Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens bolstered his reputation as
the “Giant Killer” at Belmont Park Saturday afternoon, sending out
39-1 Emma’s Encore to upset previously undefeated Agave Kiss in the
Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride.
After breaking alertly, Emma’s Encore settled into fifth
as favored Agave Kiss dueled with Jamaican Smoke through a blistering
opening quarter-mile in 21.46. Jamaican Smoke headed the favorite to
run a half-mile in 44 flat as Emma’s Encore began to gain momentum.
Third at the top of the stretch, Emma’s Encore kicked clear through the
final sixteenth of a mile to win by 2 ¾ lengths. Her final time for
six furlongs was 1:08.89 and she returned $80 as the longest shot in
the field of six sophomore fillies.
“I was so confident in the filly,” said jockey Junior
Alvarado. “[Chief] said ‘There’s going to be a lot of speed in the
race.’ She broke really good, really sharp and got herself comfortable.
By the five-sixteenths pole, she started to pick it up and I said to
myself, ‘Wow, they’re going to have to be running today for her to get
beat’ because she picked it up right away and gave me a nice, good
While Alvarado may have had confidence, Jerkens was
pleasantly surprised to win his first graded stakes since Le Grand Cru
captured the Grade 3 Westchester in 2010.
“I saw her break [on the television monitor], and then I
couldn’t find her because I didn’t have the energy to walk out here,”
her said in the winner’s circle. “I finally made it. I thought I was
going to pull a Walter Brennan. Remember that movie [“Kentucky,”
released in 1938]? He died when he got to the winner’s circle.
“It’s so nice to be back and win one. [Owner Brenda
Mercer] sent her to me [in Florida], I never knew the lady before, and
then after she won she sold a half interest to Mr. [ Peter] Berglar. I
guess he’s pretty happy now, too. I know I am.”
A 3-year-old daughter of Congrats, Emma’s Encore broke
her maiden at Gulfstream Park on February 24, and on to win an
optional claimer the following month. Both victories came at six
furlongs, and she made her next start in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile
Gulfstream Park Oaks, finishing last of eight.
“We made a mistake and ran her in that mile-and-an-eighth
race,” Jerkens said. “It looked like this was a mistake, too, till
now. It’s amazing, because I didn’t have anything else, and the lady
sent me this filly and she turns out to be good.”
Jamaican Smoke held second, followed by Tu Endie Wei, Sea Island, Agave Kiss and Gypsy Robin.
“It wasn’t her day today,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez of Agave Kiss, who suffered her first defeat in her seventh start.
Jerkens was left pondering the next step for Emma’s
Encore, who earned $90,000 for her Victory Ride triumph and ran her
record to 3-1-1 from nine starts.
“I was being optimistic when I picked this race,” Jerkens
said. “We’ll probably think about the Prioress [Grade 1, Saratoga Race
Course, August 4]. We’ve had a little luck in the Test Stakes [Grade
1, Saratoga, August 25], too. It’s so nice to win one. We hadn’t been
doing any good at all lately, so this really helps a lot.”