Jackie’s Warrior continues Saratoga dominance in winning G1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial

August 28, 2021

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – J. Kirk and Judy Robison Jackie’s Warrior already proved his adeptness in winning high-caliber stakes races as a pacesetter. The MacLean’s Music colt proved he could also close strong on Saturday, overtaking Life Is Good when straightened for home and thwarting his re-really attempt to post a neck win in the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial for 3-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.

The 37th running of the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, formerly the King’s Bishop that was renamed in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer, saw Jackie’s Warrior win his fourth graded stakes in as many attempts at the Spa, building on his last-out gate-to-wire 7 1/4-length romp in the Grade 2 Amsterdam on August 1.

Earning another winner’s circle trip didn’t come easy for Jackie’s Warrior, who saw Life Is Good break sharp from the outermost post 6 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to lead the field of sophomores through the opening quarter-mile in 21.97 seconds and the half in 44.16 over the fast main track.

Jackie’s Warrior, with Joel Rosario in the irons, tracked in second position, with his rider keeping him near the rail approaching the final turn. With Life Is Good in the two-path at the top of the stretch, Jackie’s Warrior capitalized on open running room from the inside and responded to Rosario’s right-handed encouragement to hold off a resurgent Life Is Good, hitting the wire in a final time of 1:21.39.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen notched his second consecutive win in the H. Allen Jerkens after saddling Echo Town last year. Jackie’s Warrior gave the all-time winningest North American thoroughbred conditioner another victory to his ledger while improving to 7-1-1 overall in 10 career starts.

“Jackie was away clean so I wasn’t concerned when Life Is Good outbroke him. He was a comfortable horse,” said Asmussen, who won his second Grade 1 in as many races on the Runhappy Travers Day card after Yaupon won the $600,000 Forego in Race 8. “Joel has a tremendous amount of confidence in him. He was traveling nicely and wasn’t pulling against him or anything. When they threw up forty-four and five they were rolling along. They separated from the others.”

Off at 3-2, Jackie’s Warrior returned $5.10 on a $2 win bet and increased his career bankroll to more than $1.33 million. He remains undefeated at the Spa after winning the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Hopeful in last year’s meet.

“This horse is incredible,” Asmussen said. “The thing you just love about him is his demeanor and the way he goes about everything that he does. We breezed Jackie and Yaupon together 12 or 13 days ago and the way that they handled it and the way they came back from it gives you all kinds of confidence. I think they both ran their race and showed their Grade 1 ability against great fields and on Travers Day. What could be better?”

Rosario won his second career H. Allen Jerkens after piloting Practical Joke to victory in 2017.

“He broke really well and it looked like Life Is Good was very speedy too, so I decided to stay where I was,” Rosario said. “He [Jackie’s Warrior] is a nice horse and ran a tremendous race.

“I felt confident, but Life Is Good was not giving up and a lot of credit to him too, it was a very good race,” he added.

Asmussen said the next races are still undetermined as he maps out a plan for Jackie’s Warrior and Yaupon to get to the Breeders’ Cup in November at Del Mar.

“It was easy to target these races for these horses this year and we’re going to savor that knowing how important these two races are for these two horses, and then we will figure out how to get to the Breeders’ Cup with them,” Asmussen said.

Life Is Good, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, entered 3-for-3 after back-to-back stakes wins at Santa Anita in the Grade 3 Sham in January and the Grade 2 San Felipe in March. The Into Mischief colt, off as the slight 4-5 favorite, was 8 3/4-lengths clear of Following Sea for second in his first start in nearly six months.

“I thought he ran super,” Pletcher said. “He ran 1:21 and 1 off a long layoff. It was a big effort.”

Added Smith, Life Is Good’s rider: “He never stops trying. It was his first race back. We’re asking him to run against probably the best sprinters in the country, if not the world, to be honest with you right now, and for him to run like he did it was pretty incredible.

“I would like to have been able to just gear him down a little bit more down the backside, but he’s very aggressive and every movement you make, he feels it and he responds to it,” Smith continued. “If you try to grab him he runs on you, he pulls more and wants to get out so you got to really be sensitive with it and I thought he ran great for his first race back, I really did.”

Drain the Clock, who had bested Jackie’s Warrior as the duo ran 1-2 in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day June 5 before running second to Jackie’s Warrior in the Amsterdam, finished fourth in the rematch. Newbomb and Judge N Jury completed the order of finish.

Sunday will feature a 10-race card at Saratoga headlined by the $120,000 Better Talk Now for 3-year-olds that have never won a stake at a mile or more, scheduled for eight furlongs over the inner turf course in Race 9 at 5:39 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:05 p.m.

H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Replay

Saratoga Race Course Press Release

Photo: Jackie’s Warrior, (Chelsea Durand Photo)

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