Just because the Triple Crown races are a month in the rearview mirror and the Travers Stakes is still eight weeks away doesn’t mean we’ve hit a summer dead spot in Thoroughbred racing’s 3-year-old season.
Here’s an update on what the major players in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont are up to and where they are headed:
Always Dreaming: The Kentucky Derby winner, who finished a poor eighth in the Preakness for trainer Todd Pletcher, is rested and headed for the Grade II Jim Dandy on July 29 at Saratoga. He’ll have plenty of competition. In fact, it could be the first time since the race started in 1964 that the three winners of Triple Crown races meet each other in the Jim Dandy.
Cloud Computing: The Preakness winner is also being pointed to the Jim Dandy by trainer Chad Brown. The Jim Dandy is traditionally a prep for the Grade I Travers on Aug. 26 at Saratoga.
Tapwrit: Trained by Pletcher, the Belmont Stakes winner is also headed to Saratoga for the Jim Dandy. After prevailing in the Tampa Bay Derby, Tapwrit ran fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes, then sixth in the Kentucky Derby, but proved his talent by winning the grueling mile-and-a-half classic on June 10.
Pletcher did hedge his bet a little concerning Always Dreaming and Tapwrit’s plans, telling Tim Wilkin of the Albany Times-Union on Tuesday, “I really haven’t gotten to that whole thing yet. The Haskell is a day later, and we have not completely ruled out that option for either one of them.”
Classic Empire: The 2016 juvenile champion appears headed for the Grade I Haskell on July 30 at Monmouth Park. A foot abscess knocked the Arkansas Derby winner out of the Belmont after Mark Casse’s star finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness. He is expected to be ready by the end of the month, however.
Irish War Cry: The Graham Motion-trained entry followed his 10th-place Kentucky Derby finish with a runner-up finish in the Belmont. Owned by the daughter of the namesake for the Haskell, Irish War Cry has long targeted the race on the Jersey shore. The Wood Memorial winner would be the sentimental favorite.
Battle of Midway: After an impressive third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Smart Strike returned to California and won the Grade III Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24 by defeating just three horses. Owned by WinStar and Don Alberto Racing, Battle of Midway is expected to enter the Haskell.
McCraken: After finishing third in the Blue Grass and eighth in the Kentucky Derby, McCraken won the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 17. Trainer Ian Wilkes has said that the Haskell is probably next on the itinerary.
Practical Joke: Trainer Chad Brown said he’ll send Practical Joke to the Grade III Dwyer at Belmont Park on July 8 before continuing on to the Haskell. The Blue Grass Stakes runner-up has not raced since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
Patch: The popular colt with one eye hit the board in the Belmont, finishing third after running 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Also trained by Pletcher, he could be headed to the $100,000 Curlin Stakes July 28 at Saratoga. He’s also a possibility for the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 5.
Lookin at Lee: The only horse to run in all three Triple Crown races, Lookin at Lee was second in the Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Preakness and seventh in the Belmont. Trainer Steve Asmussen hasn’t tipped his hand on future plans, but Lookin at Lee could be headed for the West Virginia Derby.
Hence: Friday’s Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows in Altoona is next up for the Sunland Derby winner, who finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby and ninth in the Preakness.
Irap: The Blue Grass Stakes winner finished a disappointing 18th in Kentucky Derby. After trainer Doug O’Neill afforded the Reddam Racing-owned colt some time off, Irap bounced back to edge Girvin by a nose and win the Grade III Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 24.