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Jackie’s Warrior Cruises in Vanderbilt

In the days leading up to the 38th running of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) July 30 at Saratoga Race Coursethe consensus in barns from the Oklahoma Training Track to the main backstretch was this: a marvelously gifted racehorse named Jackie’s Warrior probably could not be beaten in the six-furlong test.

Trainers were not just thinking that, they were saying that.

When 4:54 pm came Saturday and the Spa starting gate swung open, the training opponents of Jackie’s Warrior looked like modern-day reincarnations of Nostradamus.

Jackie’s Warrior performance in the Vanderbilt made his five rivals seem as though they were running in quicksand. Jockey Joel Rosario never moved a muscle as he and the 4-year-old son of Maclean’s Music cruised to the easiest of two-length wins for owners Kirk and Judy Robison.

“He did that pretty easy, huh?” said trainer Dallas Stewart, whose Long Range Toddy was no match, finishing last in the field of six. “Nobody in the grandstand was surprised by this, right?”

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Photo: Skip Dickstein

Jackie’s Warrior wins the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap

When he left the winner’s circle area after his Ny Traffic was unsaddled, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. took a peek back to get a glimpse of Jackie’s Warrior as he and his entourage were getting all the cheers.

“He’s the best,” Joseph said, whose horse finished a distant fourth. “As a fan, you’ve got to enjoy these kind of horses. We don’t see them often. This was the result, barring an unforeseen incident, that we were going to see.”

When Jackie’s Warrior crossed the finish line, he galloped straight into the history book of this storied track. He became the first horse to win a grade 1 race in three consecutive seasons at Saratoga.

“Unbelievably relieved,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said in the winner’s circle. “Saratoga (and) the great racehorses that have won here, and he’s the only one to do that. I just can’t say how much I have wanted that for him. I wanted this more than you are supposed to want things. You can’t imagine how much this horse means to the barn.”

Jackie’s Warrior won the Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (G1) in 2020 and the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) last year. His overall Saratoga record is five wins—all stakes races—in as many starts. He also won the Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite (G2) in 2020 and the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) last summer.

According to Equibase records that go back to 1976, Jackie’s Warrior’s five Saratoga stakes wins tie him with Irish Linnet, who raced from 1990-95, for the second most stakes wins at the Spa. The leader, with one more, is Fourstardave, whose career went from 1987-1995.

There was little drama in the Vanderbilt, save for the first quarter mile. Doc Amster , a 22-1 long shot, sprang to the lead and was clocked in 22.39 with Rosario and Jackie’s Warrior tracking. Through the turn, Jackie’s Warrior rocketed past Doc Amster on the outside, and the game was over.

Rosario never raised his stick as he brought Jackie’s Warrior home with a hand ride, peeking back for the opposition in the closing sixteenth.

“It looked like that horse wanted the lead for a little bit, and I took (Jackie’s Warrior) to the outside, and he didn’t mind that,” Rosario said. “We got into the turn, and he wanted to go do his thing about him, and he did. He was always there for me.”

In the stretch, Jackie’s Warrior put on a show for the 37,476 who came out. Surely, the margin could have been more had Rosario asked him for more. I didn’t have to.

kneedeepinsnow , a 6-year-old son of Flat Out, beat the rest of the field home at odds of 22-1. Trained by Matt Shirer, Kneedeepins now shipped up from Kentucky at the last minute to run in the Vanderbilt.

“To run against a horse like that is great,” Shirer said. “Our horse is a claimer. Honestly, this was an audible. We were entered to run in a stake at Ellis Park. We got a call and said this one was coming up short so we decided to scratch at Ellis and come up. We were just hoping (Jackie’s Warrior) would have an off day, and he did not.”

Willy Boy finished third and was followed home by Ny Traffic, Doc Amster, and Long Range Toddy.

Jackie’s Warrior will have one more chance to add to his Saratoga record as Asmussen is pointing him to the $600,000 Forego Stakes over seven furlongs (G1) Aug. 27. Then, after a freshening, he will be off to the $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders ‘ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland Nov 5., marking the end of his racing career with his second to begin at stud at Spendthrift Farm.

For all his success, Jackie’s Warrior is 0-2 at the Breeders’ Cup, finishing sixth in the Sprint last year and fourth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) in 2020. The Juvenile loss cost him a championship in 2020, but he secured an Eclipse Award last year as champion male sprinter despite his defeat.

Jackie’s Warrior’s final time in the Vanderbilt was 1:09.74. The 127-pound high weight paid $2.50 for a $2 win ticket.

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