Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice is the top attraction among 10 3-year-olds for Saturday's $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. The 1 1/8-mile stakes leads into the $1 million Travers on August 24.
Palace Malice, trained by Todd Pletcher, will again be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and leave from post 5. Smith is a two-time winner of the Jim Dandy having won aboard Chief Honcho (1990) and Awesome Again (1997).
Pletcher is a five-time winner of the race: Graeme Hall (2000), Strong Hope (2003), Purge (2004), Flower Alley (2005) and Stay Thirsty (2011).
Palace Malice, owned by Dogwood Stable, was always near the lead in the "Test of the Champion." The colt, who set the pace in the Kentucky Derby wearing blinkers for the first time and finished 12th, was not wearing blinkers for the Belmont Stakes and was able to post a 3 1/4-length victory over Preakness winner Oxbow with Kentucky Derby champ Orb finishing third in the 14-horse field.
"I think he's done super since the Belmont," Pletcher noted. "If anything, he's gotten bigger and stronger, and it seems like he took that race really well. He's getting better all the time. He's been really push-button."
Palace Malice has just two wins in eight career races for $871,135.
This year the colt was third in the Rebel Stakes and seventh in the Louisiana Derby, both at Fair Grounds. He came back to finish second to Java's War in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Preakness champ Oxbow is being sent to Monmouth Park for Sunday's Haskell Invitational. So in his stead, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will start Will Take Charge in the Jim Dandy.
The chestnut colt, owned by Willis Horton, will start from post 3 with Junior Alvarado riding.
Will Take Charge was 10th last time out in the Belmont Stakes which followed an eighth in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Preakness.
"He was moving beautifully in the Derby but he got stopped," said Lukas about Will Take Charge. "That could have made him right there. I'm not saying he would have won it, but he was moving with Orb at the time and would have been right there. He's had some rough trips. I'm hoping this track with bigger, wider turns will be a little better for him."
The colt won the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park in January followed by a sixth in the Southwest and a win in the Rebel at the Arkansas track. He then trained up to the Run for the Roses.
Will Take Charge has banked $545,371 with three wins in 10 starts.
Vyjack began the year with solid victories in the Jerome and Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. The gelding was third in the Wood Memorial, 18th in the Kentucky Derby and eighth in the Belmont Stakes. Saturday, he tries to rebound in the Jim Dandy for owner Pick Six Racing and trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
"If he shows up, I think he can compete with these horses," Rodriguez said about Vyjack. "If he doesn't, then we've got to regroup and maybe back off, give him two or three months on the farm and bring him back fresh. He's a gelding, so we don't need to squeeze everything out of him."
Vyjack will break from the far outside post with John Velazquez in the saddle. The gelding has won four of his seven career starts for $542,200.
Here is the full field for the Jim Dandy in post position order: Bashaar, Javier Castellano; Code West, Joel Rosario; Will Take Charge, Junior Alvarado; Moreno, Jose Ortiz; Palace Malice, Mike Smith; Perfect Title, Shaun Bridgmohan; Freedom Child, Luis Saez; Mylute, Rosie Napravnik; Looking Cool, Edgar Prado and Vyjack, John Velazquez.
Post-time for the Jim Dandy will be approximately 5:45 p.m. (ET).