Masqueparade in hopes of being a real Jim Dandy in Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saturday’s top Class II favorite, $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Racetrack, is the essential quality. The Belmont Stakes winner and consensus pick as the nation’s top 3-year-old is the crushing 1-2 favorite on the morning line.

Five others will line up to race against him in the traditional local prep race for the $1.25 million Travers on August 28. One of them is called Masqueparade and he’s the second pick on the morning line at 4-1.

“I don’t worry about those things,” coach Al Stall said of facing Essential Quality as he stood outside his barn on the Saratoga straight Thursday morning. “We just take care of our horse, point to a race and run. Obviously we know that (Essential Quality) is a good 2-5 and if he runs his ‘A’ run we all run for second place. But we haven’t seen our ‘A’ race yet.”

Masqueparade is coming off a half-length win in the Grade III Ohio Derby as the favorite at Thistledown on June 26. It was his third consecutive victory, although one of them came via disqualification. Among the horses he beat in Ohio was Keepmeinmind, who finished fourth in the Preakness and races in the Jim Dandy.

Prior to the Ohio Derby, he took an 11 3/4 victory in an optional indemnity seeker at Churchill Downs on the day of the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t beat much in that race, but he still won impressively, and that set him up for the trip to Ohio.

Here he is now, ready to shoot the champ. Kentucky-based jockey Miguel Mena, who has competed in Masqueparade in all six of his starts, will be there to ride.

A strong performance in the Jim Dandy would make the Travers a very attractive possibility for Upstart’s son.

“You don’t plan these things,” Stall said of the Midsummer Derby. “You dream about those things. If he runs anywhere near his last two races, he should be a factor (Saturday).”

Malathaat gets back to work

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame next Friday, still stings from the defeat of his filly Malathaat at Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks last weekend here. The loss by a 14-1 header, long shot from Maracuja, was always a sore point at the Pletcher barn.

It was the first loss in six starts for Malathaat, considered by many to be the best 3-year-old filly in the country.

“It was tough,” Pletcher said outside his barn on the Oklahoma practice track Thursday morning. “Mostly because she was undefeated to start with and you hate to lose a close one with one that’s never lost before. For me, she had a great run. She fought everyone and she didn’t have everything. just failed to make the last jump.”

Pletcher said Malathaat returned to the track on Wednesday and appeared to be in good shape after the CCA Oaks. She remains on track to return to Grade I, $600,000 in Alabama on August 21.

“She’s a special filly,” said Pletcher. “We were lucky to have a lot of good fillies and she is among the best of them.”

The John Morrissey

Foolish Ghost took control in the stretch and retired to win the featured $100,000 John Morrissey by 3 3/4 lengths on Thursday on a sloppy main track at the Spa.

Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Ray Handal, the 6-year-old gelding won for the ninth time in 32 starts on clay. It was his first win on a wet track after hitting the board four times in seven previous tries. Normally, Foolish Ghost wins his races while in the lead.

“He never gained pace,” Handal said. “There’s only one guy who can do that and that’s Joel. He’s amazing at putting out horses like him. He really finished with a ton of racing.”

Foolish Ghost, the 4-1 third pick in the field of eight, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.70 and paid $10.20, $6 and $4.60. My Boy Tate, ridden by Manny Franco, finished second and Our Last Buck and Luis Saez finished third. Both of these horses are trained by Michelle Nevin.

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