10 - Post 5:45

$600,000 (Grade II), 3 y.o., 1 1/8 miles

1. Alpha. . . Ramon Dominguez. . . 5-2

2. Fast Falcon. . . Rosie Napravnik. . . 10-1

3. Atigun. . . Julien Leparoux. . . 8-1

4. Neck 'n Neck. . . Leandro Goncalves. . . 3-1

5. My Adonis. . . Javier Castellano. . . 20-1

6. Teeth of the Dog. . . Joel Rosario. . . 5-1

7. Liaison. . . Martin Garcia. . . 7-2

8. Prospective. . . John Velazquez. . . 12-1

You could make a reasonable case that this is actually a more competitive race than Sunday's Haskell. Each of these eight horses has some positive qualities. There are no obvious throw outs. Neck 'n Neck appeared to be heading nowhere fast until blowing up in his last two races. If he runs back to that form, he will have a big chance at his first major win. Liaison ran a deceptively good race when sixth in the Kentucky Derby at 56-1. His two races in California since then have confirmed that effort. The colt's trainer Bob Baffert (32 percent in 2012) is having a really good year, even for him. Teeth of the Dog was visually dazzling in his two recent stakes win at Belmont Park, but the numbers say he is not fast enough.

* D.J.'s picks

1. Neck 'n Neck

2. Liaison

3. Teeth of the Dog

The San Diego Handicap (Saturday)

Del Mar, Race 8 - Post 8:30

$200,000 (Grade II), 3 y.o. & up, 1-1/16 miles

1. Kettle Corn. . . Garrett Gomez. . . 3-1

2. Mobilized. . . Corey Nakatani. . . 12-1

3. Tres Borrachos. . . Mike Smith. . . 8-1

4. John Scott. . . Victor Espinoza. . . 4-1

5. Take Control. . . Rafael Bejarano. . . 4-1

6. Prayer for Relief. . . Joe Talamo. . . 7-2

7. Rail Trip. . . Jose Valdivia Jr.. . . 7-2

Prayer for Relief won three second-tier 3-year-old stakes last year, but has not won in five 2012 starts. His last two races, however, have been exceptional. He just happened to run against some terrific horses. This race does not have that kind of talent so it is the right spot for the colt to get a win. Take Control made an amazing debut late in 2009 and then did not run again for 2 1/2 years. The brilliantly bred horse (A.P. Indy out of Azeri) won off that long layoff and may be good enough to win again here. John Scott is dangerous, because there is so little early speed in this race.

* D.J.'s picks

1. Prayer for Relief

2. Take Control

3. John Scott

The Haskell Invitational (Sunday)

Monmouth Park, Race 13 - Post 6:17

$1 million, 3 y.o., 1 1/8 miles

1. Nonios. . . Corey Nakatani. . . 7-2

2. Dullahan. . . Kent Desormeaux. . . 3-1

3. Paynter. . . Rafael Bejarano. . . 3-2

4. Gemologist. . . Javier Castellano. . . 3-1

5. Handsome Mike. . . Mario Gutierrez. . . 15-1

6. Stealcase. . . Shaun Bridgmohan. . . 8-1

Not the Bodemeister-Union Rags matchup that looked likely a month ago, but still an intriguing race. Check out the result of Saturday's Jim Dandy before making a final decision. If Liaison runs well at Saratoga, expect a huge effort from Nonios in this spot. Without benefit of that information, I still like Nonios. The colt seems to be getting better with each race and as the distances increase. Paynter will be difficult to catch unless longshot Handsome Mike makes him run too fast too soon. Trainer Bob Baffert could win all three of my races this week and nobody should be surprised. Back in the spring, Baffert actually said he liked Paynter more than Bodemeister. Dullahan has serious talent, but is still a question on conventional dirt. Gemologist had never lost before his Derby debacle so he is certainly capable.

* D.J.'s picks:

1. Nonios

2. Paynter

3. Dullahan

- Dick Jerardi

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