What was expected to be a two-horse battle between Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming and his Preakness (G1) conqueror Cloud Computing in Saturday's $588,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga instead turned into a runaway victory by Good Samaritan, who made his first start on dirt a winning one in the 1 1/8-mile Travers (G1) prep.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who was celebrating his 64th birthday on Saturday, Good Samaritan was content to trail the field of five as Always Dreaming set fractions of :24.13 and :48.53, opening up a 3 1/2 length advantage over Cloud Computing after a half-mile. Good Samaritan was more than a dozen lengths off the leader at that point.
Asked to pick it up by Javier Castellano, Cloud Computing went after Always Dreaming approaching the three-quarter mark, whittling Always Dreaming's lead down to a half-length through a split of 1:13.27. The two locked horns in advance of the quarter pole with Pavel, coming off a maiden debut win at Santa Anita, ranging up three wide and in close pursuit of the two classic winners.
Always Dreaming ultimately never gave in to either Cloud Computing or Pavel, but the three-way battle in upper stretch took the starch out of all three as Good Samaritan, who made up considerable ground on the turn and upper stretch, joined the fray just outside the furlong marker and drew off convincingly to win by 4 3/4 lengths under Joel Rosario.
Racing for breeder WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing Group, Good Samaritan paid $19.20 after completing one lap of Saratoga in 1:50.69 on a fast track.
Giuseppe the Great, the 14-1 outsider in the field, also got past the three combatants to earn place honors by a half-length. Always Dreaming had a head in front of Pavel for third, with Cloud Computing another head behind in last.
A debut winner on Saratoga's Mellon turf course last August, Good Samaritan next won the Summer (G2) at Woodbine and then went favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. However, he endured a rough trip from an outside post and could only be third to the speedy Oscar Performance.
That rival has been a thorn in Good Samaritan's side this year as well, beating him in both the Pennine Ridge (G3) and Belmont Derby (G1) in his last two starts. Good Samaritan kicked off his campaign finishing second to Arklow in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard, then finished second in Pennine Ridge and fourth in the Belmont Derby. His record now stands at 7-3-2-1, $767,616.
"[WinStar's] Elliott Walden has been trying to get me to run him on the dirt since the Breeders' Cup," Mott said. "I held him off until after the Triple Crown races were over since we had to lay him up over the winter."
The Kentucky-bred Good Samaritan is by Harlan's Holiday and out of Pull Dancer, by Pulpit.
(Adam Coglianese Photography)