SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Jackie’s Warrior will seek to solidify himself as the nation’s leading sophomore sprinter when taking on a compact but highly talented field in Saturday’s 37th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial at seven furlongs over the Saratoga Race Course main track.
The prestigious event, formerly known as the King’s Bishop, has seen five of its winners go on to earn the Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter in their respective years, including Housebuster , Squirtle Squirt , Lost in the Fog , Runhappy  and Drefong .
Jackie’s Warrior, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, has shown an affinity for Saratoga having not come close to losing in three starts at the Spa. After a three-length victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special last August, the son of Maclean’s Music won the Grade 1 Hopeful by 2 ¼ lengths en route to a 5 ½-length score in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park, where he earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He’s done really well,” Asmussen said. “All three of his races at Saratoga were obviously very good. We’re anxious to run him here again.”
After falling to Essential Quality – the favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1 Runhappy Travers – in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Grade 3 Southwest, both around two turns, Jackie’s Warrior regained winning form when cutting back to one turn for the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile on May 1 at Churchill Downs, fending off a stretch rally from Dream Shake to win by a head.
Jackie’s Warrior then saw his unbeaten record around one-turn thwarted when losing the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on June 5 at Belmont Park to returning rival Drain the Clock but displayed his most dominant effort yet when splashing through a sloppy and sealed main track at Saratoga, to turn the tables on his familiar foe in the Grade 2 Amsterdam on August 1 by 7 ¼ lengths, earning a career-best 102 Beyer.
The Amsterdam Replay
A victory would make Jackie’s Warrior the third horse in the last four years to capture both the Hopeful at 2 and the H. Allen Jerkens at 3, joining Practical Joke  and Mind Control .
Regular rider Joel Rosario will vie for his second Allen Jerkens victory when he pilots Jackie’s Warrior from post 2.
Jackie’s Warrior’s biggest obstacle could come from the presence of returning graded stakes winner Life Is Good, who arrives off a five-month hiatus and makes his debut for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
The highly regarded son of leading sire Into Mischief, owned by CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm, is unbeaten in three starts on the West Coast and has never been behind horses at any point of call, when racing for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
After a scintillating debut, winning by 9 ½ lengths in November at Del Mar, he started his 3-year-old campaign with a narrow victory in the Grade 3 Sham on January 2 at Santa Anita. He put up his best effort yet with a runaway conquest in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 6 at Santa Anita, which he won by eight lengths, recording a 107 Beyer.
Pletcher will seek his fourth H. Allen Jerkens victory having won with More Than Ready , Discreetly Mine  and Capo Bastone .
“It’s a tall order going into a seven-furlong Grade 1 off a layoff,” Pletcher said. “The horse has trained extremely well, has been impressive in all his breezes and we like what we’ve been seeing from him.”
Breaking from post 6, Life is Good will be piloted by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, a four-time Allen Jerkens winner who is currently tied with fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez for most wins in the race’s history.
Also, from the Pletcher barn is Spendthrift Farm’s Following Sea, who arrives from the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational where he was a distant third, elevated to second via disqualification.
The son of second-crop sire Runhappy, who won this race in 2015, cuts back to one turn. After defeating impressive next-out winner Happymac by 5 ¾ lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Oaklawn Park, he defeated winners in his first start for Pletcher going 6 ½ furlongs on June 3 over a good main track at Belmont Park.
Velazquez will pilot Following Sea from post 4.
Drain the Clock handed Jackie’s Warrior his lone defeat around one turn in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, tracking just to the outside of Jackie’s Warrior down the backstretch and dueled with his foe in the stretch before putting his neck in front in the final furlong. While the same tactics were used in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, it was Jackie’s Warrior who came out on top when utilizing his outside position down the backstretch and drawing away from Drain the Clock.
“Obviously, last time he was well-beaten fair and square by Jackie’s Warrior,” said trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. “We feel on his best day, he’s just as good as others in the field. But we have a new challenge in Life Is Good. It should be quite a race, and hopefully he shows up and runs his race.”
Drain the Clock, by Maclean’s Music, is owned by Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables and Michael Nentwig.
Breaking from the inside post, Drain the Clock will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. who will seek his second victory in the contest.
Trainer Danny Gargan will saddle Judge N Jury as he makes his stakes debut off a sharp 8 ½-length allowance victory on July 23 at the Spa, registering a 99 Beyer while racing off a 10-month layoff.
Owned by Flying P Stable and West Paces Racing, the son of Tapiture graduated at second asking over next-out winner Work Out and subsequential stakes-winner Devious Mo on September 4 at the Spa.
Judge N Jury, bred in the Empire State by Wellspring Stables, will attempt to be the first New York-bred to capture the Allen Jerkens since Willy Beamin in 2012.
Leading rider Luis Saez will retain the mount from post 5.
Completing the field is Down Neck Stables’ Newbomb, a two-time winner for trainer Kelly Breen. After finishing behind eventual stakes-winner Founder and the now multiple graded-stakes placed Nova Rags in his first two starts last season, the son of Speightstown made the third time the charm when firing off an eight-month respite to win a six-furlong maiden special weight event on June 19 at Monmouth Park. Newbomb defeated winners two starts later with an eight-length victory on August 7 at Saratoga.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will ride from post 3.
The H. Allen Jerkens Memorial honors the late Hall of Fame conditioner known as “The Chief” who conditioned prominent racehorses such as Sky Beauty, Devil His Due, and Sensitive Prince among others. Perhaps Jerkens’ greatest claim to fame is a penchant for defeating all-time greats in upset fashion, earning him the nickname “Giant Killer”. In 1973, he saddled Onion to a triumph in the Whitney and Prove Out in the Woodward, defeating Secretariat both times. Other all-time greats dethroned by Jerkens trainees include Kelso, Buckpasser, Cougar II and Forego.
The H. Allen Jerkens Memorial is slated as Race 9 on the 13-race card. First post is 11:35 a.m. Eastern. For the third consecutive year, FOX will air the Runhappy Travers as the centerpiece of a 90-minute telecast beginning at 5 p.m. The networks of FOX and FOX Sports will air 7.5 total hours of live racing and analysis on Runhappy Travers Day, with coverage scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on FS1. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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NYRA/Saratoga Press Release
Photo: Jackie’s Warrior under the capable hands of Joel Rosario cruses to a win in the Amsterdam at Saratoga on August 1, (NYRA/Coglianese)