In a showdown between raw, untapped talent versus battle-tested class, the latter prevailed as J. Kirk and Judy Robison's JACKIE'S WARRIOR outdueled LIFE IS GOOD in a thrilling stretch drive to capture Saturday's $500K H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Racetrack.
"This horse is incredible," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. "The thing you just love about him is his demeanor and the way he goes about everything that he does."
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, and ridden by jockey Joel Rosario, JACKIE'S WARRIOR had a slightly awkward start but recovered and went straight to the front, immediately met by LIFE IS GOOD, who challenged and put himself in front by half a length. They opened the quarters in a hot 21.97 and 44.16.
"He broke really well and it looked like Life Is Good was very speedy too, so I decided to stay where I was," winning jockey Rosario said. "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."
Through the backside, JACKIE'S WARRIOR raced along the rail, one length behind the pacesetter. Rosario then gets to work on him, asking for more speed, while LIFE IS GOOD is traveling very well under jockey Mike Smith; not yet being asked.
The two of them hook up in the stretch, leaving the rest of the field behind by five to six lengths. And then the warrior came out. JACKIE'S WARRIOR threw down the gauntlet and accelerated up the rail, while LIFE IS GOOD was still under mild urging at this point. Upon seeing JACKIE'S WARRIOR wasn't going away, LIFE IS GOOD was urged for more. He got going again late and delivered a final surge for the lead.
But no one was getting by JACKIE'S WARRIOR today; he gamely matched strides and held off LIFE IS GOOD to win by a neck.
It was almost nine lengths back to third place finisher FOLLOWING SEA. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:21.39.
JACKIE'S WARRIOR paid $5.10 to win, $2.30 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by MACLEAN'S MUSIC out of UNICORN GIRL by A.P. FIVE HUNDRED. He remains undefeated at the Spa, improves his overall record to 10: 7-1-1, and pushes his earnings to $1,333,964. He produced a new top speed figure for this effort.
Source: Equibase, Brisnet