A Little Rain Can't Dampen Epicenter's Final Jim Dandy Drill
July 26, 20222 min read
Trainers are creatures of habit and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is no different. Thus, despite a deluge of rain accompanied by a few rumbles of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning, Asmussen sent Epicenter out early Monday morning for his final work before Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes.
With the rain teeming down, Epicenter went a half-mile in 49.59 seconds over the sealed, muddy Oklahoma training track. Under exercise rider Wilson Fabian, Epicenter went his opening quarter in 25.49 seconds and his second quarter in 24.10 in hand.
“My instructions to Wilson were please don’t get hit by lightning,” Asmussen quipped afterward.
Asmussen said he went ahead with the work for Epicenter – and three others including 2021 Grade 1 Hopeful winner Gunite – because he felt the track was in good shape, despite the weather.
“The only hesitation was to make sure there were no soft spots in it,” Asmussen said. “It was firm, sealed, nice. Blowing him out to run on a sealed, wet racetrack takes nothing out of him. It’s almost ideal. I’d much rather work on wet track than a deep one.”
Monday’s move was Epicenter’s third in Saratoga and seventh since the Preakness where he finished second to Early Voting, one of his expected three or four rivals in the Jim Dandy. Epicenter was also second to Rich Strike as the 4-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
Asmussen said he has not seen much change in Epicenter since the spring classics. And that’s just fine with him.
“His numbers were faster than any 3-year-old I had going into the Derby, so incremental improvement will be harder to sustain because of how fast he was going early,” Asmussen said. “That’s why I love seeing how consistent he is in his training. What difference do I see? Nothing, which is perfect.”
Prior to the classics, Epicenter raced four times at Fair Grounds, winning the Gun Runner Stakes, getting beat a head in the Grade 3 Lecomte, and winning the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby – both Grade 2 stakes.
In the Jim Dandy, Epicenter is scheduled to take on Preakness winner Early Voting, Blue Grass Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Zandon and Ohio Derby winner Tawny Port. Ethereal Road, the Sir Barton Stakes winner, is possible. Entries are to be taken and post positions assigned Wednesday for the Jim Dandy, which is the prelude to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers here on Aug. 27.
Friday’s $135,000 Curlin Stakes figures to yield a Travers starter or two. The field of nine includes Preakness third-place finisher Creative Minister, recent allowance winners Western River and Be Better, Peter Pan runner-up Golden Glider, and recent maiden winner Artorius.