SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s reigning Champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior, who raced his way into history last month, will continue his assault on the Saratoga Race Course record books when he goes for a sixth career stakes victory over a track where he is undefeated in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Forego.
The 43rd running of the seven-furlong Forego for 4-year-olds and up is one of six graded stakes, five of them Grade 1, worth $4.1 million in purses on a blockbuster 13-race program highlighted by the 153rd renewal of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers.
Jackie’s Warrior won as he pleased in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt July 30, a two-length triumph that made him the first horse in Saratoga’s 154-year history to win a Grade 1 race for three consecutive years following the Hopeful in 2020 and H. Allen Jerkens in a memorable 2021 throwdown with Life Is Good.
Four weeks later, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen continues to be awed by the 4-year-old Maclean’s Music colt that has won each of his four starts this year, all in graded stakes, including a fifth Grade 1 in the May 7 Churchill Downs.
“You look at his record this year, he’s 4-for-4 in some serious races in non-threatening styles, watching the races. I can’t imagine a horse going through a year with that being how hard you’re running, but to this point that’s what we’ve witnessed,” Asmussen said. “He’s immortal. He’s the only racehorse ever to win a Grade 1 three years in a row at Saratoga. The only horse, ever, at Saratoga. They’ve got a few decent pictures on the wall around here.
“What has he done? Something nobody else has. That was the part that was unbelievable. It’s overwhelming. What’s that mean? It’s something you really can’t wrap your head around when you’re growing up in a racing family and what Saratoga is and who has run here,” he added. “It’s amazing. With that being said, that will not give him a head start on Saturday. That’s the great thing about horse racing. You’ve got to do it again.”
Jackie’s Warrior became a stakes winner in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in 2020, his second career start, and splashed to an easy triumph in last summer’s Grade 2 Amsterdam prior to the Jerkens. According to Equibase statistics which date to 1976, Jackie’s Warrior and Irish Linnet (1990-95) are tied with five career stakes wins at Saratoga. The leader is Irish Linnet’s one-time Leo O’Brien-trained stablemate, Fourstardave, with six between 1987 and 1995.
“I’m very excited for another chance to run him in a Grade 1 at Saratoga,” Asmussen said. “I’m very nervous. He’s too good to be true. Just having him in training this year has been an unbelievable gift that we’ve been given. I feel the responsibility of it and want it to go well for him and all of his fans. He’s been excellent for so long, and you look at him as a sprinter, the mass and body that he carries – it’s unbelievable. It really is. For a big horse as fast as he is, with some age on him, the energy he still shows is incredible.”
Joel Rosario, who earned his first Eclipse Award as champion jockey in 2021, has been aboard Jackie’s Warrior since the Saratoga Special and will get a leg up for the 16th straight race on Saturday. Asmussen credited Rosario with being an integral part of the colt’s success.
“I think Joel’s style of riding him has led to his great attitude and his willingness to continue to run at this level so many times,” Asmussen said. “For me, I think Joel’s best attribute is what a great passenger he is. He doesn’t seem to get in their way.
“I think the issue is why had nobody ever won three Grade 1s before, and what would be the difference. I think that [Rosario] deserves some credit, doing enough with him to win without taking any future races out of him,” he added. “With that being said, I don’t think there is any two harder races than I’ve had a horse run than his Pat Day Mile or his Allen Jerkens. His visually easy victories have also been backed up by some very good duels.”
Rosario and Jackie’s Warrior will break from post position 3 in a field of seven as the 124-pound topweight for the Forego, which is expected to be his penultimate start before standing stud at Spendthrift Farm in 2023 following the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint November 5 at Keeneland.
“He’s had an amazing year. All four of his victories have looked the same. I don’t know if I’ve been as nervous running a horse in a long time as I was last time he ran,” Asmussen said. “When I was made aware no horse had ever won a Grade 1 three years in a row at Saratoga and with him being such a special horse to us, you wanted to get that accomplished, and he did.
