Get ready Saratoga, Jackie is coming back.
After yet another command performance in winning the Grade 2 True North Stakes Friday at Belmont Park, 2021 champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior will return to the Union Avenue oval, where he’s been perfect in four starts the last two summers.
Of course, Jackie’s Warrior is superb everywhere, having improved his career record to 11 wins in 15 starts and $2,474,664 in earnings with the easiest of victories, a 5-length decision over Sound Money.
“We’re very excited to be able to go to Saratoga with him with the success there,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said, naming the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt July 30 and Grade 1 Forego on Travers Day, Aug. 27, as the next targets, with the Breeders’ Cup Sprint the ultimate goal.
“He exudes confidence in the mornings and knows what he’s doing, he enjoys it,” Asmussen said. “I loved him in the post parade, just walked as far as they wanted and as soon as they started off, he just gave it a little play like ‘Let’s do this.’ He broke nice and smooth, very relaxed.”
Joel Rosario, who has ridden the Maclean’s Music colt his last 14 races, can attest to just how effortlessly he does it.
“It took a little time to get him going, but he was just doing his thing after that,” Rosario said. “He’s a special horse. I just sat and let him do his thing and he’s unbelievable. He means everything. So many great memories.”
And there is no reason to think he won’t make more, based on what he has accomplished at Saratoga Race Course in the past, taking the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 1 Hopeful as a juvenile and Grade 2 Amsterdam and Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens last year at 3.
“I looked back and was so far in front and decided to save some for the next one,” Rosario said. “He’s special. You can see I never showed the stick. He did it all on his own.”
Friday, Jackie’s Warrior led by a head after a quarter mile that went in :22.83, virtually ensuring that he would not be caught. He extended the advantage to 2 lengths after a half in :45.52, opened it up to 5 lengths at the top of the stretch and maintained that margin while being geared down by Rosario.
“The separation he gets without being asked is beautiful. He’s so rhythmic watching him run,” Asmussen said.
On paper, Chad Brown had a stranglehold on the Grade 1 New York Stakes, with four of the seven horses in the field. French-bred Rougir went off the odds-on favorite, but it was second choice Bleecker Street who improved her career record to 7-for-7 with another monster stretch run to catch Family Way and win by a half-length.
“Even with a slowish pace (:50.76 for the half-mile), she was able to overcome it,” Brown said. “What a remarkable horse. I wasn’t sure about a mile and a quarter. She finished her races like she would get it, but as you know, handicapping doesn’t always work out that way … This filly does everything we put at her.”
One of four horses in the race owned by Peter Brant, Bleecker Street was still last after a mile, but when Irad Ortiz – riding the filly for the first time with Brown using Flavien Prat on Rougir – asker her for run she unleashed the vicious turn of foot that is her trademark.
“Her closing kick, especially with those slow fractions, was nice,” Ortiz said. “Not too many horses can go around a slow pace, slow fractions, like that. I made a wide move to go around and she still got there. She gave me a good kick. She’s very nice. They were backing up into me a little bit and they were a little slow and then everybody was sprinting home, so it was hard to catch them. But she got the job done.”
She always does, and what better race for her to earn her first Grade 1 win.
“Very appropriate that Bleecker Street wins the New York,” quipped NYRA’s Alysse Jacobs.
Euro wins Gold Cup … again
German import Loft made it five straight for European invaders in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup, coming from last to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The 4-year-old gelding had earned an all-expenses-paid trip to New York and entry in the race by winning a Group 2 race in Germany May 15.
“I saw there was a lot of space and the front horses were already under pressure. I didn’t want to go so wide, but I still waited during the last turn and moved to the outside. He was making up ground well,” winning jockey Andrasch Starke said. “There was a lot of pace during the race and I trusted my horse.”
Favored Abaan led for the first 12 furlongs of the 2-mile race, before giving way to Strong Tide, who was nailed at the wire for second by British Royalty. Loft set a course record of 3:16.68 over the firm going.
“Thank you very much. We love New York,” said Adrian Lange, a representative of owner Manfred Ostermann.
Bella Sofia, Caravel win
Last year’s Grade 1 Test Stakes winner Bella Sofia got the stakes portion of the Friday card started with a gate-to-wire score in the Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses, which attracted only four fillies and mares. Luis Saez was aboard as Bella Sofia won for the sixth time in eight starts for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. … Caravel closed the day with a front-running win in the Grade 3 Intercontinental under Tyler Gaffalione.