SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Godolphin Stable’s Kentucky homebred Cody’s Wish spoiled reigning Champion Male Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior’s unblemished record at Saratoga Race Course when he collared his pacesetting rival in deep stretch to score his first Grade 1 win in Saturday’s $600,000 Forego, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses over the main track.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Cody’s Wish was expertly piloted by Junior Alvarado from off the pace to extend his winning streak to three-in-a-row after a determined win in the Hanshin last out on July 4 at Churchill Downs, and the Grade 3 Westchester two starts back at Belmont Park.
Sent from post 5 at odds of 8-1, Cody’s Wish was unhurried from the gate by Alvarado as a sharp-starting Pipeline came away with the lead through the chute. Jackie’s Warrior was asked by jockey Joel Rosario to take command to his inside and led the field of seven through an opening quarter-mile in 22.75 seconds over the fast main track with Pipeline tracking closely under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Jackie’s Warrior breezed through a half-mile in 45.10 while Pipeline gave chase and the trio of Kneedeepinsnow, Three Two Zone and Mott’s second entry, Baby Yoda, were on even terms for third position. A patient Alvarado urged Cody’s Wish for more entering the turn as Kneedeepinsnow retreated, and Jackie’s Warrior continued to battle with a determined Pipeline approaching the top of the lane.
Cody’s Wish responded to Alvarado’s urging with every stride and was swung wide to the center of the racetrack for his run at the two pacesetters, steadily looming to the outside as Jackie’s Warrior drew away from Pipeline at the eighth pole. Rosario implored Jackie’s Warrior for more with a sixteenth to the finish, but Cody’s Wish was full of run and engulfed his accomplished foe five strides before the wire to post a 1 1/4-length victory in a final time of 1:20.95, just .55 seconds off the track record.
Jackie’s Warrior, who suffered his first loss both on the year and at the Spa, held place honors by 2 1/4 lengths over Pipeline with Baby Yoda another six lengths back in fourth. Drafted, Three Two Zone and Kneedeepinsnow completed the order of finish.
Mott said he felt confident in Cody’s Wish’s late-closing style when Jackie’s Warrior was challenged by Pipeline.
“I really thought the style of this race would suit this horse. I was glad to see somebody going with [Jackie’s Warrior], for sure,” Mott said. “I didn’t think it was going to be either of mine. I thought both of ours were going to settle back. I didn’t know whether we were going to be laying second, third or fourth, and actually Cody’s Wish was back a little further. I thought he’d be a little more close to the pace early but as it turned out it was good that somebody entertained Jackie’s Warrior a little bit.”
The win marked the first in this event for Mott, who said the consistent Cody’s Wish has been on the precipice of a top-level victory.
“It’s a very important race. It’s a good race and this is a good horse. He’s deserving of the win,” Mott said. “He’s trained well. If you look at his record he’s won five of his last six and six of his last seven now.”
Cody’s Wish had won his past two starts with a more prominent trip but sat back farther off the pace after Alvarado decided to let his talented colt take advantage of the anticipated quick pace set by the Jackie’s Warrior.
“He’s a horse that has talent and we always knew. On paper, it looks like he can go :22 and :44 but I always thought he could actually do that going a mile, seven furlongs, maybe a little sprinter for him,” Alvarado said. “Bill told me, ‘Maybe you’re going to be laying second.’ In my mind, I thought I was going to be where I was because I knew he had the speed but it’s not sprinter speed, it’s more like a fast miler, so that race unfolded the way I thought it was going to be. I was confident where I was in the back, letting my horse get the rhythm and making sure he finished for me and he showed up today big time.”
Alvarado, who has ridden Mott’s multiple graded stakes winner Speaker’s Corner to three wins and a placing in graded company this year, said winning the Forego against a horse like Jackie’s Warrior takes some of the sting out of a loss to top older horses Flightline and Happy Saver in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in June at Belmont Park.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been working a long time with Bill Mott trying to get those kinds of horses and those kind of races,” said Alvarado, who collected his second Forego score after piloting Strapping Groom to victory in 2013. “I was riding Speaker’s Corner in the same kind of races, and we encountered two big horses. Today, with Cody’s Wish, we encountered Jackie’s Warrior, but everything fell and took place to my favor.”
A bay son of Curlin, Cody’s Wish finished third in his first three outings before graduating in a one-mile maiden in October at Churchill Downs. He went on to post two allowance scores over the Louisville oval before trying stakes company for the first time, coming up just a neck shy of Scalding in the Grade 3 Challenger in March at Gulfstream Park. He followed with his strong victories in the Westchester and Hanshin.
“He’s been good,” Mott said. “This horse has trained like a good horse from the very beginning. He’s become more professional and learned how to run. I thought he’d probably win the first out of his life and it took him a few races to get going and really come into form. He needed to get some experience and now he’s turned into a racehorse.”
With his winnings of $320,000, Cody’s Wish now boasts total purse earnings of $822,130 and a perfect in-the-money record of 10-6-1-3. He returned $18 for a $2 win wager.
Jackie’s Warrior’s Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said despite the loss, he still counts himself lucky to train the esteemed colt who became the first horse to win a Grade 1 in three consecutive years at the Spa with his last-out score in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.
“I can’t [emphasize] how blessed we’ve been to have Jackie’s Warrior,” said Asmussen. “Only just a little sad that was his last time to run here at Saratoga because he’s brought us so much fun and joy here.”
Asmussen took the loss in stride and said he looks forward to the son of Maclean’s Music’s final start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Keeneland.
“He’ll be sharp for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” Asmussen said. “That will be his next and last race.”
Rosario echoed Asmussen’s sentiments and said Jackie’s Warrior runs like a Champion in every race.
“We were dealing with the horse on the outside for a little bit,” Rosario said of the battle with Pipeline. “He responded to everything I asked him to do. The other horse [Cody’s Wish] came with a strong run today. He [Cody’s Wish] was way outside and he was fighting and kept going. But it was a little tough to hold on.
“It can be hard to go on like that, but he did everything I asked him, and the horse ran a tremendous race,” Rosario added. “He gave it his best like always.”
By Mary Eddy
Photo by Susie Raisher