Life Preserver

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Jimmy Jerkens threw his hands in the air in the first quarter-mile of the Whitney. Jerkens threw his hands in the air with a quarter-mile to run in the Woodward.

Preservationist lost the Whitney with an audacious move around the first turn. Jerkens knew it, throwing his hands in disgust. Preservationist faded to fourth.

A month later, there were no audacious moves around the first turn as Junior Alvarado settled Preservationist in third. Jerkens watched, hands down, comfortable. At the quarter pole, Alvarado steadied Preservationist, needing daylight. Jerkens worried it was over, throwing his hands in the air like someone just backed into his car. This time, it was far from over. Preservationist and Alvarado waited, then slid, then powered their way through horses to win the Woodward Stakes.

Jerkens’ hands went from raised in panic to pumping in glee as Preservationist clawed his way to a half-length decision over pacesetter Bal Harbour and closer Yoshida. Jerkens hugged his wife, Shirley, a bear hug of euphoria and emotion. If you were born a Jerkens or married a Jerkens, emotion comes with it.

“I wasn’t sure he was going to get through,” Jerkens said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to get through.”

He got through.

Owned by Centennial Farm, Preservationist earned his first Grade 1 victory in an improbable 10-race career. Bred by Emory Hamilton, the son of Arch finished second in his only start at 3, third in his only start at 4 and won his only two starts at 5. Brought back at 6, he’s won four of six, including wins in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park and now the Grade 1 Woodward.

To read the rest of the Woodward recap, download Sunday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.