Vanderbilt Handicap & Jim Dandy Odds & Preview

The A-list celebrities are out in force at Saratoga on Saturday, with the dazzlingly fast Elite Power – 2022 champion sprinter and riding a seven-race winning streak – on course to maintain his dominance of the division in the headline G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, with the gutsy Gunite a capable threat to the favorite given his fine record at this track.

Every horse-player will have a close eye on the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Saturday, as it brings together multiple G1 winner Forte, the 3-4-5 from the Kentucky Derby in Angel Of Empire, Disarm and Hit Show, and the new shooter Saudi Crown for what will be a mouthwatering test of ability and reputation.

Breeders Cup Odds

Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap

G1, $350,000, 6f dirt, 3yo+, 4.26pm ET

There is a one-sided look to the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, the feature at Saratoga on a high-quality Saturday, as it is dominated by a seemingly unstoppable champion sprinter bidding to stretch his winning streak to eight.

The 2022 Eclipse Award winner Elite Power is well named, for that is exactly what he has shown in all his starts since breaking his maiden, winning between six furlongs and a mile – including over this course and distance – and cruising to victory in the 2022 G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.

Elite Power has carried over his brilliance into two starts this term, dusting off Gunite by three and a quarter lengths in the six-furlong 2023 G3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia, and then winning the 2023 G2 True North at Belmont Park with a ton in hand, wrapped up late against overmatched rivals – Synthesis a longshot last of six.

He’s the best sprinter out there and will be very hard to beat despite spotting 2lb to Gunite and at least 6lb to the others, and although Saratoga is playing for pace this meet he never gets too far back for that to matter.

The tough-cookie Gunite has made the first two in all four starts at the Spa and had to do no more than expected when a comfortable winner of a six-furlong stakes at Churchill Downs last month. He has plenty to make up on Elite Power from Saudi running, but he never runs a bad race and could take advantage of the favorite misfires.

Little Vic ticked off his first Graded-Stakes score with a no-nonsense display in the 2023 G3 Tom Fool at Aqueduct over six furlongs, but he was off the board in higher grade in his last two starts. He gets a pass for the first one because he bled, but he seems to need an easier spot, although today’s distance suits him best.

The in-form Dean Delivers is a long way from home-sweet-home Gulfstream Park, where he nailed his first Graded win last time in the 2023 G3 Smile Sprint over six furlongs, going gate-to-wire in comfort. He has never started outside Florida, so is out of his comfort zone already, but he figures as a pace angle and may have an impact.

Linda Rice has been in superb form this meet and leads the trainer rankings, although it’s doubtful she can get more out of Gun It, who killed a 13-race losing streak when an easy winner of a six-furlong Belmont allowance five weeks ago. He has a big class deficit to overcome, while stakes debutant Awesome Aaron is outclassed.

2023 Vanderbilt Handicap Odds

Prediction: It’s impossible to oppose the streaking ELITE POWER, the reigning champion sprinter who crushed today’s main rival Gunite the last time they met.

Gun ItJose L. Ortiz+1000
SynthesisManuel Franco+2000
Awesome AaronDylan Davis+3000
Elite PowerIrad Ortiz, Jr.-125
GuniteTyler Gaffalione+160
Dean DeliversEmisael Jaramillo+800
Little VicCarlos Olivero+1500

Jim Dandy Stakes

G2, $500,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo, 5.45pm ET

The quest to find the best three-year-old colt of 2023 continues in a short-field Jim Dandy, the most intriguing contest at Saratoga on Saturday, and the place to start is obviously with the best two-year-old colt of 2022.

It has not been plain sailing for last year’s champion juvenile Forte, although it seemed that way when he beat subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Mage in the 2023 G2 Fountain of Youth and the 2023 G1 Florida Derby – his fourth win at the top level – at Gulfstream Park in the spring.

A late injury ruled him out of the Kentucky Derby and he did not return until the G1 Belmont ten weeks later. There, over the unsuitably long mile and a half, he lost position around the turn before plugging on late to get the place in a frantic finish for the minor honors. He was three-quarters of a length ahead of Angel Of Empire and Hit Show, barnmates who dead-heated for fourth when basically running on empty.

Forte was not particularly impressive that day, but the sharp reduction in distance is a positive – as it is for Angel Of Empire and Hit Show – and he gets first-time blinkers to help him focus, something his trainer has been concerned about. He is a grinder not a cruiser but sets a very high standard here.

Angel Of Empire won the 2023 G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park with authority and then went off favorite for the Kentucky Derby when he rallied from a mile back for third. He was three lengths ahead of the plodding-on longshot Disarm in fourth and another length and three-quarters clear of outsider Hit Show, who sat close to the fast pace and had no kick late.

A similar performance would put Angel Of Empire right in the firing line. He probably has more quality than Disarm, who followed on from Churchill Downs to make his stakes breakthrough in the 2023 G3 Matt Winn over a mile-eighth at Ellis Park, beating a horse who won a G3 next time out.

Hit Show seems a cut below the rest and a bigger danger could very well be his other barnmate Saudi Crown, who has major scope for improvement after just three starts and whose front-running tactics will suit the way the track is playing.

Saudi Crown was impressive in defeat on his stakes debut in the 2023 G3 Dwyer over a mile at Belmont, setting sizzling fractions and battling very gamely when headed to go down by just a nose. He comes here as the lone speed, should be okay with stretching out and could take some catching.

Prediction  Forte is the one to beat but the up-and-coming SAUDI CROWN is the lone speed and could get his own way out front. He has claims to spring an upset.

DisarmJoel Rosario+600
ForteIrad Ortiz, Jr.+140
Hit ShowLuis Saez+600
Saudi CrownFlorent Geroux+250
Angel of EmpireFlavien Prat+250

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