Wicked Strong wins Jim Dandy at Saratoga, beating Belmont winner Tonalist by 2 1/4 lengths


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SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York — Wicked Strong took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist by 2 1/4 lengths Saturday in the Grade 2 $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course.

Ridden by Rajiv Maragh, the 3-year-old son of Hard Spun ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.16 on the fast main track and paid $6.40, $3.10 and $2.40.

"He kind of put it all together today and put on a good performance," Maragh said. "He was very aggressive today, he put me in the race which I was happy about. Tonalist made a bold move and I thought, 'It's going to be a good horse race.' ... Wicked Strong dug in and found extra and pulled away at the end."

Jimmy Jerkens trains Wicked Strong for Centennial Farms.

"This is great. This is really great," Jerkens said. "The way he works, I don't think Secretariat worked any better than this horse does in the morning. I know the talent's there. It's just getting him to put it all together. ... I think he showed a lot of class today."

Tonalist, the 4-5 favorite in a field of six, returned $2.50 and $2.10.

It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to late-running Kid Cruz, who paid $2.50 to show. He was followed by Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, Ulanbator and Legend.

Wicked Strong has two victories in six starts this year, including fourth-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. He earned $360,000 to push his total to $1,244,610.

It was the second victory in two days for a Jerkens-trained 3-year-old, giving him a pair of options for the centerpiece of the Saratoga meet, the $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 23. On Friday, V.E. Day won the $100,000 Curlin in his stakes debut, going 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.51.

"We're going to think that way, that's for sure," Jerkens said of possibly running both colts in the Travers. "A big race like that, a mile and a quarter, you've got to try it. Tracks are different every day, but (V.E. Day) ran a second slower than Wicked Strong which isn't bad. He has improved in leaps and bounds with each race. Those kinds of horses usually have a lot of quality."

In the co-feature, Coup de Grace won the Grade 2 $200,000 Amsterdam for 3-year-old sprinters by three lengths. Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Coup de Grace ran six furlongs in 1:15.32 and paid $5.70, $3.50 and $2.40. C. Zee returned $5.70 and $3, and favored Captain Serious paid $2.40 to show.

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