SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — A Little Warm set himself up for a run at the division leaders with a victory in the Grade II, $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday, and Juddmonte Farms' Proviso was out front in a three-horse blanket finish to win the Grade I, $500,000 Diana on the turf at Saratoga.
A Little Warm, ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Tony Dutrow, wore down Miner's Reserve to prevail by 13/4 lengths in the 11⁄8-mile test.
The Jim Dandy was A Little Warm's third win in five starts this season. The Stormin Fever colt did not compete in the Triple Crown, but his latest victory firmly establishes him as a contender for the Grade I Travers Stakes on Aug. 28.
"I felt strongly he was going to run a terrific race, but I don't know if that was going to be good enough to win," Dutrow said. "We work so hard with these animals and, when you achieve a race like this, it's bigger than life."
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Owned by Edward Evans, A Little Warm tracked Miner's Reserve through fractions of 23.32, 46.80 and 1:10.82, moving up to collar the pace setter at the head of the stretch and gaining the lead with 200 yards to go. Final time for the distance was 1:47.98.
"You can place him wherever you want and let the speed go," Velazquez said. "When you ask him, he's there for you. That's what I like about him."
Miner's Reserve paid $13.60 and $7.90, and Afleet Express returned $3.50 to show.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who saddled the second-place finisher and the beaten favorite, Fly Down, who was fifth, had mixed emotions after the race.
"Fly Down just didn't fire," said Zito of the Belmont Stakes runner-up. "Hopefully he comes back well. We'll just regroup and hopefully come back in the Travers."
Five-year-old Proviso came into the 11⁄8-mile Diana off two consecutive Grade I victories at a mile — the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap at Santa Anita in March and the Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard in June.
The daughter of Dansili claimed a narrow advantage over Dynaslew in the final sixteenth, then held off the late charges of Shared Account and Forever Together to prevail by a head, with Shared Account edging out two-time defending race winner Forever Together by a nose for second.
Proviso, the 5-2 second choice in the field of seven, covered the distance in 1:47.04 and improved her record to 8-3-5 from 21 starts.
"At this moment, I don't think we have decided where we'll go," trainer Bill Mott said. "We've won three Grade I's this year, so I suppose the heat is off."
Pleasant Prince reigns in Ohio Derby
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Pleasant Prince earned his first graded stakes win on Saturday when he rallied to edge Worldly by a nose in the Grade III, $100,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.
The son of Indy King was making his first start since running 11th in the Preakness Stakes and earned his second win in 11 starts. With Alex Solis up, he covered the 11⁄16 miles in 1:43.90.