ELMONT, N.Y. – Undefeated one-turn titans Jackie’s Warrior and Drain the Clock will square off in Saturday’s 37th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.
The historic seven-furlong sprint for sophomores is named in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer, whose biggest claim to fame was capturing an unprecedented five straight wins in the Belmont Stakes with Conquistador Cielo , Caveat , Swale , Crème Fraiche  and Danzig Connection .
Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., Drain the Clock arrives at his first Grade 1 test off an effortless triumph in the Grade 3 Bay Shore on April 3 at Aqueduct, where he crossed the wire in hand under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
“He’ll have to run his career best, but we feel like he’s sitting on his career best,” Joseph, Jr. said.
Two open-length victories at Gulfstream Park, when taking the six-furlong Limehouse on January 2 and the Grade 3 Swale at seven furlongs four weeks later, prompted Joseph, Jr. to try a two turn Kentucky Derby-qualifier with the son of Maclean’s Music in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, where he finished a good second to Greatest Honour.
“I feel he’s a better one-turn horse. Can he win two turns? Yes, against the right company,” Joseph, Jr. said. “But for him to achieve his full potential, one turn is his best distance. He’s unbeaten at one turn. It’s coming up a small field, but I think any one of them could win it. He’ll have to run his best, but he’s won most of his one-turn races quite handily and we never really let him out fully.”
Although Drain the Clock has displayed brilliance when commanding from start to finish, he has also won from just off the pace, exhibiting tactical speed in his Limehouse and Swale victories.
“He doesn’t need to have the lead,” Joseph Jr. said. “He can sit handy. He sat second in the Swale. I wouldn’t want him too far off of it, but he doesn’t need the lead.”
Drain the Clock is owned by Slam Dunk Racing, Wonder Stables, Madaket Stables and Michael Nentwig. He breaks from post 2 under Ortiz, Jr.
J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Jackie’s Warrior boasts an unbeaten 5-for-5 record around one turn and returns to Belmont, where he ran a career best 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 1 Champagne going a one-turn mile in October.
Having won five of seven lifetime starts, Jackie’s Warrior boasts earnings of $868,964 – the highest bankroll in the field.
Also a son of Maclean’s Music, Jackie’s Warrior was fourth as the beaten favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keenland before running a distant third in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park in February. He made a triumphant return to one turn against a contentious field in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs.
Jackie’s Warrior will attempt to give Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen his fourth Woody Stephens win, having previously sent out Posse , J Be K  and Justin Phillip .
Jockey Joel Rosario, who rode Jackie’s Warrior in six of his seven lifetime starts, also attempts a fourth Woody Stephens victory from post 3.
Trainer Brad Cox cuts Caddo River back in distance off three starts on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Owned by John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable, Caddo River never relinquished when commanding the pace in both of his lifetime wins. Following a superb third-out maiden victory by 9 ½ lengths at Churchill Downs, the son of Hard Spun parlayed such ways into stakes company when conquering the Smarty Jones by 10 ¼ lengths.
Following a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 2 Rebel on March 13, Caddo River ran a much improved second to Super Stock in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in his most recent effort.
“We’re hopeful that the cutback is the play here from the mile and an eighth,” Cox said. “He’s been freshened a little bit. He’s been working steady over the past month and hopefully, with a good trip, he can have a breakthrough performance and maybe pick off a Grade 1. I think the shortening up will be good for him.”
Cox expressed no regrets at taking a crack at the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“It’s nothing but a positive. He made it through it,” Cox said. “We just felt like it wasn’t going to set up for us in the Kentucky Derby and he’s not a horse who really wanted a mile and a quarter, so we’re hoping that backing up to seven-eighths will be a positive for him.”
A Kentucky homebred, Caddo River is out of the stakes-winning Congrats mare Pangburn.
Jockey Florent Geroux will ride from post 6.
Invading from California is Dream Shake, who has placed in all three of his starts at graded stakes level for trainer Peter Eurton.
After an in-hand first out victory on February 7 at Santa Anita, the son of Twirling Candy finished a distant third to Life Is Good in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 6 at the Arcadia oval. Following another third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby behind Grade 1 Belmont Stakes aspirant Rock Your World and Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, Dream Shake cut back to one turn for the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs. He tracked right off Jackie’s Warrior throughout the backstretch run, maintaining position in the stretch drive but was kept at bay finishing a head shy of victory.
Dream Shake is owned by Exline-Border Racing, SAF Racing, Stonestreet Stables and Richard Hausman.
Leaving from post 4, Dream Shake will be piloted by Flavien Prat.
Michael Shanley’s homebred Nova Rags seeks a breakthrough win for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags has acquired graded stakes black type when finishing second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park.
Two starts after a successful debut in October when travelling six furlongs at Belmont Park, Nova Rags made his lone start at seven furlongs when capturing the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs.
Jockey Junior Alvarado rides from post 1.
Completing the field is David Ingordo’s Tulane Tryst who will try and let the good times roll into his graded stakes debut. The son of leading sire Into Mischief broke his maiden going six furlongs on March 20 at Fair Grounds, defeating next-out winners Mr Sippi and Koolhaus. He arrives off a runner-up finish against winners on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Breaking form post 5, Tulane Tryst will be ridden by jockey Luis Saez.
The Woody Stephens will be carded as Race 3 on Saturday’s 11-race program. First post is 11:35 p.m.
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Belmont Park Press Release
Photo: Jackie’s Warrior, (NYRA/Joe Labozetta)