“Now we go back into the Forego and you wonder, ‘Have we done enough with him?’ Trainers are always concerned about something, but we realize how fortunate we are to have him to run this year at all,” he added. “On the racetrack, he’s a really beautiful horse. He’s got a lot of presence about him. Everybody notices him when we take him to the track. He’s just been that kind of horse for the barn and we are so fortunate and blessed to have him.”
Among the rivals for Jackie’s Warrior is the pair of Baby Yoda and Cody’s Wish for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Jarold Zaro’s Baby Yoda enters the Forego off a three-length optional claiming allowance triumph at the course and distance July 16. Three-for-three lifetime at Saratoga, he ran fourth to Jackie’s Warrior, beaten 12 1/4-lengths, in the Grade 2 True North June 10 at Belmont Park.
“He likes this track. He likes the distance,” Mott said. “Look, if Jackie’s Warrior runs his race we’re probably all running for second. They have to run the race.”
Godolphin’s Cody’s Wish, a homebred son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, has put together back-to-back wins – a game neck victory in the July 4 Hanshin at Churchill that followed a five-length score in the Grade 3 Westchester May 7 at Belmont. All five of his career wins have come in as many tries at one mile, and he will be sprinting for the first time since running third in a maiden special weight last September at Saratoga.
“He should be able to handle it fine,” Mott said. “He’s gotten better and more consistent. He’s been running really well. No complaints about him. We’ve always thought he was a nice horse. We’ll see how seven-eighths suits him. I think he’ll be OK.”
Baby Yoda drew post position 1 with Jose Ortiz, while Cody’s Wish and Junior Alvarado will break from post position 5.
John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock’s Pipeline beat Cody’s Wish to break his maiden last year and is seeking his first stakes win in the Forego. Third by a neck as the favorite in the seven-furlong Perryville at Keeneland and last of eight in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile to cap 2021, the 4-year-old son of champion sprinter Speightstown won a one-mile allowance April 22 at Aqueduct and was second by 1 3/4 lengths last out to Chad Brown-trained stablemate Highly Motivated in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup July 23.
Irad Oritz Jr. has the call on Pipeline from post position 6.
Dublin Fjord Stables, Race Point Stables, Kevin Hilbert and Thomas O’Keefe’s Drafted will be making his seventh straight stakes start in the Forego for trainer David Duggan. The 8-year-old Field Commission gelding captured the Grade 3 Runhappy by a length May 14 at Belmont and the Mr. Prospector June 4 at Monmouth before having his win streak snapped when second to Whereshetoldmetogo in the Alapocas Run July 2 at Delaware Park – all sprinting six furlongs. Drafted owns two wins going seven-eighths, including the Grade 3 Toboggan February 5 at Aqueduct.
Luis Rodriguez Castro rides Drafted from post position 2.
Ten Strike Racing’s Kneedeepinsnow will take another shot at Jackie’s Warrior after closing to be second in the Vanderbilt. Since being claimed for $80,000 by trainer Matt Shirer out of an April 29 win at Keeneland, the Flat Out gelding has placed in three consecutive stakes, running second to Isolate in the June 11 Work All Week at Hawthorne and third to 2021 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West in the July 2 Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs.
Ricardo Santana Jr. has the riding assignment on Kneedeepinsnow from post position 7.
Completing the field is Alonzo Racing, Michael Bagnoli and Jackie Bagnoli’s Three Two Zone, a 4-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense that will be making his first stakes start since running third in the seven-furlong City of Laurel last November at Laurel Park. He is also coming out of a win going the Forego distance at Saratoga in a third-level optional claiming allowance July 17.
Dylan Davis gets the return call on Three Two Zone, who drew post position 4.
The Forego is slated as Race 5 on a program that begins at 11:35 a.m. Eastern. The Runhappy Travers on FOX, with the Travers slated as Race 11 at 5:44 p.m., will air as part of a 90-minute broadcast from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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Main photo: Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (Dom Napolitano)